Why do peo­ple give? The pod­cast with Ken Burnett

Ken Bur­nett is in the chair this time for Mark Phillips’ essen­tial pod­cast. In this episode, Ken tells the his­to­ry of Action­Aid, gives his thoughts on cur­rent char­i­ty trends and shares his favourite campaigns.

Written by
Mark Phillips
February 26, 2020

This was another treat for me. Ken remains a huge influence on my thinking and this is the first time I’ve been able to dig into who and what influenced him.

We kick off with a history of ActionAid. Ken shows how an open mind and the implementation of best practice saw a small niche charity sky rocket in popularity. Pay particular attention to his comments on testing. Plenty to be learned here about innovation and how even the most unconventional recruitment practices can pay dividends.

It’s when we get to the question of why people give that things get really interesting. We discuss how artifice seems to have taken over from engagement for many organisations. We also cover leadership, the supporter experience and how the fundamentals of fundraising seem to have been forgotten – not to mention how they are essential for our future success.

Ken takes us through some of his favourite appeals and explains why they worked and what made them successful. Finally we move on to his thoughts for the future. We revisit best practice again before Ken makes a few trademark points about the need to make the jump from fundraising to how we can be part of the change the world movement.

SOFII note: we are grateful as always to Mark for letting us reproduce the podcast, which originally appeared here.


Ken and I chat about a range of creative approaches along with a few papers. I’m sharing them here. We mention two books, Relationship Fundraising and Asking Properly. Both are amazing fundraising books that deserve to be on your bookshelf. What’s more, I’ve got twenty copies to give away. If you are a new fundraiser or short on funds, get in touch with me on Twitter at @markyphillips and I’ll sort out delivery.

The Six Ps: A blueprint for transforming fundraising. For good. These steps help to put supporters – not fundraising targets – at the heart of a fundraising strategy. The six Ps are:

  • Purpose
  • Permanent change
  • Principles
  • Pillars of change
  • Promise to donors
  • Practical actions
The ActionAid insert with reply coupon and envelope. Details can be found by clicking on the image.
ActionAid’s early press advertisements. Details can be found by clicking on the image.
The Botton Village donor control donation form. Details can be found by clicking on the image.
Ryton Gardens. Details can be found by clicking on the image.

About the author: Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips (he/him) started fundraising for ActionAid UK in the late 1980s and later became head of fundraising at YMCA England. He set up Bluefrog in 1997 with one simple goal – to be the agency he would have wanted to employ. His approach to fundraising is based on understanding and answering donor needs. Mark shares his research, ideas and findings via his blog.

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