Open Fundraising


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You’ve probably heard the buzz at the moment about about whether or not people will be wearing poppies to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.


I have to confess I was pretty baffled by the controversy. What could be more innocent than wearing a paper flower in remembrance, and giving a few pounds to support wounded British servicemen and women? So I did a bit of googling.


I read a range of different objections, from ‘It’ll make me look pro-war’ to ‘I support so many other charities, it’s not fair only to promote one of them’. There seemed to be a lot of attention on what politicians and newsreaders are doing, and less consideration of whether this is a charity worthy of our support – and that’s a great shame.


It’s not that I feel everyone should wear a poppy, or that there’s anything wrong with choosing not to, but it annoys me that these ‘poppy-phobes’ are being so vocal. By shouting about it, and making opting out a thing, they are potentially damaging a vital fundraising appeal. And as far as I can see the only result will be fewer veterans getting support to cope with bereavement or help to live with a disability. We seem to be so busy railing against the poppy appeal, we’re forgetting what it’s all about.


For me, the poppy is simply a sign of gratitude and respect for the millions who gave their lives so that I might have the freedoms I enjoy today – like freedom of expression.


So wear a poppy, or don’t wear a poppy. Give a few pounds or don’t. Just remember who gave you the choice.



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In the seven years I’ve been fundraising I’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible experiences. I’ve worked alongside inspirational colleagues and clients; visited places I would not otherwise have seen and have been involved in truly innovative changes in the way we’re raising money. But this year Tim and James offered me the chance to go to my first IFC – something that had been left unchecked on my fundraising bucket list!


In the week since we returned the whirlwind of ideas and thoughts have begun to shape into an action plan– a plan that draws on a few personal highlights:


Firstly, Damian O’Broin challenged some fundraising ‘myths’. Asking the room if it’s ever okay not to send a thank you definitely caught my attention – thanking donors well is a mantra at Open. It was an excellent reminder that everything we test and learn in direct mail can, and should, be applied to newer channels such as mobile.


On a similar note Bernard Ross and Omar Mahmoud’s workshop about behavioural economics taught me that if we don’t understand how we think, we definitely can’t assume we understand the way our donors do!


Adrian Sargeant’s name is one that comes up a lot at Open. It felt only right to see him speak in person. His research about what makes great fundraising leadership felt relevant to more than just the fundraising directors in the room. I liked the idea that a good leader looks in the mirror when things go wrong and out of the window when things go right!


My favourite analogy came from Bill Toliver. He reminded us that we need to fix our goals before we set off. As, if you were to set off into the desert without a fixed point on the horizon, you’d end up trailing in a circle. Sound familiar?


It was a privilege to have time out of the office to meet up with new and familiar faces. A glow of pride was surely emanating from that conference centre in Holland, which I hope has followed us back to our respective corners of the globe.




Photo borrowed from Chris Ford

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I got this thank you letter through the post last Friday.


Jo Malone is a company that make cologne. It’s nice cologne, smells nice, does its job.


I like this note for several reasons. It’s hand written. It’s personalised (twice) and it came within a week and a bit of my purchase. And finally, I didn’t expect to receive it.


What do your charity’s thank you letters look like? Do you get them in the post quickly? Do you mention (or ask) why the donor gave you their money?


I’m guessing they’re not handwritten unless the donation is very, very large (and no, the cost of this cologne wouldn’t take me out of your standard value segment).


All this for cologne.  My money hasn’t saved any lives, helped cure any diseases or given someone a hand out of poverty. It just made me smell nicer.


It makes me think, it’s lucky that Jo Malone isn’t a charity as its thank you letters put most of the charities I support to shame.