The SOFII history project part 1: treasures from fundraising’s history.

​Welcome to part one of SOFII’s history project. Dive in to explore the best campaigns from antiquity to the 20th century!

Written by
April 17, 2019

Take a trip in time with SOFII to discover the great fundraising of before

To explore SOFII’s history project is to go on a journey through time. Part one will send you back to the dawn of civilisation, into medieval times and beyond to the enlightenment as we share case histories (literally!) from humanity’s forebears.

In part two we explore the great era of philanthropy: the Victorian times. Reacting to bloody wars and ever-changing living conditions, the great and the good of the 1800s pioneered many of the techniques fundraisers still use today.

And where would we be without those who went before us in the twentieth century? From David Ogilvy to the Revered Kenneth Leech, we are standing on the shoulders of giants, as the exhibits in part three aptly demonstrate.

As a special treat we bring you Bruce Barton’s fundraising letters for Deerfield Academy, all gathered in one place and the magic moments that saw the birth of some of the greatest charitable organisations on the planet.

Note: have we forgotten any of the giants of times gone past? If so, please e-mail with suggestions of campaigns or pioneers we should be including in our treasures from history.

Click here to return to the contents to view parts two and three.

1) From antiquity to the enlightenment: the best campaigns from way back when.

The oldest campaign on SOFII: Moses raises funds for the tabernacle

Greeks, Romans and Egyptians: philanthropy in ancient times.

The first ever major donor dinner – c. 970 BC.

Fundraising from the very early Christian church with the Apostle Paul.

Is this the oldest fundraising letter?

Pliny the Younger and the first appeal for matching funds, c. 100 AD.

Moses Maimonides: the 90-degree shift, 800 years ago.

Magic moments: The founding of Cripplegate Foundation and North London Cares - over five hundred years of collaboration.

How Harvard got its name: major gift fundraising in the seventeenth century.

The Foundling Hospital Appeal, 1728-1745.

Establishing the need for fundraising in 1788: The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade

2) Those generous Victorians.

Great Ormond Street Hospital: legacy marketing 1856.

Dr Barnardo’s Homes: four fundraising greats from the distant past.

Dr Barnardo’s Homes: how the death of Carrots led to a powerful slogan, from 1866

The pearly kings and queens and their fantastic fundraising.

Charles Dickens shares how fundraising was viewed in the 19th century. An extract from Our Mutual Friend.

‘Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.’ - more wisdom from Charles Dickens.

William Quarrier – the most determined fundraiser of all time?

A fundraising song bigger than Band Aid? Check out ‘The Absent-Minded Beggar’ by Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Fundraising for a timeless landmark: the Statue of Liberty.

The Elephant Man: a fundraising success story from 1886.

Britain’s first ever street collection from the RNLI, in 1891.

A lesson in how to say thank you properly from over one hundred years ago.

The amazing story of Octavia Hill and the National Trust.

3) All change in the 20th century.

How the suffragettes became one of the most successful brands ever.

Fundraising in the First World War: fighting the good fight.

Fundraising in the First World War part two: how the fundraising ground force made a difference

Tank Banks: more sensational fundraising from the First World War.

From the roaring twenties, a fantastic postcard to raise money for a legendary expedition. 

Lessons for fundraisers from yesterday’s cigarette advertising.

Albert Street Methodist Sunday School: the foot of pennies from the 1930s

RNLI: ‘stand behind these men’ press ad.

A classic Christmas mailing by Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1941.

Dr Barnardo’s Home: the home collecting box.

UNICEF: the card that launched UNICEF’s fundraising.

The Leprosy Mission: phial of sixpences, from the 1960s.

‘The most important piece of dramatised documentary ever screened.’ - Learning from Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home.

‘For God’s sake give us a pound’ - a superb campaign from the Salvation Army in 1967.

A brilliant letter from a trail-blazing genius: David Ogilvy in 1968.

How one fundraiser wished he’d thought of David Ogilvy’s letter.

Words of wisdom from ‘The Pope of advertising’.

How the RNLI turned one fundraiser into a donor.

ActionAid: the inserts with built-in reply mechanism.

RSPCA’s pile of dead dogs advertisement.

The gold standard of fundraising: the NSPCC’s centenary campaign. Part one: laying the foundations.

The gold standard of fundraising: the NSPCC’s centenary campaign. Part two: exceeding expectations.

A never bettered direct mail pack - Help the Aged: ‘you have this gift’. 

The Wishing Well campaign from Great Ormond Street: an incomparable appeal.

The Harry Secombe soft sell legacy approach.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal grabs every opportunity to tell good stories.

RNLI: the legacy letter.

Millennium magic:the NSPCC’s Full Stop campaign - a complete retrospective.

4) Magic moments and the Bruce Barton letters.

Rock band Queen don’t feature in this section, but we’re sure they’d love these stories.

Magic moments part one: how small beginnings inspire great causes.

Magic moments part two: how some of the world’s best causes got started.

Bruce Barton’s classic letter with a 100 per cent response rate.

Deerfield Academy: Bruce Barton’s first and second letters.

Deerfield Academy: letters three, four and five.

Deerfield Academy: Bruce Barton’s letters six to eight.

Deerfield Academy: Bruce Barton’s letters nine to eleven.

Deerfield Academy: the letters from the fifties.

Deerfield Academy letter 15: Bruce Barton’s words in 1951.

Deerfield Academy: letters 16 and 17 from Bruce Barton.

Deerfield Academy: letters 18 and 19 in 1956 and 1957.

Deerfield Academy:letters 20 and 21 in 1957 and 1958.

1960 - the last letter. Bruce Barton’s 22nd appeal.

About the author: SOFII

The SOFII collection aims to be the most comprehensive, best organised, and most inspiring collection of fundraising related content from around the world.

Recent Articles

Take a trip in SOFII’s time machine: the SOFII history project - introduction and contents

Welcome to the greatest collection of historical fundraising brilliance you'll ever find.

Read more

Why do people give? Talking to donors during the coronavirus crisis

How are donors feeling towards charities and what do they expect from them during the coronavirus crisis? Mark Phillips and Amber Nathan of Bluefrog Fundraising discuss their recent research into this crucial question.

Read more

Why do people give? The legacy podcast with Richard Radcliffe

In this conversation, expert legacy fundraiser Richard Radcliffe shares why people leave bequests and what changes he has noticed over the yearsparticularly as baby boomers have begun to seriously consider which charities they want to remember.

Read more

Crowdfunding: A lesson from World War II

In the latest addition to SOFII’s History Project, Roger Craver takes you back to World War II and explores a crowdfunding campaign that raised money for Spitfires. 

Read more

From the Mythsmashers: 'Fundraisers raise funds not friends' – smashing that myth.

‘Too often our focus is on our own needs and short-term goals.’ So says Lauren McDermott of Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Western Australia, winner of this year’s Mythsmashers talks for the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s annual conference in another superb myth-busting piece from lovely Down Under.

Read more

Also in Categories