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“The idea was deceptively simple – its execution, anything but”

Eighteen months ago the Commission on the Donor Experience was launched in the wake of too many depressing media stories about poor fundraising practice.
I’ve always been proud to be a fundraiser, and very happy to tell people what I do (I’m sure I’ve even been rather boring on the subject…). But the reality was that over that period I found myself in more than one exchange with friends and family, where they told me that while they loved supporting their favourite causes, they often didn’t enjoy the experience of giving to charity. Which made me sad.
So as a relentlessly glass-half-full person, I was really heartened to see positive action coming out of such a challenging environment for fundraisers and fundraising. Particularly when I knew that alongside all the very unhappy stories, there were countless brilliant examples across the sector of donors getting a great experience.

Put donors at the heart of fundraising

The idea for the Commission, like all good ideas, was deceptively simple – put donors right at the heart of fundraising. Then put out a call to ask the fundraising community to help – to give us their insight and experience so that we could create a bank of practical ways to raise our game.
But if the idea was simple, executing it has been anything but. The last 18 months has seen more than 1,000 contributions from across the sector, with hundreds of volunteers giving, in some cases, months of their time to create a huge set of resources. It’s brilliant to see the way so many people have stepped up to offer support – and for the simple reason that they care deeply about donors and about the causes they serve.
And the Commission launches these resources today – fittingly at the Institute of Fundraising’s annual Convention, itself a cornucopia of good ideas and inspiration. This has truly been a Commission for the modern age – crowdsourced and beta-tested. And all the richer for it. I’m awestruck that there are 526 practical ideas for change across 28 projects.
With 250 case studies to bring the ideas to life.
In true marketing speak, there really is something for everyone. If you’re a Trustee or a Chief Exec or a Director of Fundraising, there are tips on building a better culture and hiring the right people. And if you’re interested in improving your engagement with donors, there are hundreds of “how tos” on a whole range of subjects. I highly recommend a browse as soon as you get the chance. So today is a good day for the sector – and one where I feel very happy to stand up tall and say “I am so proud to be a fundraiser”.

Call to action

But as well as being a launch, this is also very much a call to action. The Commission, for all the brilliant hard work by so many people up to now, will only succeed if we take up the ideas and use them to change practice in our own charities and in the work we do to raise vital funds from the public. We have a fantastic opportunity to make the experience of giving to charity in the UK something which people consistently enjoy and get real pleasure from. I’d argue that we fail to do so at our peril. And the resources produced through the Commission by hundreds of dedicated, enthusiastic people give us the means to do that.
The rest is up to us.
 
Kath Abrahams is director of engagement and fundraising at Diabetes UK and a commissioner for the Commission on the Donor Experience.
 

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