Fundraising For Humans

Published by Simon Scriver on

I remember volunteering for Childline.

Kids would phone, text or e-mail with all sorts of questions and stories – from horrific cases of abuse to completely nonsensical banter.

Many calls were pranks…groups of kids phoning up to tease us, mock us and attempt to get a rise out of us. No matter what they said we would take it seriously and continue the conversation. “What’s your name?” “Mr. Poo Poo Head” “How are you Mr. Poo Poo Head?”

Before I was trained in I thought these pranks were a tragic waste of time and resources. Little messers wasting time and hogging the line while some ‘real’ call struggled to connect.

fundraising-101And then I learned how important these calls were. A group of pranksters might contain one kid with a serious issue. She sees the service is real…any issue is taken seriously…that someone is there for her when she’s next by herself. Whether or not the pranksters consciously knew they were doing it, they were testing us.

As fundraisers we get tested every day. An inquiry. A response. An on-line comment. Every interaction – subconsciously or not – shapes the perception of your organisation and has a very real impact on decisions down the line. You’re being tested. And your fundraising results depend on the results of that test.

It’s the reason I send a thank you letter for every donation, no matter how small. Yes, even for that 20 cent someone posted in the other day. This is the start of a relationship and I want that donor to know I love them on day 1 as much as I will when they’re still with me 40 years later.

You might disagree – your own organisation might have a policy: ‘No thank yous for gifts under €20’. At a recent seminar someone asked if they were right to eliminate all thank you letters as the hundreds and hundreds they were sending out were just wasting time.

Yes they’re wasting time if they’re crap. But a good thank you letter, a free tour of your organisation, a phone call simply to update – these can all be income generators (without asking for money) if they’re done well. Why would your organisation spend hundreds of Euro trying to bring in a first time donor while not even bothering to spend two minutes warmly thanking a donor that’s already arrived?

Whenever I start working with a new client I’ll mystery shop them. You might have witnessed one of my ‘live’ mystery shop calls. Sometimes it’s just an e-mail asking a quick question.

About 50% of charities don’t reply.

fundraising-102That’s a little scary. And it becomes really scary if you happen to agree with what I’m saying: every call is a fundraising call and every e-mail is a fundraising e-mail. Every interaction is fundraising…even when you’re not asking for money.

One of the greatest skills a fundraiser can possess is empathy. Of course empathy for your beneficiaries. But empathy for your donors and the general public. What do they want from this interaction?

If they ask a question, presumably they want an answer?

Well, I have an incredible cheat that not many people know which, when implemented, can cause your fundraising to skyrocket: Just be human.

People crave humanity.

And while you might have seen headlines about the future of bots, the death of traditional media, and The Singularity, all of these are superseded by the fact that we are humans. Brought in to the world by a human, raised by humans, taught by humans, loved by humans. Until all of that changes human contact will trump everything. Technology will make it easier…but don’t lose the humanity.

That’s more difficult than it sounds…whenever we sit in front of computer and start typing a funny thing happens: we become robots, we lose emotion, we start writing words we would never say.

And our fundraising suffers because it.

Stay human in every interaction you have with every member of the public. Really check yourself. Don’t slip in to the robotic you…let your human self shine through. I’ve never unsubscribed from a human, only from an organisation. I donate to humans.

Write human. Act human. Be human.

Simon Scriver

Simon Scriver is a professional fundraising consultant, coach, trainer, and practitioner. Simon has won Fundraising Ireland's 'Small Budget, Big Impact' and ‘Supplier Of The Year’ Awards, Eircom’s Start-up Award, and is a 2019 finalist of Charities Institute Ireland’s Communications Agency of the Year. He is a TEDx speaker and has previously won the Toastmasters UK & Ireland International Speech Contest. He also sits on the Advisory Panel of Rogare, the international fundraising think tank, and is a member of the Institute of Fundraising and the AFP. Simon also offers consultancy to some of the biggest and smallest charities in Ireland and abroad. He offers advice and training to non-profits to make their fundraising more cost-effective, speaking regularly at international conferences. He holds a Diploma in Fundraising and a Certificate in Fundraising.


Barbara Lynch · November 7, 2016 at 23:42

Great Blog Simon. Of course it is totally true. Why do we forget?

Fundraising For Humans – changefundraising · November 14, 2016 at 13:01

[…] [This post originally appeared on 101fundraising.org] […]

The Nonprofit Wrap-Up – November 2016 · December 1, 2016 at 06:07

[…] Fundraising for Humans – “As fundraisers we get tested every day. And your fundraising results depend on the results of that test.” Read more >> […]

The Nonprofit Wrap-Up – November 2016 · December 1, 2016 at 11:13

[…] Fundraising for Humans – “As fundraisers we get tested every day. And your fundraising results depend on the results of that test.”Read more >> […]

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