Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Meet the donors – well, at least five of them

Meet the donors – well, at least five of them

I was briefing some people at the BBC about this week’s much-anticipated launch of the ’s outputs. Soon as I mentioned the subject, one of the producers told me an alarming story of her personal bad fundraising experience.

Fundraisers often regret that we don’t get enough chances to meet donors. Sometimes though we may secretly be glad, as maybe we’d rather stay in the dark about some of their concerns. But, given recent events, charities need to listen to their donors like never before.

Not everyone is a donor of course, but many are. Scratch them and the stories will spill out and they’ll almost always be instructive. My favourite, most enlightening and most quoted donor was my mum. I’ve even been known to be a donor myself. Which has taught me a lot too…

Delegates coming to our debate at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Fundraising Convention on Tuesday will get to meet not just one donor, but five of them. Maybe even more. Our panel consists of a marathon runner, a legacy pledger, a volunteer who’s a child sponsor, a couple of major donors and a box-collection coordinator.

At 4.30 pm in Convention’s final session of Tuesday afternoon, one by one, Question Time style, these brave individuals will be answering provocative questions from the audience on an array of crucial subjects. They’ll be asked if fundraising is inevitably irritating? Can it be made better, less intrusive, more welcome? And are the communications they receive from their chosen charities and others interesting, engaging, informative, or not?

They’ll be asked about their best – and worst – donor experience and they’ll give their views on the difference that being a donor allows them to make – or not. Plus, they’ll say how they think fundraising should and could change, to give them as donors a better experience. I’ll be trying to moderate the conversation in as Dimbleby-like a fashion as I can, but whatever, the panel’s answers are sure to be useful, challenging and, hopefully, enlightening. You may even get the chance to pose a question of your own.

Do join the donors

Do come along please, in good time if you can for a prompt start as we only have one hour and lots to cover. You’ll find the session at the Barbican Hall at level minus 1. We start sharp at 4.30.

For those UK Fundraising readers who are not at National Fundraising Convention, you can find out what donors want by reading the Commission’s report, which is launched tomorrow.

Over the course of the last 18 months we have spoken with more than 1,000 donors about their experiences of charities, and combined this with the insight and experience of more than 1,000 professionals from across the voluntary sector to create a vast body of resources for charities that includes 28 projects, 526 ideas for change and 250 case histories.

It has been a huge undertaking. For the first, time, the charity sector has come together in force to demonstrate its commitment to donors. Now is the time for you to do the same.


Ken Burnett is co-founder of the Commission on the Donor Experience

© Ken Burnett 2017


  • The full outputs from the Commission on the Donor Experience’s 28 projects will be unveiled at 12.45 on Wednesday in the Barbican Conservatory and the Garden Room (level 3) at Fundraising Convention.

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