How an egg McMuffin reminded me of the foundations of fundraising

Written by
Derek Humphries
May 20, 2013
A foundation of fundraising?

You know the scene. A slightly upmarket café, metropolitan types sip pricey coffee while in earnest discussion over their laptops. One of them is me. Then along comes an interruption. Here’s what followed:

Lady: ‘Can you spare some change please?’

Instead of fumbling for small change, I surprised myself by asking a question.

Me: ‘Would you like me to buy you something to eat?’

Lady: ‘Yes, please.’

Me: ‘What would you like?’ [I gesture at the array of fine pastries.]

Lady: ‘Can I have an egg McMuffin?' [She points at the McDonald’s next door – the one at London’s Waterloo station if you know it.]

Me: ‘Course you can.’ [And at this point I am actually walking away from the new business meeting I was having. Yes, I leave the new business meeting to go to McDonald’s.]

Me: ‘An egg McMuffin, are you sure that’s what you want?’

Lady: ‘Can I have two?’

Me: ‘OK.’

Lady: ‘… and a sausage roll?’

Me: ‘Why don’t I just give you this?’ [I give her a fiver.]

Lady: ‘Thanks mister, you’re a diamond.’

I walk back to the posh café, glancing over my shoulder to see she is indeed buying food with the money. And I feel a surge of wonderfulness.

I bought the lady food thanks to a chap called @hardlynormal who I follow on Twitter. He’s a champion for and with homeless people. Please follow him. Among his many words of wisdom and acts of kindness, he recommends that you take a homeless person for lunch instead of giving them money. And you buy them what you would eat yourself.

For some reason, I chose that most inconvenient moment to buy a homeless person what they wanted. And I thank @hardlynormal for the opportunity.

But why did this also remind me of the foundations of fundraising? Easy…

  1. A real need: the lady needed food. A fundamental human need.
  2. Audience: she identified an audience who might have the propensity and the ability to give.
  3. Ask: she wasn’t afraid to ask.
  4. Opportunity: although she maybe didn’t know it, she did way more than make an ask. She gave me, the donor, the opportunity to do something that I would feel good about.
  5. Upgrade: she did a great job of selling me extra. And in a way that made me feel better, not exploited.
  6. Thank you: she called me a diamond! I don’t think anyone has ever done that before. I felt great about what I’d done. I’d put my values and a good intention into practice. That’s the great offer that all fundraisers should make to donors and prospective donors.
  7. Loyalty: like I said, what I did felt great. So I’ll do it again.

This story was first published on the UK Fundraising site on 18 July 2011.You can follow Derek on twitter @DerekHumphries.

About the author: Derek Humphries

Derek Humphries

Derek Humphries spent 14 years with the marketing and communications group Burnett Associates, eight of those as managing director. For the past few years he has been a director at DTV where he writes and produces films for good causes worldwide. You can follow his tweets @derekhumphries.

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