Open Fundraising


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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.



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I think we can all agree that selfies are a ‘thing’. I don’t want to open this post with a snarky selfie explanation, as chances are the one you just took is still uploading to Facebook.

And unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll have heard about the somewhat accidental #nomakeupselfie viral campaign that raised around £8m for Cancer Research UK earlier this year.

As ever, with a thing that is big and well publicised, it divided opinion. It was labeled unifying, sexist, philanthropic, vain, supportive, pointless, revolutionary and lazy.

Whatever your thoughts, the fact is that £8 million is nothing to be sniffed at.

£8 million can potentially help a lot of people.

Which is why the selfie is a bit of a ‘thing’ in charity now too. Don’t call it a bandwagon, but in a sector that has a responsibility to rely on results, selfies have shown that, beyond all the pouting and posing – they can be a force for good.

But only sometimes.

I’ve worked on briefs recently where a selfie made sense. Asking people to share a positive message, a healthy start to the day or a silly snap for their mates.

But what happens when you lose perspective? That when faced with feelings of helplessness, you add weighty meaning to a useless snapshot that will help no one, and change nothing?

This is what happens. This.


Still, I think there are a few good charity selfie ideas to be had. Will they all go viral? No. Will they all make £8 million? Unlikely.

But while they remain a ‘thing’, I think our challenge as fundraisers is to just try and give them a bit of heart.

To take the selfish out of the selfie.