Fundraising Reading Round-Up
Nonprofit Blog Carnival: A Celebration Of SOFII - Will You Inspire Or Invest?

Find your purpose and 'why' – lessons from the saddest donor letter I’ve ever read

Hugh Macleod Market to Believe In

I believe understanding the ‘why’ and purpose about your cause is fundamental to fundraising success. It’s the reason I put it in the centre of my chart on relationship fundraising.

This was brought home to me recently by a letter I received from a donor. It’s fair to say it brought a tear to my eye and illustrated why people give and the joy that donating can bring*.

“I have been a supporter for several years now and thank you greatly for all the excellent work you do amongst the children in the nursery. Lives are altered and valued with all your efforts.

“I am in the sad position of experiencing pancreatic cancer and must therefore try to clear all my affairs whilst I am able to make decisions sensibly. This will be my last donation.

 “My funding is very limited now and I wanted to send this cheque to you before costs take it all!

 “Your work in every way and every area is so wonderful but if it is possible to add this cheque towards something in the nursery area I would be delighted.

 “I was involved with nursery work in my working life and my heart goes out to all your children. Keep them happy in your hard work.

“My thoughts and prayers are with you all.”

It was very humbling to think that someone with a terminal illness wanted to take the time to make a final donation and help others. The work of RLSB meant something to her. Donating gave her purpose and a sense of control at a difficult time of her life.

Finding your ‘why’

For most charities the ‘why’ should be apparent. Yet often our fundraising does not allow it to shine through in our work. So how do you make your ‘why’ and purpose integral to your fundraising plans?

I’d highly recommend Bernadette Jiwa’s book Difference.

Creating value, in the fundraising sense, is where your fundraising meets your donor’s worldview and you create an offer that the donor wants to ‘buy’. The letter from the donor is the perfect example of where our beliefs and worldview’s collide and the donor wants to make a difference.

Value Creation Jiwa

So how do you define your ‘why’? Jiwa suggests answering the following questions to create your own ‘difference map’^

  • Principles: truth about charity, the market, the donors/people we want to serve

  • Purpose: why do we exist?

  • People: who is this for? What do they care about?

  • Personal: How can we change how people feel? How can we help them live better lives?

  • Perception: What do they believe? What would we like them to believe about us?

  • Product: What do we really want or need? How do we create value for our customers?

Once you’ve found your ‘why’ and decided how to share it with the world, you can begin building the other factors that make a successful relationship fundraising programme.


*You can join the lady and support the RLSB nursery by donating to their Easter appeal.

^You can download a Difference Map template here:

This post has been submitted to March’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme is ‘Breaking through the noise’. It is hosted by the RAD Campaign