Bring back the joy of giving – it’s time to make donors smile

Published by Richard Radcliffe on

Stop for a moment. Forget any fundraising crisis.

This might be hard considering recent blogs which have included headlines such as: “When fundraising hurts” “Relationship fundraising: It’s complicated”  “Have we reached boiling point?” “The price we pay for losing sight of the donor”   Headlines to do your head in.

Fundraising is under the microscope; because fundraising was the focus and not giving. We have made fundraising complicated, when giving should be made easy.

Perhaps the job title of Fundraising Directors should be annihilated and changed to Directors for Donors.

joy-of-giving-tagTo be great fundraisers, apparently, we need incredible insight, knowledge of psychology, a Diploma/Degree in marketing and/or fundraising let alone relationship fundraising and strategic planning – the list is endless. Perhaps we forget that most donors are happy to give and want their happiness to flourish without being told endlessly or thanked repeatedly. Perhaps they just want “Kiss and Tell” (Keep It Simple and Short and Tell them the impact – which does not mean another thank you or, God forbid, another please give more).

Most donors are bright, thinking donors with passion and personal experience of a cause. Their need for further information just does not exist. They just need happiness and joy –even humour.

Humour helps cope with difficult situations. It creates a moment of rest. Humour helps release emotions and cope with problems. Humour helps express feelings and creates warmth.

Studies into humour have been rampant since the mid 19th Century – my favourite being by Professor E  Boring (yes , really) in 1957 – “a history of experimental psychology”. Can you imagine his presentation? “Hello I am Boring”. Hysterical!

Happiness is defined as a mix of joy (the emotions which include humour) and satisfaction (the brain meaning logic and rational decision making). The latest crisis has totally focused on satisfaction and totally ignored joy.

Happy people give twice as much to charities than unhappy people.   Happy people are more optimistic.

happyHappy people have more imagination, are more likely to take a risk and will “forget” the past to learn again in the future. They are impatient to learn and their preferred communication channels are through images, captions and even animation. Their Motto is “life is unfair but let’s learn from it and move on.

Unhappy people are more defensive and likely to complain and will focus more on the past and have lower expectations. Their preferred communication needs are detailed and are led by words or instant dismissal Their motto is “Life is unfair”.

Happy people are more optimistic and ask “how” (are you making a difference and how can they)

Unhappy people ask “why” (are you needed and why could/should they help)

Happy people are more open to being asked.

Unhappy people are more closed to suggestion.

Let us all simplify the way we communicate with donors and tell them about the joy they provide to those they support/fund. That sense joy will result in more giving because we have given them the freedom to choose.

Many years ago when I chaired the International Fundraising Congress. I quoted George Bernard Shaw and said the mantra of fundraisers should be:

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

Combine that with Ayn Rand who said: “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values

Print these two quotes and stick them up close to your desk, read them every day, and maybe we can all bring back the joy of giving.

 Richard Radcliffe 

Favourite part of his job: listening to donors (so far about 24,000)


Richard Radcliffe

Richard Radcliffe is founder of Radcliffe Consulting, which helps charities to get more legacies. He is author of “Why legacies are brilliant for charities and how to get them,” recently published by Smee & Ford. He has almost 30 years’ experience in legacy fundraising and works across our globe.


Rebecca · March 4, 2016 at 18:45


Activating joy in giving is the endgame of a fundraiser. Thank you for reminding us.

But I respectfully submit that to suggest this is the _solution_ is overly reductionist. And that a focus on fundraising in our heads and blog post headlines is the _problem_ does a disservice to what I’m optimistic is a theory of change, happening right now, in our profession.

One of these recent headlines was also “It is what it is. What are you going to do about it?” We must continue to think and write critically about our profession. And always, yes, listen to donors.

Happy in unhappiness,


    Richard Radcliffe · March 4, 2016 at 19:27

    Hi Rebecca thanks for your comment . Of course the blog is (almost by its nature) too simplistic but happy hearts in fundraisers let alone donors will be a vital part of the equation.

Bernard Ross · March 5, 2016 at 09:22

Richard love lots of this… but not sure Rand would support your philosophy- as far as I remember she rejected altruism as not logical… hence Alan Greenspan was big fan & she is darling of the US right.

    Richard Radcliffe · March 5, 2016 at 10:08

    I actually don’t care if she disagrees with my philosophy! But her words fit nicely. Hope all is well Bernard.

Prerna Kulkarni · March 19, 2016 at 18:16

Thanks Richard for sharing the fascinating idea to make donors smile.

To make your fundraising campaign successful join a fundraising platform Givey. The team provide full support to make your campaign successful. No fees to register our charity, projects or for sign up as a fundraiser or donor. Also they give 100% of the donation amount along with gift aid to charity of our choice. So make donors smile and experience the joy of giving by donating through Givey.com

Vickie Wood · April 27, 2016 at 16:18

Thank you for reminding me what my job is actually about and why I setltled on a career in fundraising. Not because I particularly enjoy asking for money but I love sharing a passion and joy that comes from supporting a good cause. And here is a little blog I wrote recently along the same kind of vein

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