Catching them young: how to engage and nurture young philanthropists
Fundraising Weekly Round-Up

Fundraising mistakes and promoting giving: lessons from City Philanthropy

This is the second part of my interview with Cheryl Chapman of City Philanthropy. You can read part 1 here. The interview was to mark the launch of City Philanthropy - A Wealth of Giving.

Thanks to funding from the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust the venture will run for three years and promote London as a centre for global philanthropy, part of the Lord Mayor of the City of London Roger Gifford’s aim too, it also aims to embed a culture of effective philanthropy in the City among young professionals.

What mistakes do you see fundraisers making?

Unfortunately I still hear horror stories from donors and their advisors about their experiences with fundraisers and charities.

Giving should be a joy, but sadly this isn’t always the case.

I recently spoke to an advisor whose client was interested in making a £500,000 donation to a particular charity. She wrote to the CEO of the charity to say this but didn’t hear back. Four weeks later she finally got a response by which time the donation was lost forever. This is not an isolated case.

The inability for fundraisers or charities to thank donors is also surprisingly common.  Some don’t even bother and only re-contact a donor when they make another appeal for funds. It’s quite astounding that such a basic thing as ‘thanks’ is executed so poorly.

Many philanthropists describe the “joy of giving” to projects. Yet, the inability of fundraisers to thank donors genuinely and authentically can mean the abrupt end of what could have been a beautiful relationship.

Fundraisers often don’t talk in the same language as philanthropists and that can be a missed opportunity. For example, people from the City live in a world of risk and return,  and are more likely to see giving as an investment than someone who is making a grant from a long standing, traditional, family trust perhaps. Fundraisers need to tailor their approach accordingly.

In my experience, many donors don’t give big first time round. They take baby steps. See how it goes with a charity and then if they like what they see they give more next time round. So fundraisers need to look beyond the size of a first gift to the potential of the long-term donor relationship. They should take more of an investment rather than a sales approach to fundraising.

What more do we need to do to promote giving?

A lot is being done and we are in fact already one of the most generous nations in the world. However we lag behind the US in giving and how we talk and celebrate our philanthropy. Of course culturally and historically we are very different from the US in terms of what the State is expected to provide, and what should be funded privately. However, I still think there are lessons to be learned.

Thomas Hughes-Hallet, who has just won a Beacon Award as a Philanthropy Advocate is one of the few UK philanthropists who will openly stand up and say how much he gives. We could do with more people talking about their giving so it becomes more mainstream.

Philanthropy really should come out of the closet and we should be proud of our tradition of philanthropy.

Campaigns such as Trevor Pears’ Give More  and our own City Philanthropy – A Wealth of Opportunity is helping that happen by giving people the chance to talk about their giving online. I am particularly optimistic that this will change as young philanthropists, who give together and at a lower level, are happy to be vocal about giving.

And initiatives like the Beacon Awards  are about celebrating philanthropy and recognising the people who are helping to change the world. Hopefully in the coming years we will see more and more people talking openly about their giving.