Sean Triner’s 40th birth­day appeal

Exhibited by
Sean Triner
February 26, 2010
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Single gift.
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family, poverty/social justice.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
February, 2010.

SOFII’s view

It’s easy to imagine that there’s something mawkish about looking at personalised and personal correspondence between two old friends. But when one is asking the other for money, that makes it fair game for SOFII, particularly if the ask is instructive. As this ask comes from one of the world’s most talked about, most up and coming fundraising leaders then you can be sure that there are lessons to be taken from it.

Creator / originator

Sean wrote it all by himself.

Summary / objectives

To raise money from friends and colleagues for a project close to Sean’s heart.


Read Sean’s email.

Special characteristics

All becomes clear when you read Sean’s email, below.

From Sean Triner, to SOFII’s Ken Burnett, February 2010.
Subject: My 40th birthday.

Hi Ken

It is hard to work out what to get me for my birthday. I have everything really – love, security, a rewarding job, and that bottle of posh port you gave me safely tucked away. And I live by the beach. So this year, how about something special?

This March 8 will be my fortieth International Women’s Day. But back in 1970 my mum was celebrating that day (and mothers’ day too!) by giving birth to me.

Instead of rushing to buy me a fabulous fortieth birthday present, can I tell you what I would really like for my birthday?

I would like to smash my $4,000 (£2,000) target to raise money to help women in poverty give birth safely. But I need you to help.

Please, will you make a donation? A big one, as it is an important cause and a big day for me.

Please can you make a big, special gift? I know you have had a tough year, sinking your time and money into SOFII and other great projects, but a donation from you would be wonderful and your name on the list will help me encourage other gurus.

And the impact of your donation is huge. It will have a great multiplier effect. You see, your donation will be matched by me (up to $2,000) and I am asking Marie Stopes to only use the money for fundraising, which will multiply its value even more.

Why? Well, please let me tell you about Mya.

Mya was just shy of her fortieth birthday when she visited Marie Stopes in Burma. She was 28 weeks pregnant. She couldn’t afford antenatal care or a midwife.

Mya had tragically lost two stillborn babies but six had survived – every pregnancy and giving birth is a life or death situation for many mothers and babies in Burma. Even back in 1970 – about when she and I were born – this was not anywhere near what could be expected in the UK.

But in the 21st Century it is totally unacceptable.

The staff and volunteers at Marie Stopes agree, so they are out there doing something about it.

The Marie Stopes team visited her at home and educated Mya and her husband about danger signs when giving birth. The delivery of her baby was followed by heavy bleeding causing Mya to lose consciousness.

Thankfully she was taken to hospital immediately for emergency obstetric care supported by Marie Stopes who also covered the cost of transport to the hospital. Without this care, she could have died.

But because Marie Stopes people were there Mya made a full recovery and her children still have a mother. Imagine what might have become of them if she had died.

After learning about family planning choices from a Marie Stopes nurse Mya commenced using contraceptives, as she has decided seven children are enough. You see, Marie Stopes doesn’t just provide antenatal care and midwifery, they also work with women to explain family planning options – giving women more control over their lives.

This is one of thousands of stories about how Marie Stopes saves mothers’ lives by providing reproductive choices.

We know that if a baby’s mother dies their baby is then 10 times more likely to die before their second birthday, and in developing countries a woman dies every minute due to lack of access to maternal care. Heavy stuff.

Please, make a donation to this appeal on my fundraising site here.

Thanks a lot. You do a fantastic job raising money for brilliant charities – but with Marie Stopes, fundraising for womens sexual and reproductive health is tough.

Before this International Womens Day – March 8th - please dig deep anddonate here today to help women in living in poverty in the Pacific region, including indigenous Australians, through the wonderful work of Marie Stopes.

Lots of love, Ken, and thank you.



Below is one emailed response to Sean’s low volume/ high-impact appeal, from the guy he wrote to in the highly personalised version above.

Hi Sean,

Impeccable timing.

I too have been wrestling with just that conundrum. What do you get for the man who deserves everything, but has it already? Including that much grudged bottle of now 40-year-old vintage port.

You have just answered a long-felt want.

I will indeed cancel my intention of calling by Pointless Presents in the Liverpool Street Arcade and buying you for £12.35 an 18 inch plastic garden gnome called Dennis who plays baseball and speaks your weight.

Instead I will give £100 (quite a lot more that £12.35) to help Mya and women like her. What a great cause, as you describe it. I’m encouraged too that this modest sum will be even more helpful for people like Mya since you are now obliged to double it.

So, that’s done then. Aus $176.10 via Everyday Hero. Here’s their confirmation:

Donation Reference: 2010021120583901C971P87570D455839

(I love them, by the way. But that’s way too many digits. Just 10 digits allows one the ability to allocate a unique number to every single soul on the planet and still to have enough digits left over for an identical planet parked alongside. So that’s a waste of digits if you ask me. There’s too much of this kind of thing these days, you know.)

But Sean, this is great fundraising.

So, here’s what I’ll do, in addition.

I think your birthday appeal is a fine example of a well-crafted fundraising letter. So, with or without your permission I propose to put it on the SOFII website, for the world of fundraising to see and learn from. The Sean Triner fortieth birthday appeal letter. It will stand for posterity, in glory, alongside the greats of history such as Eihei Dogen, St Paul of Tarsus, Dr Barnardo of Barkingside and other fundraising legends. Exhibits for SOFII have been a bit thin on the ground of late, so hopefully it will encourage other fundraisers to come forward with their good stuff. We know it’s out there.

I’ll even ask SOFII users to critique your email too.

And who knows, one or two of them may be moved, themselves, to make a small contribution to bolster your cause.

So, a win/win/win, I hope. Even a win/win/win/win.

Well done Sean,

As ever,


PS: Do, please, enjoy your birthday. But sit down often, and talk less. You are getting on a bit now...
PPS: Fundraisers, can you spot what’s good about the fundraising email opposite? What makes it work, and what might you do differently? And why might there be four winners here, or even more?

Care to comment? Please email your thoughts on and reactions to this exhibit to Carolina at SOFII.

View original image
A mother and son at a post-cyclone family planning clinic in Myanmar (Burma) with, below, Sean’s mum and Sean just before his 40th birthday.
Dennis, first choice for the fundraiser who has everything