- Written by
- Tiziana Fattori
- July 16, 2013
Thirteen years ago – on the 23 March 1999 to be exact – Ken Burnett wrote on the first page of my newly purchased copy of Friends for Life that I handed to him, ‘To Tiziana, best wishes for happy and successful fundraising’. I could not believe that ‘the guru of fundraising’ was in front of me writing a personal message on the book that, for years, replaced the Bible on my bedside.
I‘ve lost count of how many times I scanned those 568 pages, getting inspiration and most of all hundreds of successful ideas.
I don't see why we should waste our time and resources in taking risky roads, particularly in fundraising where we invest our donors’ money, when we can more easily and quickly copy and paste other people’s ideas, if we know that they worked well elsewhere. With some adaptation to the context, of course...
When we launched our most successful press advertising campaign in Italy to recruit child sponsors for Azione Aiuto (the Italan affiliate of ActionAid), what became a real ‘revolution’ in the Italian not-for-profit sector was simply taken from Ken’s ‘bible’. It was adapted to the Italian market by Shirley Marsland, at the time president of Azione Aiuto, and by me, then executive director, and enriched with some Italian flavour thanks to Ettore Pirocchi, who was president of our agency, Milano and Grey.
The headline ‘Per un caffè non bastano mille lire al giorno...per aiutare lui si!’ For a coffee 1000 liras (no euros at the time) are not enough but...to help him yes they are!’ combined with a very powerful image of a child waiting to be sponsored recruited thousands of sponsors and we made history in Italy. I see copies and versions of it still being used by other NGOs today. I wonder whether they are finding any donors as the concept must be over-used by now?
During a trip to Tanzania, in early 2000s, I learned that ‘my guru’ was ill in a hospital in Dar el Salam. So I immediately arranged to see him. Ken was lying in bed quite worn out – I must admit – but as soon as he saw me he asked whether I was still keeping his book on my bedside. And I did, of course... he smiled reassured.
Some time ago I met SOFII by chance. In Italy almost all charities are struggling because of the downturn in the economy. Forty per cent of Italian organisations are finding it harder and harder to recruit new donors and 28 per cent face strong competition. To survive most of them are launching very similar worn-out campaigns: same channels, same wording, same images, same material. If you cover the logo you can hardly recognise which organisation is talking. Flat and boring fundraising I call it.
SOFII, on the contrary, is full of rich of ideas, full of inspirational case histories and stories about successful fundraising. By translating the main showcases I hope to contribute to the innovation of our flat not-for-profit sector in Italy. Someone who is not fluent in English now has no excuse.
Very recently Ken asked me whether I was still keeping a copy of his book on my bedside. No, I am afraid not. It is now on my book- shelves, replaced by an IPad that I use to read, study and translate SOFII over night. Technology has changed the means but the ends remain unchanged.
By the way, my guru is still the same, too, despite the age (of both of us).