Ken Burnett wrote the book on relational fundraising long ago, when most fundraising was focused on the nonprofits, not the donors. In this exciting webinar, he'll show you
- The seven essential foundations of fundraising.
- What really matters most, for fundraisers and for donors.
- The three keys to being an effective fundraising organisation.
These storytelling strategies are adaptable to nonprofits of any size. You won't want to miss this training!
About the presenter
Ken Burnett is a writer, communicator and inspirational speaker. He is author of several influential books on donor development and communication, including Relationship Fundraising, the Zen of Fundraising, Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board and the recently published (and his most important book to date), Storytelling Can Change the World. All are available on Amazon or at www.whitelionpress.com. Chairman of Trustees at ActionAid from 1998 to 2003, Ken began his fundraising career with that charity back in 1977. He is founder and managing trustee for SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, an independent trustee of the Disasters Emergency Committee and a commissioner on the UK’s Commission for the Voluntary Sector and Ageing. For more see www.kenburnett.com.
Additional Materials for How Storytelling will help You Build Long-term Relationships with Your Donors
Download the audio here: Storytelling for Long-Term Donor Relationships MP3
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The Entire Transcript for How Storytelling will help You Build Long-term Relationships with Your Donors
Marc: Welcome, everyone, to the next edition of NPA Presents, the Monthly Training Webinar from The Nonprofit Academy. I am so thrilled again to be here so much so today, but I wanted to make sure that you had a little orientation with what you are seeing on your screen before we get into the introduction. First of all, you should be able to see the slides as you go. If you are watching this live on the left of your screen there should be a questions and answer box whenever the urge strikes you can type in your questions in there I will be moderating those and working with Ken.
As we go through the session to make sure those are taken care of or of there are tech issues let me know of that as well. You can also Tweet with the hashtag you see on the screen TA Presents I will be monitoring that as well and tweeting out what Ken says.
To some of you out there you do not need an introduction to Ken Burnett because you know he is a legend in your field. He is a truly wonderful person and an amazingly accomplished fundraiser and marketer. But for those of you that do need an introduction just to know why he is so great to listen to. He has been in fundraising for 37 years. He is the Fellow of the Institute of Fundraising and an honoree Fellow of the Institute for Direct Marketing.
He has written so many books that have shaped the culture especially if you are knew to fundraising you may not know the terms that coined are now terms that we use every day like relationship fundraising. That was one of his books another one is Story Telling Can Change The World, which he says is the most significant book to date and we are going to be getting a little bit of an insight into that the book itself is a magnificent piece and I encourage you all to buy it while it is still available at White Lion Press website and at Amazon.
A couple of things that I really love about Ken is one of the things he started was SOFII, a showcase of fundraising innovation and inspiration, SOFII.org. No one has an excuse anymore because of this for not being able to find really good quality fundraising ideas. They can be put even if there is no staff for them to work them out with because he started chronicling and creating a digital archive of best fundraising examples out there and all the way back in history to there are some that are as old as 3,500 years ago fundraising examples. Fundraising is some that has been with as long as humans have been around. So it’s wonderful to have this archive up there and it’s constantly being added to, and I encourage you after this session to go to SOFII.org and check that out.
Another point of distinction for Ken is that he is the only North American author to be included in the CFRE required reading materials. And as part of The Nonprofit Academy, we have members from all over the world, and we can get a little bit North American presenter heavy so it is great having Ken here. He was voted the most influential individual in British fundraising. He has done fundraising in many different countries as well as people in Canada, North America. He has really done fundraising in France, in Great Britain, India, and just around the world, and he has influenced many of us even wider than that.
I feel like I am gushing and rambling. I don't want to take any more time away from you, Ken, so if you want to reach Ken on Twitter he's KenBurnett1. With that, Ken, take it away.
Ken: Thank you very much, Marc. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to those of you on the West Coast. I am really thrilled and delighted to be with you today, and, Mark, thank you for that introduction. You did not mention that of course I am a Scotsman, and I do a very good address to the haggis, which is really my party piece. In addition to that, I also do some fundraising, and I am really delighted to have the chance to talk to you today about how storytelling can help you build long-term relationships with your donors.
I do think this is a very important subject, and I think it is particularly important at this time, and I want to start, what I am hoping today in the time we have together is that I want to delight and entertain you and to give you while doing that some really useful nuggets of information that will help you in your fundraising. I want to start by making you think, and I may even depress you a little bit because I believe that fundraising has to change, and it has to change for a number of reasons. Some of them quite good, but some of them really rather alarming.
I find it very alarming that fundraising and public perception of fundraising is in decline and trust in not-for-profit organizations and charities is falling, and I think this is as true in North America as it is in UK and Europe and really throughout, particularly those markets where fundraising is developed. Donor apathy is rising. In my country people cross the road to avoid fundraisers or they hang up the telephone when fundraisers call. There is a kind of general dislike and distrust of direct marketing and all of this leads to falling response rates.
And we suffer from a culture of short-term thinking and underinvestment and we are not really rising out of this, and I think we should. Escalating costs of acquiring new donors, probably most fundraisers don't need me to go on about that. There is a lot said nowadays about the high cost of acquisition and the unacceptability of that cost to donors and donors don't stay with that organization. There is no sense of a joy of giving, which I think is a great pity.
So I want to talk about things that will address that and also I think fundraising has to change because the world is changing, and there really are some great opportunities which could and should be heading into that kind of golden age of fundraising, particularly people of my age the 60-plus segment. As Marc said I have been working as a fundraiser for some 37 years. So that segment the main donor group is actually growing rather largely because people are living longer and I am likely statistically to live maybe 10 years longer than my parents did and what this is meaning is the best donor is going to be growing very, very considerably. And I am not sure we are prepared for that or that we are able to offer those people the kind of inducements to join that organization perhaps we might
And there is another factor too, and that is the way corporate sector has changed its view of working in partnership with not-for-profit organizations. Companies are beginning to realize that doing good is good for business. And this too leads to great opportunities to fundraisers if only we can grasp it.
So I think fundraising has to change and I want to share with you a quick metaphor for that. I was walking down the street just last week and I took this photograph of London Street. As I was walking past this rather fine tree, something fell from the tree to feet. And I was rather shaken by this, and I looked up and there was this guy in the tree. And then to my surprise and some consternation I saw above him really way up in the small branches a second figure. And I asked some of the guys on the ground what they were doing, and they said, “Well, the tree has become a danger to itself and to the street and so we are clearing it up and we are up there cutting away some of the dead branches in that way we will make things better. We will make things better for everybody.”
And I thought well this is a metaphor for where we are as fundraisers. We are now in danger. We are not doing things right. We are not inspiring people and I do believe that we have the best stories in the world to tell, and we have got the best reasons for telling them, and we are not doing it right. So rather like these guys climbing up in the tree, there is going to be a bit of difficulty. We are going to have to do some change, to change the way some fundraisers work, and that is really what I want to talk to you about today.
So what is coming? I want to talk about the Seven Essential Foundations of Fundraising. I want to focus on what really matters most for fundraisers and for donors, and to give you what I consider to be the three keys to be an effective fundraising organization. And of course because my theme is storytelling most of my points that I want to make will be coming out from a variety of stories.
The Seven Essential Foundations of Fundraising as far as I am concerned, and there are probably many other essential foundations of fundraising, but these are just the seven I would like to cover today.
Fundraising equals fudge. I want to talk about what fundraising is not about. I want to talk about building the dream. I want to tell you a story called "Don't Shout at My Mom," and to share with you what I believe is the most important word of them all for fundraisers. Then I want to talk about how an organization finds its emotional heart and how emotional storytelling really can change the world.
So that's seven and shamelessly at this point, I would pick up a copy of my book and wave it around, but this is just to let you know that there is a book on the subject, which is available. I have a few left, I have to confess, but this slide will come up at and end as well and I’ll move quickly on from the commercial to start with my first story and it really is my first story.
I was asked when preparing an event called emotional fundraising, I was asked to come up with my earliest fundraising story. So I thought, well, this takes me back to the late 1970’s when I started in fundraising. I have plenty of stories from then, but actually as I thought about it, there is a story that goes back way further and actually underlines one of the most important things that I think people sometimes overlook when it comes to fundraising,
So I am calling this Fundraising Equals Fudge. Now I think all of you know what fudge is? It is sweet. It is rather fattening. It’s quite stodgy; not very good for you, not good for the waistline perhaps, but it is delicious and very Moorish and the Scots particularly are very famous for their fudge.
So I want to take you back to my very early youth I was probably about six or seven years old at the time of this story. And in those days my mother, this is my mother, my mother was the area secretary for an organization called Dr. Bernardo’s Homes and Dr. Bernardo was actually one of the top 20 British charities. It is a child care organization and it goes back to Victorian days. It's a home collecting box. It was at the time quite famous, quite iconic.
And it was my mother's job. She was a volunteer local area secretary, and it was her job to place this beautiful box in as many households as we could persuade to take the box. And then twice a year she would put an advertisement in the local newspaper, and she would invite people to bring in their boxes to be emptied and collected. And the contents of the boxes would be poured onto our kitchen table and it was my job to count the money.
And I think this was where at a very early age I learned my love of money and my future career path set, but of course my mother had a lot of challenges at that time because there was a lot of other organizations, all worthy organizations, all trying to do the same thing. So my mother had a stroke of absolute genius. She let it be known far and wide that any who brought in their Dr. Bernardo’s Home Collecting box would get a piece of my mother's famous fudge.
And I have to tell you that my mother made the best fudge in the whole world and I am not kidding you. This is a true story. My earliest fundraising recollection is those queues of people, not only young people, mostly young people, but some grownups too, clutching their collecting boxes going out of our front door down our garden path, out through the gate, around the corner and down into the street, queues of people. And so I was having to work a great deal harder as more and more of these boxes were being emptied onto the kitchen table, and I thought well they get a piece of fudge for bringing in the box; it’s only fair if I get a piece of fudge for counting it.
And so this happened and my mother grew to be the most successful fundraiser in the north of Scotland for Dr. Bernardo’s Home. I grew to be a very large school child because of eating too much fudge. But the lesson that I learnt from this, and it is a very important lesson, and it’s the lesson of reciprocity. If you want to get, sorry, you have to give. And this it think fundraisers too often forget. We have the paradigm of you give, we get. And we seem to have this running throughout the whole basis of our context with people, and actually this is not very helpful.
So I want to stress to you the importance of reciprocity. If you want to get, you have to give, first of all. Which brings to me what fundraising is not about. and the first thing I learned in this area was that fundraising is not about money, and that surprises most people because to most people fundraising is very much about money, but it isn't about money. It is about work that urgently needs doing. Money is a means to the end, not the ends in itself.
Fundraising, even if I am writing a direct mail appeal to 100,000 people or more, it is still one person talking to another about something they both care deeply about. And it is about inspiring that person to believe that they can make a difference and then helping them to make it. The most important consideration for a donor is will my gift make a difference? And this means that we are in the inspiration business.
Now ultimately if you take this to conclusion, fundraising is about building sustainable, mutually beneficial, long-term relationships that deliver lifetime value to both the donor and the cause. That is the definition that is the cornerstone of relationship fundraising, and if you think about it that is where the fudge comes in. Mutually beneficial, long-term relationships that deliver lifetime value to both donor and cause. Now I have to tell you if you look at the interaction and transactions of most not-for-profit organizations, they fall somewhat short of that inspiration and that I think we have to regard as something of a pity.
So what markets are we in? Well I think this is rather important. Particularly to me, this explains why even in times of recession not-for-profit organizations that do their job well tend still to thrive. We have just all of us got to come through the last five years the worst recession in living memory and many not-for-profit organizations have actually thrived.
And I think the reason for that is that our market is the market for something to believe in, and that, my friend, is infinite. There is no limit to the market for something to believe in. And if we have that as the cornerstone of our thinking when we think about fundraising, then I think we approach it in a somewhat different way. The market for something to believe in is truly infinite.
So I now want to introduce you to two people that you might recognize–well you may not know the guy on the right, but the guy on the left I am sure you will realize that is Walt Disney. And Walt Disney is very famous of course throughout the world he was the founder of the world's first theme park fantasy dream land, Disneyland.
And back in 1955 Walt Disney and his colleagues had cleared a huge area of land outside of City of Anaheim in California where they were going to build the very finish Disneyland. It was just a vast empty sight. Right at the beginning Walt Disney called together the leading contractors, the architects, the builders, the engineers, the plumbers, all the people who were going to work together to Disneyland in Anaheim. And he had a huge meeting. He stood up in front of them and said the very first thing we are going to do is we are going to build Sleeping Beauty’s palace right in the middle of the lot. And there was uproar and people said, "No you can't do that, Walt. That's not going to happen. The first thing we have got to do is lay the infrastructure. We have got to put in cables. We have got to put in the sewerage . . ."
And Walt stopped them and he said, "No. No, that is not what we are going to do. The very first thing we are going to do is we are going to build Sleeping Beauty’s palace right in the middle of the lot so that anyone that is working on this great project just had to lift their eyes and they will see the dream. They will see what they are here. They will see what this is all about they will see the dream of Sleeping Beauty’s palace right in the center at the heart of Disneyland."
Marc: When you were saying that our market is infinite and our market is for something to believe in, I just got a picture of so many nonprofit people that I work with that are just burnt out. They are on a shoestring. They are just whatever it is they are slogging it out in the swamp. They forgot to look at the castle and what a great image.
Ken: Again, Marc, this is a metaphor for what we need to do in our organizations and I am going to come back to this because it is so, so important. We need to build the dream and this is the metaphor for what we all need to do in our not-for-profit organizations. Now this is also Sleeping Beauty’s palace, but this was taken at Euro Disney in Paris. It was taken by me. And it is taken at night and it is taken from the side. And the point of this–and this is not the only thing that is going on in this picture–there is also a star burst.
And the point of this is we need to show the dream in a variety of different ways and different angles and different lights, but it always needs to be the same recognizable dream. And I think again this is very important and I have to confess to you that I have Photoshopped that star burst into the image. So there is a little bit of subterfuge going on here, but it is permissible and it is allowable and again, I think this is part of the metaphor.
We need to show the same dream because, Marc, I think you are absolutely right. I think many people in the not-for-profit sector have lost sight of the dream or they did not quite get the dream in the first place. If the staff are feeling like that, then my goodness how do you inspire donors if you can't inspire your own people?
So to me this is another example that we have is the wonderful Martin Luther King when he was addressing the thronging multitudes of the Mall in Washington, he did not say to them, I have a strategy. He did not say to them is have a rolling five-year plan he said to them quite simply, "I have a dream." And those words did not eco just down the Mall in Washington but right round the world the inspired people and the world changed because of this dream.
Now Martin Luther King would have been a fabulous fundraiser, but if he had been trained as a fundraiser, he would quite possibly have said this is a different manner, he would have said he would have said I have a dream, but he would have said you too share this dream and now here is what you can do about it. And I think that is what we have to do in our organizations that is the business we are in the inspiration business where it is our job to motivate and inspire people with power and passion to go out and change the world. And if we don't build our Sleeping Beauty’s palace in the middle of our organization, we won't succeed in doing this.
Now I have to speed up because my danger is that I love this subject so much that I will over talk. So please forgive me if I do. The best word of all is very simple but it is so, so, so important and naturally our organizations don't use it nearly enough; they use other words.
So I don't know most of you listening to me today we haven't met. The one thing I am sure of is you are all individuals and you are all different, but there is something else I know about you, you are all interested in the same one thing and it is very simple. It's you. My favorite subject is me. I can talk about Ken for hours, probably days, maybe weeks, but we are all interested in the same one thing.
So you put you in another way, it's me. The center of the universe is me. You may say well that's a very selfish thing but it is basically because our organization–you need to think about this because the you word the more you talk about you, if you writing and talking to your donors, you make it about you. In your annual report, it is not about your organization it is about the donor and how the donor has contributed to making that organization effective and for allowing it to do what it exists to do.
And yet when you look at the material that the not-for-profit organizations produce, so often it is about us. We need, this is what we are going to do, this is how we work. So we talk about 3,000 children that we are going to save in the coming year when we need to talk about the 3,000 children that you, you support the work that are going to save this year. It is very simple, but you is the most important word in fundraising not we and I. And if you count up your copy, count up the number of times the you word was being used and double it. The most important word for fundraisers is without a doubt you.
Which bring me to a favorite topic of mine, which is empathy. And empathy is one of those things that I think fundraisers have rather underplayed. Empathy is simply is the ability to sense without explanation how someone is feeling, what there emotions are, and what matters most to them.
And we fundraisers tend to be quite good at this and instinctively if we are a good fundraiser. It is really something that we need to be quite good at. It is something that we are much better at I think then the commercial organizations because they are dealing with the focus on the transaction basis and we are dealing with people about a shared dream, and it is very important that this underpins our interactions with our supporters.
So let me give you an example again using my favorite donor, which is my mother, and I will talk about a fundraising fundamental, and that is you may notice that the word fundraising has got two I's in it–there they are–and in my view they stand or should stand for innovation and inspiration and not imitation and irritation. So if you ask donors more often than not we find they veer towards the later two, and we need to change that. This is another example of how fundraising may change.
So fast forward quite a few years from the lady who was making the fudge and this is my mother again. She is standing at the back left with her bridge pals. I have to tell you shortly after this picture was taken my mother started to, as inevitably happens to every donor she was getting older, she began to find it difficult living on her own, and I started going off to see her in Scotland more and more frequently.
And one day I was very surprised on visiting her to find in her hallway a pile of unopened mail. Now this was very uncharacteristic of my mother who is from an earlier generation. She was fastidious was very particular, mail arrived, she would open it she would read it and would take note of what it said. She was also a regular supporter of national charities, particularly those charities with animals and children and that mattered to her. It really did.
Ad when I picked up this pile of mail and started looking at it. And I realized that it was mostly unopened mail from charities, some of it was opened. And I asked my mother about it and she became rather irritable and she called me Kenneth and you knew I was in trouble when she called me Kenneth. She said, “Oh Kenneth, these people are always shouting at me.” And I thought my goodness, my goodness me what has happened here I thought this is fundraisers. I thought fundraisers, don't you dare shout at my mum, and I could see that she was getting distressed and she had ceased to listen. She had stopped.
What had happened was my mother is from an older generation as you know and she had supported a lot of charities, but she tended to support them once at a time. She was not an electronic, she did not give her gifts by EFT or direct debit or any of those things. She tended to respond when she was asked and she was a regular donor.
And as she was getting older and getting a little more forgetful, she was not responding the same way that she had traditionally. And so for many of these organizations that she had supported for many years, they started to treat her like a lapsed donor. They had started to shout at her “Please renew,” and they were getting ever more strident in their requests. And putting people into a cycle of communications is not empathy. It is very, very far from it.
I realized what had happened here was that my mother had entered a kind of twilight zone between being a regular donor and being a bequest prospect. And she had reached the stage where she was neither, and these organizations had lost the ability to communicate with her.
Now not long after this story my mother died and I was rather taken aback and surprised to find that in her will, she had not left a bequest for any of the charities that she had supported all her life. And I think that was a tragedy and I think it was because she did not have the right kind of conversations at that stage in her life. And I think that's unfortunate. I think my mother would have welcomed a call from some of those causes that she had supported if it had been sensitive and properly put to her. And she would have understood what they were doing, but instead, they were treating her like a prospect in the marketing machine. And I think that was a grievous mistake and they lost out as the result.
Marc: So is it segmentation because one of the questions that came through was the you. How do you convince your boss or the board that it is not about, you don't have to develop donor confidence in talking about our organization and all the certifications we have and all the people we are feeding and this, but it is all about the donor or how great the donor is. How do you convince them? But also the question also comes up with this is we have these systems that help us to be I guess more efficient, not necessarily empathetic, any tips on how to make that not yell at your mom?
Ken: I am all in favor of efficiency, but I am not in favor of a marketing machine taking over because I think it neglects the human side of the relationship. And I think, first of all, we do need in our strategies, which are all designed to raise more money for our causes, but we need to take account of what's happening to our donors. Our donors are old, getting older like my mother, and I think that's a relationship that requires very careful management that does not easily follow into the patterns that we would most like.
And you know why do we lose so many people why don't we keep people more than we do. I hear about things like Direct Line Insurance, which is an insurance company in Britain. They get 90% of their new business from recommendations from satisfied customers. That almost never happens in not-for-profit organizations you almost never hear people say about this cause that I support and you know I really think you should support them too. It does happen, but it is not as common as it should be.
And too often people complain that they are being written too by a marketing machine and I am guilty in this. I am part of the direct marketing revolution of the eighties. And looking back on it I have never yet met a donor who wanted to be marketed like that. What donors want is sensitive, careful, considerate handling that allows them some choice and some say in the process. And if we don't give that to them than we sow what we reap, and I think that's rather unfortunate. That is not what we need to do.
These are all people, my mother was not rich at all when she passed away, but she could have left substantial legacies to charities–she had five children so left all of her money to them. None of them needed it because they have all done quite well in the world. I would much rather my mother shared her estate among the 10 charities that I know she supported and believed in, but she didn't.
Marc: You saying this kind of reminds me have you see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
Ken: I haven't, not yet.
Marc: There is a great scene in there with Judy Dench, who is getting a job in training Indian telemarketers how to work with aging Brits, and it’s very much about I have just given you this clue. Don't go into your script. Be a human with me. And it actually the whole Stephen Covey, “To go fast with people you just need to go slow.” When they looked like it was slower, they shortened a 12-minute call into a 4-minute call, they had her attention.
Ken: Yeah, yeah, we are throwing scripts away. Again I don't want to have a script, to go through a script with somebody who calls me I want to have a conversation. Real conversations are where fundraisers should be going.
Marc: Oh my goodness, yeah definitely.
Ken: That's another, that does bring me to perhaps my next section, which is about what really matters most, and I had better watch my time, Marc. The needs and rewards cycle, five great assumptions, a different kind of fundraising: [passion], radiator and drains. That’s what I want to talk to you about now.
So this does lead on to exactly what you were saying, the five great assumptions that underpin effective fundraising. Naturally these come from an earlier book of mine that were identified by Mal Warwick. And they are donors usually are generous and caring people. They are intelligent. They know when they are being taken advantage of. They expect to be treated courteously. They are individuals; and therefore, they are varied in their interest responses and their habits. And they are most likely to respond better to us when they get what they want to receive rather than what we want them to have.
And I think that is important, we need to see this relationship through the donors’ eyes, put ourselves in our donors’ shoes and make that shift and perspective and we give people what they want. And that way they will respond.
It is perfectly possible for us to do that. And one of the keys to doing this and I think we have to do this much more quickly, sorry you will get this on SOFII which Marc thank you for mentioning earlier. Marc mentioned the SOFII website SOFII.org has all of these things on it.
One of the things we have to do is much more, better, faster feedback to our donors. We are far, far to slow in getting back to them.
So I want to introduce you to the need and rewards cycle and unfortunately my slides don't spin round rather than [precipice]. They don't do that. So I apologies but it is indeed a cycle, a need and reward cycle, and it is again quite simple in how it works. This is the relationship we have with our supporters. It starts with always an engaging, irresistible emotional appeal that immediately the donor sees it they think, I will sponsor this and they send in and initial gift.
Now this happens very, very quickly. What happens then in most not-for-profit organizations is it takes two weeks, three weeks, sometimes a lot longer before our systems enable us to get back and acknowledge this gift. And that is way, way, way to slow. Almost instantaneously the donor has in their mind to question did my gift actually make a difference? And if we take two weeks to answer that, we are way, way to slow. We need to get back really impressively quickly with a piece of fudge, truly brilliant feedback, which tells them what a difference that gift has made.
Because also almost instantaneously the donor has a second question, which they may not even articulate but it's there. And it's okay, but what's in it for me? And this means we need quick waves of appreciation is what we talk about. When building in responsiveness, donor journeys, and donor communication cycles, we talk of quick waves of appreciation, and this constant cycle of feedback that assures the donor their gift has made a difference. And it's only prompt responsive tailored interest engagement that will keep them giving more gifts.
Now that's a very simple illustration of something that shouldn't be too difficult, but it is what you need to have in place to build a lifelong mutually beneficial relationship with your donors. Need and reward in equal measure, but much quicker. If that's in place and happens quickly, this leads to more fulfillment and meaning for fundraisers and other stuff and more happy donors, who stay and who will evangelize for your cause like that Direct Line Insurance Company, and they can stay for 40-plus years. And those years have to be joyful years of giving and getting.
So that's kind of a cornerstone of my relationship fundraising philosophy. It’s not enough to full half a page but I have written actually five books on this subject. And it's kind of so simple, make me feel special. It shouldn't be too difficult. That’s what donors are saying to us all the time, make us feel special. And if you make them feel special they'll stay, because they'll enjoy it, they'll love it.
Marc: Ken, on that making you feel special, some of this can be automated. I just purchased some fair trade necklace; I won't go into the whole thing. but what was cool about it was when I made the purchase it didn't confirm it, it gave the receipt so to speak–the email was "Nice job, Marc [inaudible 00:42:12] You just supported independent artists in Cambodia that are making this jewelry out of these old mines.” It was just really cool; I was thinking why don't our nonprofits do this?
Ken: Well, absolutely, and I can imagine that came to you very quickly, because electronically we have those options now.
And so we'll easily get this, Marc, my 5F–this is a mantra that I think should be in large letters above every fundraisers’ bed, and we should be famous for frequent, fast, fabulous feedback. Those 5F’s, we need to be famous for it, because people need to know. They need to know that this is what their not-for-profits symbolize. At the moment people don't see us like this and I think that is something we can change.
And a lot of this is to do with, what we were talking earlier about in terms of the passion that infects the fundraisers. I am really scared about, a bit leery of the professional fundraiser, whose skills are transferable between causes, the spread sheet-proficient technically, PowerPoint cadet professional, because I think more than anything the donor wants to see and feel the passion of the fundraiser coming through in everything they write, say, and do.
A donation without passion is like making a sale without making a convert. And we are in the business of making converts, not about making sales. We want life-time relationships. And these people, we have got to be aware of them because they are in every not for profit. They are what I call the passion assassins. They will suck out the emotion and the appeal and professionalize. They will focus on the transaction and commoditize that transaction.
And I think that is a great danger to our business and to how our donors view our organization. We call them the drains and the radiators. You can get this quite easily the radiators give out constant warmth and are always lovely to be around. And the drains suck everything away.
In the Institute of fundraising which is the UK equivalent of the AFP, Association Of Fundraising Professionals, they have produced a tool kit called proud to be a fundraiser, and it describes the radiators as spreading the heat and passion, radiating the warm glow of making a difference, and the drains suck out the emotion, neutralize feelings, and commoditize giving, so that it becomes like any other commercial transaction.
Now I should confess that I love this because I wrote that particular tool kit, but it is still never the less the opinion of the Institute of Fundraising. And donors give in spite of the drains and they give because of the radiators.
So I'm looking at the time and just thinking, so this means we need a different kind of professional fundraiser, and I think we need to stand out to be noticeably different. We need to be different from the crowd. I hope those participating in this webinar will realize that the one in the middle at the back is slightly different from the others in that picture.
But it's not enough to just add a false nose and a pair of funny ears, it's got to be real different, it's got to be right down into our DNA. This difference and I think it will be the successful fundraisers will be those who can tell their stories with heart and passion that will enable them to change the world.
So I want to just quickly focus on finding and defining your emotional heart, and I want to give you an organization which is quite famous in the UK, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It's actually Europe's largest conservation organization, and it has nearly two-million members and it's very powerful, but these are the kind of organizations that use this language that infects our sector. “We’re preserving biodiversity and protecting our ecology.”
That's not why our donors are going to support these organizations if they even understand what it means. I'm not sure I want to grow up in a strong economy if there are no sparrows in it, that's basically why people will support the RSPB, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. So find your emotional heart, it's not going to be in page three of your annual report, but you need to find a way to define it, which will make sense to all the people that you're trying to talk to.
So, I just want to give a few example of how I think story telling does change the world and most of you will know of Sir Isaac Newton who is one of the most famous scientists in the world. He was the father of physics. He was also one of the greatest mathematicians of his age.
But all I remember from school and most of the people associated with Isaac Newton is the story of him seeing an apple fall and this was how he defined the force of gravity. Everyone seems to remember the apple falling on his head, but that's not the true story. It is true that he saw an apple fall from a tree and that this inspired him to come up with the theory of gravitation. And that's what people remember about Newton, not most of the other stuff you might learn.
So we tend to look out of the window when there are lectures going on, we don't really listen. I was certainly true of this in school I couldn't wait to get out of the school. All I remember from school is the stories. Lindisfarne Island is a holy island off the northeast coast of the north of England and it has some of the most famous illuminated manuscripts, medieval manuscripts. They get coachloads of school kids who come and visit, and the monks on Lindisfarne are always trying to teach these school kids about these medieval manuscripts.
And they found one of the things they want them to know is the most important of their manuscripts weighed 8.7 kilograms. Now I don't know why this is important to the monks of Lindisfarne, that people should know that fact, but they decided the way to get this fact to stick was to tell the visiting school parties, this is the same as the weight of an adult badger.
Now when the teachers get the coach parties to go back to the classroom and the teachers say well what do you remember about your visit to Lindisfarne? They don't remember any of the history that's been taught, but they all put their hands up and say, “Please miss, please miss the badger. The book that weighs the same as the badger.” That's the thing that people will remember.
And I think story telling is like planting a rose or maybe an oak tree if you're very lucky. It's about getting a way for your passion, your inspiration to stick and that's really what we do at fundraisers. And this is a very personal story and it involves my youngest, son and I had just come back from visit to Guatemala where I met a group of human rights lawyers. And these were people who suffered terrible persecution during the genocide, the military regime under General Rios Montt.
These educated lawyers from the city had stood up against the abuses, the abductions, the rapes, the murders, the massacre's and they put their own lives at risk and they had gone through terrible hardships. And they were imprisoned, some were sentenced for life, some were sentenced to exile, some were tortured and killed and their story affected me very greatly and when I came back to the UK, I told this story to my family. And listening to me at the time was my 14 year old son Charlie, and there and then Charlie decided he would become a human rights lawyer.
Now I didn't realize it at the time but this story had a profound influence on him and now 14 years later Charlie has two law degrees. He has Master’s in human rights from London University and he has been a practicing solicitor now for over two years. So he has very extensive training, went through a great deal, worked very hard all because of a seed that had been planted in that story that I told him. And it was thinking about that made me realize that actually in my direct mail letter writing and fundraising copy preparation that really the core of what I do is telling stories and that those stories can be very, very influential.
So I want to just change the scene a little bit, having talked a bit about storytelling to talk about the investment paradox. And these are based on actual statistics comparing investments in stocks and shares and investment in fundraising. And they show that if you look at how stocks and shares have performed over the last decade or more, the growth is not very spectacular at all. If you take a million pounds and invest it.
If you go to the fundraising option, then you do say good bye to that money for at least 18 months. It will take you 18 months to spend the money and recover that investment, but thereafter–this is based on 32 national fundraising organizations in the UK. You will get a very much better return from investing in fundraising than you would investing stocks and shares. And yet the curious paradox is that there are many organizations that have still got their reserves invested in stocks and shares, but have not properly invested in donor relationship development.
And so I think now coming a little bit toward the end of my talk, I want to just end with the twin secrets of fundraising success, which of course are time and money. And invariably the organizations who don't succeed at fundraising are those who don't put enough time into the process and don't adequately underwrite the costs of fundraising properly. And if you do it properly you will succeed but if you don't do it properly you won't. I think that is the core of my advice as a consultant over many decades.
So to me the three keys to being an effective fundraising organization are insuring enough investment in time and money to do fundraising properly. Elevating this concept of the truth told well. Telling stories, building a bank of stories and communicating your story bank properly and enshrining the 5F's in your commitment to donors: famous for fast, frequent, fabulous feedback.
So I have taken the best part of an hour to go through this, and it's really a skin, a really light skin to a very important subject. But I want to just end with what relationship fundraising looks like in 2015 and this comes from a book which currently in preparation, which should be published later in the year called Donors for Life: A Practitioners Guide to Relationship Fundraising.
And it starts with the why this is the dream, this is sleeping beauty's palace, the core of every not-for-profit organization. Now organizations usually start with the what and the how, but they really need to step a bit further back, and very carefully define the why, what is the dream? And then to spread that dream they need to be very good at storytelling.
This is why Marc, I said my book, my latest book, Storytelling Can Change The World is perhaps the most important thing I have produced to date, because it really is this storytelling that leads to relationship building, once you have inspired people to your stories you can put the effort into building relationships. And with those relationships that's what will underpin asking for money, asking properly.
So you don't start in fundraising by asking for money, if you start by asking for money you won't get it and you won't deserve it. You ask properly. And from there you go to this donor magic, donor care, looking after donations giving them that frequent, fast, fabulous feedback so that they love the experience of being a donor. And then through your data collection and analysis, you inform you storytelling and complete this virtuous circle that will keep your donors inspired to give not just for 1 year but for many years, for decades, even for a life time.
So thank you very much for listening to me. I hope some of you are still listening, Marc, I think I should hand over to you at this point.
Marc: Well, I have nine pages of notes. I was scribbling furiously and I was trying to avoid the emergency vehicles that were coming through. I don't know if you heard those coming through down by Main Street, but I think the questions that came through were you answered or touched on.
One of the big questions I mentioned already about stocks, investing in fundraising. I've seen this when the housing market went down in America in 2008, the non-profits that invested in fundraising were the ones to come out of it first and so many of non-profits cut their fundraising.
If you had like a nugget of wisdom from all your experience to share with the CEO or the board that doesn't get it, is there a place people who are listening can go to find the results or is there a paradigm or a mind shift that you could offer them to share with their CEO?
Ken: Well, Marc, you’re right I have a long experience. I have worked with over 300 different organizations that's clients of my company. I've been a head of fundraising and I have been the chairman of the board of one of Britain's top 20 charities for many years. and you know one of the phenomenon as I deal a lot with not-for-profit boards and you see these captains of industry, high-flying men and women, who run very successful businesses, yet when they come to sit around a not-for-profit board table, they leave their brains at the door and they seem to think that we can magic money out of nothing.
There is an old saying in business is you have to speculate to accumulate. Businesses have research and development departments. We have almost no equivalent in the not-for-profit organization sector. We do not run our organizations on thin air. We need to underwrite and invest to develop our income we need to have the resources the people and the tactics and the strategies in place to make our work effective.
And you know there are a lot of people talking about this from Dan Pallotta. Dan is not saying anything particularly new, but really beginning at last to talk common sense about what's needed to make an effective not-for-profit organization. I just think that there is so much evidence.
There is a report, which my colleagues in the consultancy, Revolutionize, produced last year prepared by Professor Adrian Sargeant and Professor Jen Shang from Indiana University. It's called The Great Fundraising Report and I look at it at revolutionize.com website and it describes in some detail why certain organizations do much, much, much better than others. It is to do with leadership. There is a combination of several factors, but there is plenty of documented evidence of what makes a successful organization.
And there of plenty of good people to listen to. Read Roger Craver, Tom Ahern, Simone Joyaux, most of them are North American. And they are brilliant, brilliant people, and they are talking a lot of common sense. I think one of the things that strikes me having looked at how organizations worked over the decades is everybody wants to rush ahead into the new technology, social media, and things like that, and they forget that it’s really about getting the basics right, and if you do that, you will succeed.
Marc: Wow, Ken, it has been an amazing pleasure to have you here. We could probably keep going for ever on this. I want to encourage everyone to whitelionpress.com or Amazon.com and order your own copy of the book. I have got mine on its way, and I got to start reading it when I was over at Chris Davenport’s in Seattle.
Ken, thank you so much for being here and with people wanting to learn more go to kenburnett.com or SOFII.org or revolutionize, where would the best place to go?
Ken: Well, they can get most of the information and links through Kenburnett.com and SOFII there is an awful lot of material on SOFII, it’s all indexed and segmented and so on but there are a lot of links through my website kenburnett.com, but also I do a free blog which people are welcome to sign up for and you can also get at kenburnett.com, plus of course, there are links to sell my various books in the hope that I can put shoes on my children's feet.
Marc: We saw that they are racing now.
Ken: My son, Charlie, he earns about half of what his colleagues in corporate law– well, less than half probably and I feel very guilty that I have pushed him down this path. I think he is happier and I am happier too.
Marc: So please everyone support, now that you have heard his story, the Burnett family fund. To be serious, support your own special development in investing in some of these books because there are books that are good for the moment, but Ken's books and the authors he chooses stand the test of time, and so I would really encourage you to go check those out. Thank you so much for being here, Ken.
Ken: Thank you, Marc, thank you, everybody and it is really a pleasure to talk to you. You have probably guessed this is one of my favorite subjects. Next to talking about me is talking about . . .
Marc: That's wonderful. Well everybody, with that we have come to the end of another NPA Presents be sure to, Ken, if you could kick the next slide over and be sure to go to that web link, the http://nonprofitacademy.com/vault/ to check out the 60-plus trainings and templates and tools that are in there and until our next event, look forward to seeing you at the members-only forum.