Who should influence the future of fundraising?

May 4 2016 - Mark Phillips

With the most influential fundraiser/popularity contest up and running, I thought it presented a rather interesting opportunity.

I’ve always been of the view than rather an opportunity to vote for mates, colleagues and famous faces, it should be presented as a means to introduce some of the most intelligent thinkers in our sector to a much wider audience.

Indeed, a number of years ago, I published a list of the fundraisers that have influenced me and hopefully bought some new ideas and views to people’s attention.

With the sector at the start of a new paradigm, i’m going to repeat the exercise, but this time with a different approach. I’m recommending a group of fundraisers who I strongly think should influence your fundraising over the coming years.

The group is made up of people who have taken a long-term focus on fundraising. Who care about the giving experience and who understand that connected and engaged donors are far more valuable that just another person who has agreed to a low value direct debit simply because they have struggled to say no to the request for help.

I’ve also focused on fundraisers who actively actually share thoughts and ideas through blogging, writing articles or books and through regular presentations at conferences.

This list is in no particular order of preference, but I do have one particular favourite who’ll be at my number one spot. I’ll tell you about them at the end.

Shanon Doolittle

Shanon is an absolute definite for a fundraiser that should influence you. She has focused on the need to reward, love and cherish donors since well before it became fashionable. In all my conversations with Shanon, I’ve found that everything she does and recommends is based on an incredibly deep understanding of why people give. Shanon was the first fundraiser who flagged up to me that people often give as a means to manage memories of a traumatic past. Together with the brilliant Beth Ann Locke (who is also worth voting for) Shanon also founded Gratitude Camp. Shanon can be found at shanondoolittle.com.

Tom Ahern

Tom is one of the greatest fundraisers around. Whether he focuses on copy, mailing packs, newsletters or even developing a case for support, his advice is some of the most effective you’ll ever receive. Tom has written a huge number of books that are all worth reading. At Bluefrog, we used Tom’s thinking shared in How to Raise More Money with Newsletters Then you Ever Thought Possible to develop our own very successful approach to super-charging newsletters. Read what Tom has to say and use it. Your donors will be more engaged and give more as a result. Tom can be found at aherncomm.com.

Simone Joyaux

Simone is fabulous. She has a speciality that I think many UK charities could benefit from. Simone (amongst other things) focuses on making your board as strong as it can possibly be, with a particular emphasis on how they should engage and enhance in fundraising. The title of her book, Firing Lousy Board Members: And Helping the Others Succeed should give a few clues to her approach. With Trustees needing to take much more interest in how charities raise funds, Simone is the person that will help you ensure they make the right decisions. Simone can be found at simonejoyaux.com.

Roger Craver

Roger, aside from being one half of The Agitator, published one of my favourite books on fundraising of recent years, Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping your Donors for Life. For years, Roger has been encouraging fundraisers to look behind the numbers and focus on what works in fundraising. In his writing, he highlights the futility of thinking that a ‘good cause’ will attract and retain donors without hard work. Roger has long pointed out the stupidity of recruiting new donors if you have no idea of how to retain them.

I’ve given Roger the nod over his equally brilliant Agitator, Tom Belford (who you should also follow) simply because of the book and the fact that I’m struggling to keep this list down to ten.

Jen Love

I think it was Jen, along with her father, David Love, who first coined the term donor love, which has now grown in to the #donorlove movement. Coming out of Canada, it is perhaps the most important fundraising initiative around today. It focuses on placing donors at the heart of the fundraiser’s world. Jen is also (along with the equally wonderful John Lepp) one of the founders of Agents of Good, one of the best fundraising agencies out there. 

Rory Green

Rory is another key member of the #donorlove movement and is a fantastic fundraiser who focuses on the importance of answering the needs of donors when developing fundraising strategies and creative work. Rory is also known as the Fundraiser Grrl. Rory has a focus on higher value donors, but so much of what she shares can be applied across the spectrum of individual donors. Rory can be found at roryjmgreen.com.

Maeve Strathy

I’m sticking with the #donorlove movement with Maeve, who developed the mid-value donor programme at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. Maeve is a fundraising strategist for the fantastic Canadian agency, Blakely, where she leads the thinking on mid-value donors.  Understanding this wealthier group of charity supporters will be an essential area for fundraisers over the decade. Maeve shares her thoughts at whatgivesphilanthropy.com

Damian O’Broin

Damian has long been one of my favourite fundraisers. As founder of Ask Direct in Ireland, Damian puts a huge amount of effort into sharing ideas and promoting best practice. He’s the founder of the Fundraising Summer School in Ireland which looks like it’s going to be one of the best fundraising conferences of the year. When it comes to individual giving, Damian really understands what donors want. Damian can be found at AskDirect.ie.

Amanda Santer

I’ve worked with Amanda for many years. Where she excels is in asking the right questions. One of the key failings of the sector over the last few years has perhaps been the strategic targets we’ve chosen – far too often it’s simply been the bottom line. Amanda has always focused on what donors want and how we should deliver a fantastic experience to them. I personally owe Amanda a big thank you as it’s so often been her questions that have kept Bluefrog really focused on understanding donor needs. Amanda can be found at Zen and Inspiration.

Tony Elischer

Everyone knows Tony. He was an amazing force of energy that transformed any event or presentation he was involved with. His passing is a terrible loss to the world of fundraising. Tony has been a major influence on my thinking in recent years. In 2010 when he asked me to present a fundraising retrospective at the 30th anniversary IFC conference in Amsterdam, he inadvertently changed my approach to fundraising. I found many, many great fundraising ideas that were just waiting to be updated. Since then, whenever I need to solve problems, I look at our industry’s history as a starting point. We need to remember that the problems we face today have been seen and resolved by others before us. I shall always thank Tony for that insight. Tony is my vote for the number one spot.

Here's just a sample of Tony at his finest. On stage At AFP Congress in Toronto…

Honourable mentions

By restricting myself to just ten people, I've been forced to leave out some great people who really need a mention. I'm thinking of Jeff Brooks, whose blog, Future Fundraising Now is essential reading. Ken Burnett, the man who wrote Relationship Fundraising, set up Sofii.org and blogs at KenBurnett.com. Rachel Beer, who apart from creating the #NFPtweetup, was one of the few fundraisers to highlight the problems the sector was facing long before it became a front page news story. Howard Lake, who publishes the magnificent resource which is UK Fundraising and runs Fundraising Camp.  Craig Linton, who regularly features the best of the web as the Fundraising Detective. Simon Scriver who shares some great advice on donor engagement at Changefundrasing.com. Adrian Salmon – another of my favourite fundraisers – who blogs at I Open My Mouth and Words Come Out and Pamela Grow who regularly offers great advice for small charities on how they can improve their fundraising at PamelaGrow.org

I'd also like to flag up one for the future, Victoria Ward, who blogs at Flight of the Fundraiser. She's relatively new to the sector, but is already demonstrating great insight.

I've missed out loads of great people that you might like to vote for. If I have, why not suggest their names in the comments section so others can learn about them too.

So, please think carefully about who you think you'd really like to influence the sector and make your vote count. Anyone involved in fundraising from anywhere in the world can vote. The survey is here.

  • Thanks, Mark. Thanks for including me in this list. And thanks for the Tony memory. We did have fun, didn’t we!?

  • Feeling the love here, Mark! Thank you so much for including me in this truly epic list of people. Tony got my vote too! <3

  • Hi Mark, I am so grateful to even get a mention among these incredible fundraisers. Thank you! An exceptionally inspirational bunch!

  • Couldn’t agree more with this list! Excellent group! Especially love that Simone Joyaux and Rory Green made the list!