A practical, evidence-based guide that’ll keep your relationship fundraising on track

Ryan Burdock of recruitment specialists Prospectus reviews the new essential fundraising guide by Craig Linton and Paul Stein.

Written by
Ryan Burdock
Added
June 06, 2018

Book review

Donors for Life, by Craig Linton and Paul Stein (The White Lion Press 2017) 370 pages, £22.95 plus P&P ISBN: 978-0-9553993-6-7 

Reviewed for SOFII by Ryan Burdock

Fundraising is often a daunting career choice, with fundraisers falling into the profession and thrust into putting donors at the centre of their working life. A practical, evidence-based guide is hard to come by, but Paul Stein and Craig Linton’s new book is exactly that.

Donors for Life: A practitioner’s guide to Relationship Fundraising sets the bar high for implementing a relationship fundraising strategy while not losing sight of the history, techniques, and international scope of fundraising. This is particularly important and relevant for young fundraisers beginning their journey in the sector, providing valuable guidance and examples on how to build superb, long-lasting relationships with donors.

Stein and Linton also show the importance of global trends, which is incredibly helpful for more junior fundraisers to realise the entire context of giving. They cite there are now a record 1,826 billionaires in the world and organisations received a total of £26.3billion of philanthropic gifts. This worldview is thoughtfully articulated and can demonstrate for younger fundraisers in the UK the potential for the fundraising they do to reach populations around the world and impact on vital, purposeful causes.

A particularly impressive chapter is Relationship fundraising: what it is and why it matters. Figure 3.2, outlined below, demonstrates in succinct detail the why of fundraising, as the authors share:

“The ‘why’ is about putting yourself in a donor’s shoes and understanding the values, beliefs and world view that the donor holds so you can show how supporting your cause meets his or her needs.” 

For young fundraisers entering the profession, this ‘why’ must be at the heart of the leap into fundraising. What Donors for Life implicitly delivers in all its chapters, examples, and research, is a brilliant exploration of how much fun Stein and Linton have in their own careers and the excitement they have in sharing that knowledge for the next generation of fundraisers.

Toward the end of Donors for Life, I was hoping for an honest assessment of the value of an exit strategy with donors. The authors talk eloquently and masterfully about approaching, cultivating, and securing new donors alongside excellent retention techniques, but the missing piece seems to be a continuation of the thought that the value of the gift and the giving capacity should not be the primary concern for fundraisers – the relationship should be. All relationships have challenging periods: some fizzle out, others may be over-cultivated and resources unwisely used. What might the authors suggest about an over-cultivated patron of a museum giving at the lowest level possible, but attending each event and communicating with the development team each week? A lack of a chapter on exit strategies, and in particular examples of when this has been successful for the relationship and the organisation, feels like a missed opportunity.

An excellent and topical example of the way relationship fundraising works in practice is found in Chapter 10. I loved reading about the Friends of the Earth “Bee Cause” Campaign, that generated a real cross-organisation buzz at Friends of the Earth, and the success of the campaign was down to three key factors through the lens of relationship fundraising. In the words of the then Director of Engagement, Joe Jenkins, 

“there were three key elements that really made the difference: integration, innovation and involvement.” 

A tangible outcome for this relationship fundraising approach is that the EU has now banned bee-harming neonics as of May 2018. The case study is an excellent example of an understandable call to action, a clear offer across fundraising channels, and a true collaborative style of working across fundraising and campaigning departments.

The Fundraising Recruitment team at Prospectus have been recommending and pointing fundraisers in the direction of this book to enable them to think critically about their profession and engage with donors in thoughtful and intelligent ways. This is an important book for an important time in fundraising. Donors for Life engages with fundraisers and fundraising disciplines across the entire sector to upskill and celebrate the vital work that is done in the UK.

Donors for Life is available directly from White Lion Press and is also available on Amazon.

Ryan Burdock is the Team Leader for the Fundraising team at recruitment specialists Prospectus, based in London, UK. Ryan’s career in the beyond profit sector began in Chicago, USA, where he recruited for a variety of fundraising and beyond profit positions. Ryan specialises in recruitment for homelessness, social enterprise and arts focused organisations. Passionate about social equality and opportunity, Ryan is a trustee of United AllStars, a sports engagement charity working with at-risk youth in Camberwell and Peckham to help them overcome social and economic barriers to success.

About the author: Ryan Burdock

Ryan Burdock

Ryan Burdock is the Team Leader for the Fundraising team at recruitment specialists Prospectus, based in London, UK. Ryan’s career in the beyond profit sector began in Chicago, USA, where he recruited for a variety of fundraising and beyond profit positions. Ryan specialises in recruitment for homelessness, social enterprise and arts focused organisations. Passionate about social equality and opportunity, Ryan is a trustee of United AllStars, a sports engagement charity working with at-risk youth in Camberwell and Peckham to help them overcome social and economic barriers to success.

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