A fundraising fairy tale …

Published by Rachel Hunnybun on

Two women walk down a busy street in London, deep in conversation. Amongst the swathes of people, they are approached by an engaging young man eager to tell them about the charity he represents. They smile, appreciate what he is trying to do, but won’t be setting up a direct debit today. He beams back at them, holds an enthusiastic but brief conversation, and they go on their way.

Minutes later, a #firstfiver lands in the hands of one of the women. She has been waiting for this for weeks. And she knows exactly what she’ll do with it. High on the experience of talking to the fundraiser, she donates it to his charity. Immediately. Online. In the moment.

It feels good. She has no real interest in the cause, but it doesn’t matter. A random interaction with no commitment. If this was a movie script, it would be the perfect one-night stand.


The Christmas DM pack falls on her doormat. She opens it, not expecting much — the acknowledgement of her small donation had not been brilliant. But there it was. A pack containing the perfect mix of information, impact, and emotion. A pack containing a fabulous poster to give to her nephew. A pack that moves her to want to get involved.

Hang on. Maybe she does have something in common with this charity after all. Was it really a one-night stand or did it have legs? Only one way to find out. But forms, envelopes, stamps? No, she will donate online again. She would do it just as soon as …


… a few weeks have passed. The pack and the poster are all but forgotten.

She’s on the train when the email arrives: a perfectly formed reminder that brings the pack to life on her mobile. She smiles. She clicks the donate button. No! Surely not! No service! They emerge from the tunnel and her phone pings with something urgent … the moment is lost.

Later that evening, in the background of conversation she catches a glimpse of an advert. The pack! On TV! She goes to call and stops. It will cost the charity to take the call. She will do it online like she did before. She picks up her laptop but … the phone rings. It’s her mother …


Several weeks go by and finally — another email. She doesn’t take much notice of what it says. She just clicks the button. Finally, she makes the donation. The donation she has been meaning to make for weeks.


Question: Which team gets the prize for soliciting that crucial second donation?
Answer: Who cares? It’s that kind of silo thinking that’s holding us back.

OK, so it’s likely to be the team that created the second reminder email that must have been so good it generated a response. Right?

Well, the person in the story is me, so I can tell you that the second reminder email was by far the weakest piece of content; it just landed at the right place at the right time. You could argue it did its job.

But this experience has got me really thinking about how our donors really experience integration and how the way we measure activity — in particular non-responsive touch points — can really damage our efforts to deliver an effective donor experience.

The real hero in this story is the F2F fundraiser. He is the only reason that this #firstfiver went to the charity in the first place. But will that fundraiser/agency get any credit? No.

Then there is the DM team, but because I have no cheque book and an aversion to stamps, will they get any credit? No.

In fact, I counted at least seven teams (as well as the #firstfiver campaign — well played, Mr. Thompson!) that contributed to getting that second donation. But it’s likely only one team will get any credit. This is where the ROI will be measured.

And if this is the only metric used to analyse my behavior, how will my future “journey” play out? I am, after all, a repeat online donor. Why not just send emails in the future?

We are so focused on internal stuff, and measuring the stuff that justifies our existence as fundraisers, that the really important stuff, the stuff that really matters, can often get forgotten.

So my next question… what if this charity now asked me why I donated and understood the whole experience and not just the bit that I eventually responded to?

I would be delighted to tell them the whole story! I’d love them to know why I made that “random” donation, what “got” me about the DM pack and how the things that I didn’t respond to contributed to securing my second donation. No ROI report or database analytics will tell them any of this.

My story might be completely different from the story of someone else who responded to that very same email, but it might help them to communicate with me in the right way and keep me motivated to give.

But before we get knee deep in ifs and buts, let’s not forget that this is a happy story. Thanks to #firstfiver, a F2F fundraiser and a great integrated campaign, a charity has a new donor. With an acquisition cost of practically £0. In current times, that sounds like a fairy tale in itself!

Of course, the moral of the story is simple enough to see but far harder to achieve. But let’s make a resolution for 2017 to be the year we start making steps in the right direction.

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Rachel Hunnybun

Rachel Hunnybun is a Fundraising Consultant at Blakely Inc. She has worked at a senior level in individual giving at a number of charities in the UK, is a commissioner on the Commission for Donor Experience and often can be found speaking at national and international fundraising conferences.


Meg Gardner · January 11, 2017 at 19:17

Rachel, this is a great lesson! I’m curious as to what you and others — hint, hint, 101 community — think would be some positive steps in the right direction.

A fundraising fairytale... - Lucyinnovation · February 3, 2017 at 09:25

[…] This blog was first published at 101fundraising.  […]

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