Why do peo­ple give? The pod­cast with Lyn­dall Stein

In a crack­ing edi­tion of his superb pod­cast, Mark Phillips con­tin­ues his series by talk­ing to the great Lyn­dall Stein.

Written by
Mark Phillips
February 13, 2020

Lyndall is a remarkable fundraiser. Her experience includes setting up the UK fundraising operation for the African National Congress when Nelson Mandela was still in prison. She then went on to work for the Terrence Higgins Trust, when HIV and AIDS were still beyond treatment, before moving on to The Big Issue Foundation.

What makes this interview so special is that Lyndall repeatedly had to work without budget and with very little in the way of resources – no computers, no filing systems, no agency and no database. But what she achieved is amazing.

She shows how she identified her audience and used the fundamentals of direct marketing – through testing – to make her advertising as effective as possible whether it was ads on the front page of The Guardian or through developing mailing packs (with techniques that are still effective today).

When the ANC approached Sylvester Stein and his daughter, Lyndall, to help them raise money for the struggle against apartheid they didn’t – in her words - ‘know where to start’. They weren’t daunted and went on to raise a huge amount of money. The young Lyndall’s reward was to meet Nelson Mandela – and get a kiss too. Lucky thing.

Lyndall speaks of the importance of learning from the experience of others and sharing knowledge. And to that end she gives us her advice on use of photographs and the need to make sure that our language is right for our supporters (you can read more about her thoughts here).

We discuss offering donors choice. Whilst working for the ANC, Lyndall included tick boxes on her response devices so donors could choose how a gift should be used – schools, hospitals, or ‘wherever it was most needed’. As we see today when we use the same technique, many ticked the most needed box, but since the interview, I’ve learned that some donors added an extra box of their own ‘for AK47s’.

We speak about hate mail and how the advice her father gave her – ‘chuck it straight in the bin’ – is as relevant for today’s trolls, with their anonymous and abusive Twitter accounts – as it was then.

But what I found most valuable are Lyndall’s thoughts on what fundraising is good at and what it isn’t. It can raise money, but don’t think of it as a cheap route to boost PR or promote an ideology – even when you are part of a liberation movement.

And, of course, she shares her thoughts on why people give and we spend plenty of time talking about connection.

You can also listen and subscribe on iTunes here.

Note from SOFII: this podcast originally appeared on Mark’s blog here. Our thanks to him for letting us reproduce it here.

This is an appeal letter from Mendi Msimang. More details on this particular pack can be found by clicking on the image.
Page two of Mendi Msimang’s letter. You can find another approach to ANC’s fundraising by clicking on the image.
Page three of the Mendi Msimang letter.
Page four of the Mendi Msimang letter.

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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