On the 8th December, Aleron and Blackbaud Europe co-hosted an evening of talks and networking with charity leaders and fundraising experts from across the UK, including representatives from Tearfund, Crisis, RSPB, University College London, Barnardo’s, and Breast Cancer Care. We had three distinguished speakers, from whom we heard a range of ideas on best practice in fundraising, considering more than anything, the needs and experiences of the donor. This focus seemed to emerge organically from a recent realisation among the fundraising community that, with the increased use of mass emails and cold calls, donors are no longer the centre of the fundraising picture.

The first to speak was Dr Beth Breeze, author of the Million Pound Donors Report. The report assesses the scale and impact of UK charitable donations of more than £1 million, and attempts to better understand the people making the donations, and the causes they are choosing to support. Beth spoke knowledgeably and engagingly about the people and the context around million-pound giving. According to Beth’s research, million-pound gifts have increased in the UK from 189 recorded gifts in 2008, to 298 in 2014. Eleven percent of these gifts are for more than £10 million, and most of these go to foundations.

Her advice to fundraisers, in order to tap into this growing list of ‘Big Donors’ is two-fold:

  1. Develop meaningful relationships with your donors: Beth told us about a fundraiser for the Australian Centre for fundraising: Lesley. Lesley was such a successful fundraiser because she took time to listen to her donors. “Tell me about your husband” she would say.
  2. Be donor-centred: No two donors are the same, but most want nothing more than to see their donation in action.

“Meeting people we fund is more interesting than anything else in my life”

“My hope is that we give transformational gifts”

“It’s not just about altruism, because I get great satisfaction from it!”

Ken Burnett, author and experienced consultant on fundraising, was our second speaker. He reflected on how fundraising has changed over the past 50 years, in particular for small, regular donors. He highlighted the fact that people over 65 years of age make up the largest proportion of donors in the UK, with a population size of 9 million. This figure is due to grow and peak at around 14 million by the year 2030, bringing a rare opportunity for fundraisers around the country.

Ken told a personal story of his mother’s journey as a donor; about how she moved from being a regular donor who spent time carefully selecting which causes to donate to each month, to ignoring the correspondence she received from charities altogether. The charities had lost sight of what Ken’s mother wanted, and how she expected to be treated. This led Ken to realise that fundraisers needed to stop interrupting, irritating and asking, and start inspiring again. For many charities this will mean going back to the drawing board and thinking more about what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their fundraising methods.

“Oh Kenneth, they’re always shouting at me”

Ken is supporting this kind of fundraising transition through his consulting work, and through his newest book, “Storytelling”.

In an illuminating final talk, Chuck Longfield (Blackbaud’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist) explored the under-used science of fundraising. He analysed the evidence (or lack thereof) behind the large variety of fundraising methodologies being used across the third sector. He highlighted the current inconsistency and demonstrated how data analysis can help you to tailor your fundraising based on the history of the individual.

Chuck picked out Brown University as an example of outstanding fundraising. Brown gets the greatest rate of increase in donations, year-on-year, across the whole educational sector. This, Chuck proposes, is because they have built a comprehensive model that considers a range of factors about the donor. These include how good their university experience was, how wealthy they are, whether they have just experienced a major life event, and so on. Through careful analysis of these factors, Brown has managed to hit a sweet spot with their donors, developing their relationship over time.

Part of Chuck’s research portfolio includes analysing trends in giving and developing best practices in fundraising that tap into the kind of insights that Brown use so well.  Through this work Chuck has advised 100 NGOs about how to access $270 million more donations.

Thank you all for an inspiring and educational evening – we look forward to the next.

blackbaud Europe