The wit and wis­dom of George Smith — The Mary Hinge letter

Who doesn’t like a prac­ti­cal joke? This is one of the very best to have struck a famous fundrais­er, deliv­ered by the deft hand and sneaky humour of George Smith.

Written by
George Smith
January 16, 2020

Editor’s note

George loved practical jokes, particularly if they punctured pomposity, deflated egos or challenged cultural stereotypes. Mostly, when the opportunity presented itself to play a joke on someone close, George seemed barely able to resist the challenge and he would often spend hours crafting some absurd and convoluted trick just to watch its effect upon the unsuspecting target. Mostly, the victims of his machinations quickly realised that to be subject to such transient indignity was actually a sign of George’s affection. He didn’t play tricks on people he didn’t like. 

The Mary Hinge letter with its accompanying CV was a classic George prank perpetrated on his great friend Per Stenbeck. Per had recently moved from his native Sweden to take up the serious role of CEO at International Fundraising Workshops Ltd (IFW), a forerunner of the Resource Alliance and organiser of the incomparable International Fundraising Congress (IFC). At the time of this prank the IFW office was located within George’s agency, Smith Bundy and Partners of Kennington, south London. 

Per had advertised in The Guardian for a conference organiser, a challenging role to fill with an inevitable scarcity of suitable candidates, as the skills and experience as he was seeking were rare at the time. We don’t have the original advertisement but it was probably innocuous enough. Among a small number of genuine replies it elicited the response below from one riskily-named Ms Mary Hinge. Ken Burnett remembers Per’s temporary enthusiasm when he received it, as he ran round the office proclaiming that the perfect applicant had fallen into his lap.

The qualities, qualifications and experience outlined in this particular candidate’s CV might have given a clue that this application was not entirely serious, but the realisation took some time. See if you might have spotted the incongruities. Coming fresh from Sweden as he was at the time, Per can certainly be forgiven for his initial enthusiasm. It did take some time to explain…


The letter itself
Page one of ‘Mary Hinge’s’ letter and CV.
What a CV!

About the author: George Smith

George Smith

The late George Smith (he/him) wrote his first fundraising ad for Oxfam in 1962. In his twenties he was appointed European coordinator for a major-league American advertising agency and, in contrast, was elected as a local councillor in an inner-London borough. He formed the Smith Bundy direct marketing agency in 1973 and served as chief executive for 20 years. During those two decades his copywriting skills were applied to many diverse commercial direct marketing clients, yet fundraising was always a specialism. In 1990 he was awarded the UK’s DMA Gold Award for work on Greenpeace.

Between 1987 and 1993 George was chief executive of the International Fund Raising Group, responsible for the celebrated Noordwijkerhout conference and a growing number of events around the world. He was also a director of Burnett Associates Limited. His monthly articles in Britain’s Direct Response magazine were published in 1987 as a collection called By George. He became chairman of the UK’s Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) in 1997 and is an honorary fellow both of the IDM and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

George Smith also wrote Asking ProperlyTiny Essentials of Writing for Fundraising and Up Smith Creek.

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