Craig Linton interview: “the market for something to believe in is infinite”

Craig L

Craig outlines his thinking around the recent Rogare/Professor Adrian Sargeant review of relationship fundraising, why the donor journey needs a rethink, and the enormous challenge facing big charities in breaking down silos in order to put the needs of the donor first.  Craig tweets @frdetective, and you can find his blog on the Rogare review here.  The interview is available to download here.

Also, another (Fund) Raising Voices interviewee, Ken Burnett, blogged recently on the relationship fundraising phenomenon his 1992 book began, and why the subtitle is more important than the title.  Ken’s blog is available here; he tweets @kenburnett1.

Marianne Pelletier interview: the power of understanding donor engagement


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Following on from our first interview last year, it was great to speak with Marianne again. She highlights the importance of linking fundraising staff, operations and analysts to instill an evidence-based culture in your team, as well as the importance of being targeted in fundraising activity to raise funds efficiently.  Measuring engagement also comes across clearly as perhaps the major recent trend in understanding donor motivation.  We face a marketplace of donors who often feel bombarded by requests for support so being targeted, in order to build stronger relationships and get the best ROI, is a major challenge for charities.  Marianne gives some practical ways we can achieve this, and raise more in doing so.

The interview is available as an audio file here:

Craig Dearden-Phillips MBE: “Charities must adapt or die”

Craig D-P

I was delighted to interview Craig recently – his Third Sector articles on charities’ needing to adapt to new funding realities and what went wrong at Kids Company were, for me, among the best of 2015.  He tweets @DeardenPhillips.

His message for charities is clear – that the golden days of (mainly Government) funding are over and we must think hard about the best way our organisations can make the most impact.  This fits with my theory that the three big income streams which have propelled British charities since WWII (50’s/60’s the rise of the generous baby boomers, 70’s/80’s the CRM revolution and ‘fundraising as marketing’, 90’s/00’s New Labour/central Government grants/spending) are, for very different reasons and in very different ways, all ending.  The challenge this presents to British charities should not be underestimated.  In the interview, Craig explains the reasons behind his thinking and gives some predictions about how these will play out among charities over the coming year.  Enjoy.

The interview can be downloaded here, along with all the others from the site.  Apologies for the slightly crackly sound quality in parts of the recording.

Chris Carnie interview: “‘value added’ donors have great potential…we can make an inspiring offer”

Chris C

Chris is the founder of research consultancy Factary, and an expert in fundraising in the UK and continental Europe.  He tweets at @chrisfactary and blogs at

The interview is mostly about prospect research, where it has come from and where it is going.  We also discuss ‘value added’ donors, or those falling between traditional markets of individual and major giving, and the potential in this group to play a major part in UK fundraising.  Interesting to contract this with Adrian Salmon’s recent blog on lessons UK higher education fundraising has for charities.  HE blends individual giving and major gifts in innovative ways, as Adrian notes (of which more later), and consequently has a very different mix of donations, with major giving predominant.  Is this a glimpse into the charity sector’s future?

Any prospect researchers out there will be interested to hear about the history of the discipline and how it has evolved since the days when screening meant sifting through paper copies of the Rich List and Who’s Who.  Although we still do this, the range of resources we use has certainly moved on.

Re-listening to the interview reminded me of a comment from another interviewee, Marianne Pelletier, who made the analogy with baseball recently in saying:

“Coaches know early on who will be a better player and how to get them there.
They watch certain stats.  On our side of the fence, Harvard, way back in 1988 when we barely had computers, used to know at a class’s fifth reunion who would give the $1 million professorship at their 25th. They knew because they knew the alumni.  There is a good mixture of stats and hands-on cultivation that will get us to a point where we can predict the winners of the future. I think the next horizon for us as data miners [and researchers] is to figure out how to communicate with our field officers and get richer insight. [italics added]”

Is the “next horizon” to improve human capital in our organisations, and break down the silos?

I hope you enjoy the interview.  If there are future interviewees you would like to hear from, let me know in the comments, or tweet me @benrymer, and I’ll try to make it happen.

Helen Brown interview: “we need to stay relevant…the computers won’t get any less smart”

Helen B

Helen is President at fundraising research consultancy The Helen Brown Group.  She blogs at The Intelligent Edge and tweets at @askhelenbrown.

The interview looks at how prospect researchers can remain relevant, ways we can move to the higher levels of our organisations, and how technology has changed the industry.  Helen speaks eloquently about some of the challenges facing prospect researchers, and how we can overcome them.  Hope you enjoy it!

Ken Burnett interview: “our organisations were founded in anger”

Ken Burnett

Ken has won many accolades, including the Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Lifetime Contribution’ award, and being named, in 2011, the most influential person in British fundraising.  He has also acted as a Trustee of ActionAid and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), as well as writing many books and articles on fundraising, including the classic ‘Relationship Fundraising’.  He tweets at @kenburnett1, and his website, featuring ‘Relationship Fundraising’ and new book ‘Storytelling Can Change the World’, is here.

Ken’s passion is using communications to build strong relationships with supporters.  For more on this, see Ken’s recent blog posts, and series on ‘The Future of Fundraising’, available here, which describe some of the barriers facing charities in building enduring relationships with their donors.  Some of those covered in the interview, are:

  • Underinvestment: Ken highlights the long-term lack of investment in fundraising products and appeals, as well as the relative neglect of customer care compared to the commercial world.  This may have been understandable in the past, but with the revolution in customer service lead by firms like Amazon and Zappo’s, poor or average customer service is just not acceptable, and is indeed not being accepted by the majority of charity supporters, who move their support between charities while staying within the same sector with great regularity 
  • On this, he says that “almost all of the [big questions] are examples of underinvestment…because of the nature of our business we think money will come to us…if we’re losing donors at the rate we’re losing them…that’s a recipe for disaster”
  • High staff turnover: from Trustees to admin staff, most not-for-profits have average turnover rates of up to 20%, making it difficult to build lasting relationships with supporters and reducing the institutional memory of many not-for-profit organisations
  • Short-termism, which is, in Ken’s opinion, “the major thing that holds our sector back”, with a lack of long-term thinking allied to the fact that “we do not have R&D budgets”, a “blinkered approach [that] holds us back”

Ken calls his “greatest heresy” the assertion that the CRM revolution which swept through fundraising in the 1980’s and 1990’s was a mis-step.  He says: “we’ve become very professional…but donors want to be inspired by people who are every bit as passionate as they are”, adding that many charities struggle to build lasting relationships with supporters as, while “our organisations were founded in anger”, many have become slick and professionalised, sometimes losing, in their communications, the sense of outrage which moved their founders to create them, and which drives donors to support them.

Lots more in the interview.  Hope you enjoy it.

Marianne Pelletier interview: “We assume we don’t share prospects, but of course we do”


Marianne is Senior Consultant at Cornell University, and formerly worked at Carnegie Mellon and Harvard Universities.  She is a leader in advancement services, donor modelling and data mining and understanding donor engagement, speaking regularly at conferences and seminars on these subjects.  She tweets at @mpellet771.

A few points from the interview:

The use of insight can have powerful effects, increasing income and allowing not-for-profits to build stronger supporter relationships.  In the UK, prospect research has traditionally involved less quantitative or statistical methods.  However, ‘prospect research’ is different in the US, where it is largely data-driven.

Wealth screening: we all know it and use it.  And yet, even vendors admit that their information only covers around half of the millionaires in the population (and that total is probably an underestimate).  So, here will be a significant portion of the HNWI population whom charities are not aware of, sitting on their databases.  If not-for-profits modelled and analysed the level of wealth in more detail, they would almost certainly raise more form these groups.

Social media is coming to the fore in gaining valuable, ‘soft’ information on supporter preferences and interests.  Marianne’s team includes a full-time person scraping information from the web (and hand-connecting this to relevant supporter records), including network information, which is mapped in NodeXL.  Text analytics is also in vogue.

The web has fundamentally changed customer care, and Marianne describes some of the key ways in which this has happened.  First, Amazon “spoiled it for us” by raising the bar for the level of customer service users now regularly expect.  Next day delivery, automated, ‘you might like’ suggestions, and hugely responsive customer service are now all par for the course, whereas before they were considered exceptional.  Charities must keep up with these developments or be left behind.

There is lots more in the interview — I hope you enjoy it.