Ken Burnett is a British fundraiser and author most well known for his "classic," Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money.
Now Ken has authored a small but very valuable book titled, The Zen of Fundraising: 89 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop Your Donor Relationships. (Jossey-Bass, 163 pages, U.S. $19.95. ISBN: 0-7879-8314-4)
In every field there are those who become the "philosophers" of their fields. Peter Drucker comes to mind for the field of management, both profit and nonprofit. Burnett is such a philosopher for the field of fundraising. He is, in essence, a "guru."
Burnett's new book is appropriate for his status as fundraising guru since it exhibits the wisdom and in-depth thinking that is characteristic of one who is steeped in the history, philosophy, and literature of the field.
Like other "Zen" books (remember the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance?), Burnett uses a rich mixture of story-telling, and Zen-like parables to get across his points. The result is a richly layered and unique approach to a field many of us think we already know well.
But, Burnett continually surprises us with new insights or, rather, new twists on old truths. We've picked three of Burnett's 89 "Timeless Ideas" to give you a taste of his fine little book.
#57 Ensure that all communications are seamless
Don't compartmentalize, Burnett exhorts. Try to see your communications as the donor sees them...one communication after another, arriving in the mailbox, over the phone, or in the shape of a personal visitor. Do they all look like they come from one source? Or from several different departments that never communicate with each other? Fundraisers need to stop organizing by function (direct mail, telephone, events, etc) and develop a structure centered around groups of donors.
#38 Great fundraising is not selling; we offer donors a relationship of shared conviction.
Burnett is adamant about the difference between a commercial transaction and a charitable gift. Buyers and sellers have a relationship of shared commercial interest. Donors and fundraisers enjoy a "relationship of shared conviction." And, that is a crucial difference. Donors resist being sold to. They prefer to be "partners" with us, not recipients of sales techniques.
#59 First impressions count; have a great welcome strategy.
Burnett reminds us to develop a "warm and friendly" program to welcome new donors...to reassure them that their decision to donate was a good one. Make your welcome "prompt, personal, sincere, and never an immediate request for a further gift."
Burnett's 89 "Ideas" are organized into seven chapters covering fundraising from the basics to what the future of fundraising might be. In each chapter, he includes fascinating lists such as "13 Things That Will Be Coming Your Way," and "15 Things I'd Do If I Were the New Head of Donor Development."
Throughout are delightful stories of real fundraising successes or failures, bits of data, or historical trivia that "prove the point" Burnett is making.
This book is a quick read but it will have you wondering why you didn't think of that, or laughing with the author about some idiocy, or feeling inspired by a story of a sweetly successful fundraising campaign. It has taken a place on our bookshelf of small but immensely helpful books that we will be revisiting often.