Make fundraising great again!

Published by Charlie Hulme on

I’d be shocked if there were any, or many, Trump supporters among this community of fundraising hipsters. But how many otherwise great people inadvertently emulate him as fundraising practitioners?

What do I mean? Well, if I (as ‘the Donald’ is wont to do) let fly a barrage of sweeping generalisations about gender, what would you call me?

A sexist.

If I let fly a barrage of sweeping generalisations about race, what would you call me?

A racist.  dt

And if I let fly a barrage of sweeping generalisations about donors, what would you call me?

A donor-ist!

President-elect Trump says he has “great respect for women”, but acts like he has anything but. Proponents and practitioners of donor ‘relationship’, ‘engagement’, ‘love’ etc., are guilty of a similar (though less disgusting) contradiction.

With the very best of intentions, and noblest of aims, they presume to know what donors need (‘donors need to be shown impact, they need us to say thank you’ etc.) Why they support (‘old people support because of duty, but young people want to be engaged’ etc.) How donors should be addressed (‘we should always use pronouns, should always make donors the hero’ etc.) And how often (‘donors want us to send more/less stuff’).

Trouble is, no matter how well intentioned these statements are, they are based on pure assumption. We think/feel these things are true, but we don’t know, because we don’t know our donors.

Sure, we know when they gave (frequency), how much they give (value), how often (frequency), and their social labels (demographics). But none of these things can tell us why they support, or why they stop.

Without the ‘why’, statements like ‘donors need to be shown impact’, are outright donor-phobic.

What if for one group ‘impact’ means cure but for another it means treat? What if for one group ‘impact’ means feed a child but for another it means lift them out of poverty? What if one group has a high emotional connection but wants a low behavioural involvement, whilst another has an equally high emotional connection but wants to get more deeply involved?     why-give-why-stop

You get the point. But do you know any charity who even knows this level of detail, much less delivers on it?

Post Brexit/Trump, pundits have been talking about a ‘post truth’ age; one where reason and logic are ignored if they don’t fit our world view. So now seems like a good time for our sector to recognise it’s been operating in its own ‘post-truth’ bubble for far too long.

Reason and logic dictate the answer to our problem of no, to lack-lustre low, net growth, sits outside our mind-set, methods and metrics. But our sector is as divided on this issue as the countries that held the Brexit/Trump votes are on theirs. One camp refuses to acknowledge the problem, the other offers donor-phobic rhetoric.

If, like so many fundraisers, you’re facing 2017 with a sense of weary resignation; if you’re not ok with the sure and certain knowledge that next year you’ll net almost as much, or the same as last year, then it’s time to stand-up to ignorance and donor-ism and make fundraising great again! dt-hat-jpg

Your pathway to greatness is paved with two fundamental questions that are impossible to answer using what’s sitting on your CRM right now:

  1. Why do people support us (donor identity)?
  2. What do they want from us (donor preference)?

But just as the pollsters were unable to get to the right answer on Brexit/Trump, so will we continue to fail if our attempt to answer these questions relies on the traditional ‘best’ practise of focus groups, poorly conceived surveys, or outright presumption.

Forward thinking charities who’ve answered, and delivered on, these questions using this method have grown revenue per donor by 70%. They’ve massively increased first three-month retention, in face to face, to 80% using this method.  They’ve proven it’s possible to make fundraising great again!  

Charlie Hulme

Charlie Hulme

Charlie is MD of Donor Voice. He helps charities uncover what, of all the things they do, cause relationship strength and what is harmful. Partners see a massive improvement in performance, value and retention. Voted top speaker at the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention in 2013, he writes frequently for SOFII, 101 Fundraising, the Institute of Fundraising and many others.


Mary · November 30, 2016 at 16:44

I have been in fundraising for many years and have been reading your blog for a long time as well.

I am very disappointed and offended that you ASSUME that all fundraisers are not Trump supporters. Even if we are not Trump supporters (which is certainly not true!!!!), MANY OF OUR DONORS ARE TRUMP SUPPORTERS!!!

I believe you need to make a change…at least pretend to be impartial.

I am a very proud Trump supporter, however, I think politics should be separate from my fundraising.

Yes, fundraising needs to change!!

    Joe Sutton · November 30, 2016 at 17:16


    Charlie Hulme · November 30, 2016 at 19:16

    Hi Mary,

    Glad we agree about the need for a change in fundraising. Can’t help but disagree politically, but apologies if I offended you personally.

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