Are we any wiser 16 years on….

What can we learn today from Princess Diana’s tragic death way back in 1997 … and what has fundraising best practice got to do with it?

Welcome to my first Blog and a discussion on how contemporary fundraising and management issues are pressuring some cherished pillars of fundraising best practice.

In 2000 I wrote The Key to Fundraising Success primarily for community organisations. In 2013 I’m reinventing it, rewriting and contemporising it for a broader audience – state, national and international institutions that, to varying degrees, are increasingly reliant on fundraising. Reliant on difference dollars, on donations that differentiate them from kindred institutions and causes, literally transforming them from good to great, transforming them through transformational gifts. But the thing is … institution transformational gifts are rarely realised by good luck instead they are the result of the application of major gift best fundraising practice!

So as I’m rewriting The Key to Fundraising Success (2000), I’m inviting you to contribute to its content: chapter by chapter, issue by issue, blog by blog … when relevant to you.

This is how I began, way back when …

Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the accident and then the tragic death of Princess Di? Think about it for a moment. Now ask yourself, can you name the philanthropic trust that was established in her memory?

In the frenetic outpouring of emotion immediately after Princess Diana’s death in 1997 hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world sent money in tribute to Diana, for the causes she supported during her lifetime. Within a week of Diana’s death the British press were reporting that £160,000 was being donated every day.

But what were those charitable causes, can you name them, and how was the money to be spent? Did the people who donated the money know? Did they even really care? Were they giving to the causes Diana supported or to the memory of Diana? What motivated them to give? The truth is that the vast majority of donors didn’t know and they didn’t need to care because they trusted Diana.

In their overwhelmingly emotional response people were giving to the memory of Diana, the person, not the causes she championed. There is perhaps no greater recent example of what really motivates people to give, to donate to a cause or a community group. What really motivates them is other people … because people give to people not to causes; can you believe it?

What is today’s Princess Diana story? A story which highlights the most powerful and for many the most challenging fundraising principle … people give to people not to causes.

For over five years I had the privilege of working with Olivia Newton-John on The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Appeal. How many of the thousands of Appeal donors donated because of Olivia? How many of them would have donated if Olivia had no association with the Appeal, if instead it had been simply, the Austin Health Cancer Centre Appeal?

Retired Australian Football League (AFL) great Shane Crawford cycled 3600 kilometres from Melbourne to Perth to raise funds for Breast Cancer Network Australia. How many of the thousands of donors who sponsored ‘Crawf’s’ ride will be first time donors to Breast Cancer Network Australia, a breast cancer charity or even a cancer charity? Were they donating because they heard the ride was for Breast Cancer Network Australia or because they admired what Crawf was doing and because they think he’s a good bloke?

What do you think?


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