The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Relationship Fundraising Comes of Age

In 1992 I had the absolute pleasure of working with numerous nonprofits and their fundraising throughout Europe. During that year, I was handed a copy of a revolutionary new book on fundraising techniques and principles. The book was Relationship Fundraising authored by a Scotsman with the name of Ken Burnett.

My copy of the original book quickly became dog-eared and highlighted throughout after racing through it over a weekend of not so nice weather north of London. It was at that exact time the thought first crossed my mind of embedding proven best fundraising practices within a nonprofit fundraising database solution!

Making Fundraising Best Practices Come To Life

Unfortunately, the technology to bring these two concepts of best fundraising practices and database structure together properly was just not in place yet. The nonprofit world was not able to see this achieved until twenty years later.

Ironically, the combining of best fundraising practices with database technology is now moving forward based upon decades of research and the proven of Adrian Sargeant and Tom Ahern. It is not incidental that Adrian and Tom are deepest of friends with Ken Burnett, as well as strong believers of Ken’s relationship principles.

Relationship Fundraising Principles Stand the Test of Time

Here is what was written about Ken’s philosophies on relationship fundraising by Jennie Thompson, Chair, The Resource Alliance in the foreword of the recently released new version of Relationship Fundraising:

Relationship Fundraising drills into the core of our value system to remind us that fundraising is not, most definitely, the science of predictable responses to predictable actions based on hard-and-fast rules of experts. No indeed. In this age of “professionalism” —the era of the marketing guru—it’s all too easy to forget that fundraising is more art than science. It is people giving to people . . . the hope of a shared dream . . . the success of a worthy cause. And it will not be effective if we continue to treat our donors simply as computer records within gift categories.

Relationship Fundraising Will Have New Life

So much has changed since Ken Burnett introduced the numerous sacred concepts outlined in his book.

Could modern technology and current daily practices create the need to research anew how these principles need to adapt or change?

Thanks to the news below, the fundraising world will know before 2015 is over!

Here is an excerpt from the recent press release regarding all new, in-depth research on these revered relationship fundraising principles:

The first project to be undertaken by the fundraising think tank – Rogare – at Plymouth University’s Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy (CSP) in the UK aims to review and refashion the concept of ‘relationship fundraising’ to incorporate new developments in relationship marketing and the latest theories on relationship building from the fields of psychology and social psychology.

Professor Adrian Sargeant, director of the CSP, says: “This promises to be a fascinating project as it will really be the first time anyone has systematically reviewed the concept of relationship fundraising since Ken Burnett first mooted it more than 20 years ago.

“When Ken’s book Relationship Fundraising was first published in 1992, the science of relationship marketing had yet to really emerge and database technology was so poor that there were very real limitations on what could realistically be achieved. Fundraising was primarily reliant on direct mail and new digital channels were still only a dream. As a consequence the real utility of the relationship fundraising paradigm had yet to be explored.

“In the intervening years there has been an explosion of interest in the topic. Yet there is still little agreement among practitioners about what relationship fundraising actually is, and what a relationship approach might practically mean for the way in which we steward our relationships with donors.

“Fundraisers certainly have a general sense of what it might mean as a guiding philosophy, but no idea of the theories, tools or frameworks that could be guiding their approach, nor the results that might be achieved if they did so. This Rogare project aims to provide relationship fundraising with its theoretical foundation.”

Six Stages In This New Research

One of the most exiting aspects of this announcement is the depth of the new research being undertaken.

This new research will based upon the following six stages:

  1. Canvass the views of senior practitioners on the definition, scope and current success of relationship fundraising techniques.
  2. Collate evidence of what is currently considered best practice and case studies of success.
  3. Conduct a thorough review of the academic and practitioner literature to identify theories, frameworks and ideas from the domain of relationship marketing that might be applied to fundraising.
  4. Conduct a similar review of the domain of ‘relationship management’ in psychology and social psychology to identify theories, frameworks and ideas that that might be used to inform fundraising practice.
  5. Based on the two literature reviews, assess the views of senior practitioners on the direction that relationship fundraising will take in the future and the challenges it must overcome.
  6. Compile a final report that summarizes the learning from steps 1-5 and outlines the future direction that relationship fundraising might take.

Immediate Impact Possible

Those of us involved with this project believe the impact on such important fundraising principles, as Donor Engagement, Donor Retention, Donor Acquisition and Total Dollars raised could be immediate and long lasting!

The sheer attention initiated by the renewed focus on relationship fundraising will impact every key area mentioned above.

If you would like to be involved in some manner with this research effort please reach to Professor Sargeant via the Rogare website.

Jay Love, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomerang Jay Love, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomerang

The preceding is a guest post by Jay Love, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomerang, which helps nonprofit organizations to reach, engage, and retain the advocates they depend on to achieve their vision for a better world. A veteran of the nonprofit technology sector, Jay is a founding member of the AFP Business Member Council and chair of the AFP Ethics Committee.

Topics: Fundraising