Open Fundraising


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Customers who stop buying. Donors who stop giving. It happens a lot and when it does, the switch flicks on the reactivation machine – on a mission to win the person back. But when’s the last time you were ‘wowed’ by a brand or charity’s efforts of persuasion?


I heard a story recently that wowed me. It made me question whether we’re doing enough to make someone who stops supporting feel great, even if they can’t give again right now.


Like most, my friend Alice likes a glass of wine. But when she got pregnant, that was the end of that (for a year or so). The change in spend did not go unnoticed by Naked Wines, a website she had previously bought from. As you’d expect, their sophisticated CRM programme kicked in and she got a call from a charming young man trying to tempt her with their latest ‘bestselling’ mixed case.


She politely declined, explaining she’d just had a baby. The young man took the hint, didn’t get pushy and wished her well, thanking her for her custom to date. All above average customer service so far. A few days later, she got a package in the post with a toy giraffe for baby Edward and a handwritten card congratulating her on the new arrival. Now that’s personalisation.


Alice was so impressed, she told everyone – and you’d be a fool to think that wasn’t part of their intention all along.


I’m not suggesting sending free cuddly toys to lapsed donors is a good use of charities money, and no doubt the Daily Mail would have something to say about that. But it doesn’t cost a thing to show your appreciation in words and when it’s delivered in a timely fashion, it’s even more powerful. Especially when we give a person a story to share.




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I made it ten days. Ten working days laid on my back recovering from a slipped disc, and finally it hit me. I have run out of take away. I have run out of Netflix. I have indulged myself to the point of folly and if I don’t do something constructive soon, I may lose the power of intelligent thought.


We can all agree, sick leave sucks – that feeling that the days are passing with nothing but self-pity to fill them. So, looking for something to read that might wake up some brain cells, I picked up the nearest non-fiction book, Ogilvy on Advertising.


It’s been years since I read it, too many, in fact. I remember sitting at my desk on my first day, in my first fundraising job, daunted and wondering where to begin, when my manager dropped a head height stack of books on my desk with the words, ‘Start here’.


First Ogilvy, then Smith, Burnett, Bird. Suddenly I realised I had been given everything I needed to do my job well. They taught me the essential principles of DM. I took their words, and I used them to inspire people, and to raise money that would change lives right around the world.


At a time when our motives are being questioned, and the value of our work is being scrutinised, I take great comfort from these books. From re-reading and refreshing the principles we work by every day. And realising, we are not the first generation of fundraisers and we will not be the last.


So now, some homework;* re-read something that mattered to you. Go back to basics and ask yourself if they still ring true in your work. Remember why you became a fundraiser, and reclaim that inspiration.


And then pass those books on. I owe my career, and the pride I take in it, to that manager, and that book list. Learning is a great gift.




*Do your homework, Ogilvy on Advertising, chapter 2.

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In the studio at Open, we spend hours and hours, followed by a well-needed tea and biscuit break, and then more hours, searching for the perfect image. Searching for the one that communicates the exact feeling we’re looking for, and which tells the story quickly and clearly. The specific qualities that set these images apart differ wildly, but they tend to fall into two distinct types.


The first, taken by professional photographers, are eye-wateringly beautiful. They can include powerful portraits – capturing facial expressions that instantly reveal the depths of human experience in a way that words cannot.


Or they might be steeped in pathos, depicting poignant moments in time. Technically, they’re always brilliant – and exactly what’s needed in outdoor and press, where we only have a moment to grab the attention of a potential donor.


Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 10.01.56


Taken by Philippe Lopez, Tolosa, Leyte, Philippines


At first glance, the second kind of image can appear underwhelming. Taken by everyday people, they’re simple shots of real lives and surroundings. Although not conventionally beautiful, they can be equally powerful. By knowing who’s behind the camera, you are immediately drawn into their world.


You experience the raw emotion, unfiltered by someone else’s lens. In the right setting, and with time to appreciate the context, these images can hit every bit as hard as those taken by the professionals.


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Taken by a refugee teenager in Za’atari, Syria


So, which one do you think is the better image? I’d say both are just as memorable and thought provoking – and equally worth searching for.