Fundraising archive

Fundraising has been around ever since people started to help each other. So examples of inspirational, instructive and innovative fundraising inevitably go back many centuries. But our records and record-keeping have not been all they should be. In this section SOFII aspires to display and describe the history of fundraising.

  • Treasures from the twentieth century
  • Wonders from history
  • The second oldest profession: fundraising from the dawn of time

A Dismal Swamp: an extract from Our Mutual Friend showing Charles Dickens’ view of fundraising in Victorian England

One of Marcus Stone’s illustrations from the first edition, featuring some of the principal characters.

by SOFII

Charles Dickens’ perceptive view of fundraising from Our Mutual Friend, 1864. Download this entertaining and instructive insight into fundraising from 150 years ago.

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Albert Street Methodist Sunday School: the foot of pennies from the 1930s

by SOFII

A small yet colourful part of England’s fundraising heritage had been discovered in a Methodist chapel about to be demolished. As their finder explains, these fun feet of pennies are engagement devices designed to make collecting for charity easy and so to hook neophytes into the habit of giving.

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RNLI: Britain’s first-ever street collection, 1891

by Carolina Herrera

An appalling loss of life in 1886 leads to the invention of a fundraising classic that's still raising millions today. A horrific double tragedy brought about Britain’s first-ever street collection for a charitable cause. It was a significant milestone in the history of voluntary action in the UK and elsewhere.

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ActionAid: the inserts with built-in reply mechanism

by SOFII

This promotion raised £millions and won almost every direct marketing award going. It also helped propel a new and little known organisation called ActionAid into the list of Britain's top 20 charities. Action Aid created a new format, which was then copied by dozens, perhaps hundreds of other organisations.

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RNLI: the legacy letter

by SOFII

This letter raised £millions. It is a classic example of a direct appeal to supporters for information to help plan for future income. An example of a candid, plain-speaking, respectful letter to remind supporters that RNLI relies heavily on legacy income to fund their work.

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UNICEF: the card that launched UNICEF’s fundraising

Jitka Samková's 1946 design for UNICEF's first ever card, for all the world’s children

by SOFII

UNICEF's very first ever Christmas card would lead to the multi-million dollar international business that is UNICEF's cards today.

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Eihei Dogen fundraising letter: from 1235

Eihei Dogen mystic and teacher, 1200-1253.

by SOFII

Sent in the year 1235, this may be the oldest fundraising letter on record. It is also an extraordinarily competent appeal that identifies the different types of people that the writer wishes to address.

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