Do you want to increase your fundrais­ing income by spend­ing a tenner? 

Written by
Laura Croudace
October 15, 2015

Book review

The Fundraiser Who Wanted More by Rob Woods

By Rob Woods

Reviewed for SOFII by Laura Croudace

Fundraising can be a lonely place. It’s not a career understood by many people and sometimes it can make you feel lonely especially if you’re relatively new to the industry, a sole fundraiser or someone working from home.

When I was starting out in my fundraising career just two years ago I had no budget for training, conferences or personal development. I knew exactly where I wanted to be and decided that I was going to do various things to get me there such as buying a new book every pay day and investing in my career myself. I’m a firm believer in reading, watching TED talks and going to creative and inspiring events such as IWITOT (which I have spoken at). One day, when I am a fundraising director, I am going to order books every month and build a library for my team.

I read a lot of fundraising books as well as other genres and I’ve just finished one by Rob Woods, The Fundraiser Who Wanted More (Woods Training Limited, UK, 2015) and have to tell you about it because I wish that I had read it at the start of my career when I was a sole fundraiser.

Rob’s new book isn’t a typical fundraising book such as one of my favourite’s The Zen of Fundraising (Jossey-Bass, USA, 2006) by Ken Burnett (who wrote the foreword to Rob’s new book); it is more of a diary and tells a story about a fundraiser struggling to raise money and be a success. Despite it being fiction, it feels so real and personal to my own journey. It is a great balance of fiction and fact and there is so much experience crammed into this book, most likely due to Rob’s own successful career.

The story starts when Claire, the main character in the book, is feeling uninspired at a fundraising conference whilst sitting alone at lunch and wondering if this industry of fundraising is for her. I can say hand on heart I have been to some really uninspiring conferences and I could instantly relate to Claire. By chance someone sits next to Claire and they start chatting, his name is Mark and he really changes things for Claire over the course of a year.

As the story unfolds, Mark shows Claire a new way of working. Not a new way of fundraising but how to use your opportunities better, how to win bigger pitches and how to ask for donations in ways she hadn’t done before.

It does the following:

  • Ok, so there are loads of books out there that help you work more efficiently, this book is a mindset-altering book. It cleverly shows, through Claire’s personal career story, that in order to succeed we need to start working on ourselves as well as things such as our pitches. The book focused on a few key areas all fundraisers can take away and work on.

  • It shows the importance of emotional intelligence in a really captivating and creative way – do you really know how to move people when you meet them?

  • It teaches you about ‘social proof’ – seriously exciting stuff!

  • How to construct your charity‘s ‘elevator pitch’ so that the supporters use their own motives and interests to become involved in your work. Mark explains to Claire ‘It’s one of those situations where less counts for more’. And then teaches how to construct it perfectly.

  • The importance of case studies in all areas of our work and how to find the really juicy ones. Through the eyes of Claire you’ll discover how to do this. I’ve been collecting stories from people my charities help and have lifted my work up a level or two. You might be thinking your charity doesn’t have case studies but, trust me fellow fundraiser, you have them you just don’t know where to look.

  • The importance of finding your charity’s ‘special sauce’. I’ll leave you to look into that (hint, it’s on page 94.) and is truly game changing.

  • The book teaches so many other things as you read through the ‘five laws of persuasion’ that it’s hard to put down.

The thing that I love most about this book is that throughout the story it shows the importance and impact of having a mentor. I have had several mentors during my career and they have all taught me something I now use daily, not just a quick fix idea or a skill, although they have taught me these. The great thing about this book is that it feels as if you have a mentor or a fundraising friend to bounce ideas off.

By the end of the book Claire is still the same person but is working in a completely different way thanks to the things she learns from her mentor.

I have divided different parts of my copy into various areas so that when I’m stuck on a proposal or someone asks me for advice I can use the book as a go-to-guide. Blue, for example, relates to case studies; green is psychology to aid your proposals/asks/ pitches; orange is for those little pieces of advice, which I like to refer to as ‘fundraising gold dust’ that help to unlock your mind.

The library I hope to build as a director of fundraising will have various books in it and, because I value books so much as part of my career development, a few books will given to fundraisers as part of their welcome and induction: I know that The Fundraiser Who Wanted More will be included in that welcome bundle.

When you have your book, use it. Don’t be afraid to annotate it, write notes, stick post-it notes inside, bookmark tabs. It’s a tool you will learn a lot from.

I’d love to hear what you think of it in a few weeks time. A friend of mine bought it after seeing me rave about it on Twitter a couple of months ago. She sent me a text recently to say that it’s changing her work, she’s getting far more meetings with potential major donors and she’s just had a gift of £5,000 by using the tip about letting a donor solve a problem. How much will you increase yours by I wonder? Exciting stuff, isn’t it?

About the author: Laura Croudace

A donor since childhood, Laura Croudace has worked in fundraising at the Vegan Society, the PDSA and Remarkable Partnerships. She is fascinated by emotions, stories and everything in between such as colour theory and philanthropic psychology. She now works as Partnerships and Engagement Manager at The Resource Alliance.

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