CDE project 17 sec­tion 5: conclusion

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 08, 2017

The truth is, the chess master style of leadership, though repeatedly glamorised in novels and films, never was the right thing to aspire to if we wanted great experiences for supporters. The donor always was much more than just their ‘presenting behaviours’ of, for example, the corporate partner or regular giver. 

For as long as I can remember, fundraisers have too often been distracted by energy-sapping arguments over targets. Many of us have been painfully aware of missed opportunities to connect with how the donor might really want to help. Leading in a ‘chess-master’ style exacerbates the ‘silo-mentality’ problems inadvertently caused by typical charity structures.

Now more than ever, given the pace of change and the reality of the world in which we operate, the all-knowing, rigid style of leadership is unhelpful. If our charities are to respond and help supporters solve the problems they care about, leaders need to deliberately cultivate an environment that is adaptable, informed and empowered.

Links across the Commission projects

The reality is that this project is linked to all the Commission projects. Unless the leaders of an organisation are completely clear that the organisation needs to be donor-focussed, there is a strong chance this will not happen sustainably, because it is not the path of least resistance.

However, this project most obviously has links to the following projects:

1. The use and mis-use of language

3. Satisfaction and commitment

13. Giving choices and managing preferences

14. Getting the right people as fundraisers

15. The role of trustee boards and senior management

16. A distinctive service culture 

Appendix 1.

We interviewed the following leaders as part of this project:

Lisa Cousins, Executive Director, Ethiopiaid

Di Flatt, Chief Executive of Sweetpea Charity and Greenhouse Fundraising

Martin Edwards, CEO, Julia’s House Charity

Susan Foster, Fundraising Director, National Trust.

Tim Hunter, Director of Fundraising, Oxfam

Joe Jenkins, Director of Supporter Engagement, The Children’s Society

Louise McCathie, Director of Fundraising, Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Giles Pegram, former Director of Fundraising at NSPCC

Millie Perrett, Mid Value Lead, Cancer Research UK

Laura Serratrice, Head of Fundraising, University of Bristol. 

Richard Spencer, former programme executive for the Growing Support Programme, RSPB

Liz Tait, Director of Fundraising, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Richard Turner, former Director of Fundraising at Solar Aid

Jen Waldron, High Value Donor Manager, National Trust

James Webb, Head of Major Gift Fundraising, Oxfam

Sara Whiting, Director of Fundraising, Hope and Homes for Children

Appendix 2. Research sources.

Black Box Thinking, Mathew Syed

Great Fundraising, Adrian Sargent, Jen Shang and Alan Clayton

Leadership Plain and Simple, Steve Radcliffe

Leadership, Mindset and culture, Joe Jenkins 

Prescription for Excellence, Joseph A. Michelli

The Living Leader, Penny Ferguson

Click on the image below to view project 17 in full - PDF format.

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

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