The threat to relationship fundraising….

I perceive a threat to something I hold dear.  Relationship fundraising feels a bit misunderstood right now. A bit lost maybe? Or distracted? It’s difficult to put my finger on what my guts are telling me but let’s have a go…

Technique seems to have a bit too much wind in its sails for my liking right now. We seem to be a bit too focussed playing with the mechanics and not so clear about the journey or destination – a better deeper relationship. There’s the search for new at the expense of what works. What’s wrong with searching a bit more for deep, or steady or stronger or smarter? So the search for new sometimes leads to the loss or even worse, the abandonment of heritage and institutional understanding and knowledge , continuity or memory. We create different rather than better because its shinier. We forget the power of evolution even if evolution needs speeding up a little.  We somehow lose the ability to discern exactly what needs revolution (and much does) and what demands evolution (as much deserves). As a consequence of losing that perspective, we drive change based on what we like and want rather than what donors like, want and more importantly need.  We reinvent when we should just improve and add value. The technique becomes king because its safer, short-term and frankly easier.

Now I know it’s not like this all the time or everywhere. But it seems to me that due to the climate when results matter more than ever, there are too many who  jettison the basics through ignorance or even worse a lack of respect for what went before them. Short term destroys long-term. It comes down of course, to the people who work in fundraising and those around them.  We all need to find a balance that still allows a fresh perspective, energy and above all innovation in a changing world. Innovation is the way we will move forward. But it needs to be balanced  with continuity, respect and understanding based on who we are and where we have come from.

Being a relationship fundraiser is not a short-term fashion. It’s a set of principles that should guide us at all times. They are what makes what we do so very different and special.  If we don’t stand up for them who will ?

Posted in Charity, Fundraising, Giving, Innovation, Insight, Leadership and tagged , , , , .


  1. Hi,

    I saw a post recently about ‘why you shouldn’t put a legacy tickbox on appeal donation forms’ – proof, it said – that was zooming around the Fundraising Twitterati. It really, really bothered me. And this is why. Technique offers so much certainty – “proof” – and so little insight.


  2. Stephen,

    I’d love to hear more specifics about what led to this post in your work (some real-life examples of technique trumping relationship-building). Thanks for sharing this and keeping the conversation going.

    • I guess the specifics relate to some observations about a growing misunderstanding about fundraising from an influx of commercial staff into the sector. There’s a sesne that’s its a sales operation – some are simply not getting it. Its a drift rather than specifics I am able to share – but its definately there….

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