Monthly Archives: November 2010

Why I love Children In Need

It’s Children in Need day today in the UK, one of a couple of extraordinarily successful mass fundraising events that happen through the year, alongside Comic Relief and Sport Relief. In 2009 Children In Need raised a record-breaking £39 million from the British public, and it will be very interesting to see how it does this year in an even more changed economic climate.

£39 million! It puts the lie to anyone who says there isn’t a culture of giving in the UK.

And I love it for a couple of reasons:

1.  It teaches kids about fundraising. A significant portion of that total will be raised by, or through the influence of, kids. My son’s off to school today dressed in spots and armed with a few quid from us.

But that’s not all. Come tonight when we sit down to watch it, he’s going to ask me, ‘Are we going to give again this year Dad?’ Last year he did an upgrade ask on me:

“How much did we give last year, Dad?”
“Well, could we make it £75 this year – you do work for a charity, and you know how important it is!”

I kid you not – his words exactly. So we gave £75. Don’t know whether he’ll get me up to £100 this year – I have my limits!

But, much as I would love to claim fundraising genius for Joe, I wonder in how many other homes up and down the country similar budding young fundraisers are having the same conversations with their parents?

2.  It raises some interesting questions about stewardship. Children In Need doesn’t do much interim stewardship. All I got last year was a letter about 2 months later thanking me for my gift – very form. Nothing else. No newsletter showing where my donation has gone, nada. And, even so, despite what you might regard as shocking donor stewardship, I’ll give again this year. Why? Well I trust them. I know they have huge numbers of donors and can’t write personally to each one. I want them to spend the money on helping the kids, not writing to me. And I suspect the majority of people feel the same way, because you can’t raise tens of millions year-in-year-out without a very substantial number of repeat givers.

So is the amount of stewardship you need to do in inverse proportion to the level of trust your donors have in your cause? Hmm…

But in fact they do their stewardship on the night each year because…

3.  They do great video. Well of course they should, as it’s a TV appeal. But they always nail the most important thing about any video appeal for me – the background music. Maybe it’s because I’m also a musician, but I find the charity television ads that are most likely to rouse me to action are those that have a great backing soundtrack. More than any of the images on screen or the script, a well-chosen, emotive but not too mawkish song will get me every time.


So here we go again. Let’s watch and learn!



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Donations to Universities in the news again

This article got published in the Times on Friday (behind the pay wall)

I’ll quote a couple of sentences (my italics), “Hard-up universities are aiming to raise billions of pounds in the next few years by seducing their alumni into donating to US-style fundraising campaigns…”

“Students starting university this term face being lobbied for donations as soon as they graduate..”

It’s interesting the language that gets used when discussing charitable donations to universities, isn’t it? ‘Seducing’, ‘lobbying’, both pretty double-edged words! Has Oxfam ‘seduced’ its hundreds of thousands of donors? Or Save the Children? Of course not. They’ve invited people who care deeply about their mission to join them and help to make a difference, and those people have responded.

Well, as a member of a university fundraising team, working for a university that is a charity in totally the same way as the two famous charities I’ve mentioned above, that’s no different to what I and my colleagues do every day. And we shouldn’t forget that the vast majority of our alumni donors are by no means billionaires, but ‘ordinary’ people like you or me, who feel a deep gratitude for having had the opportunity to access all the treasures of higher education pretty much for free, and feel passionately that that opportunity mustn’t be denied to the generations who come after us.

Facilities and research are undoubtedly hugely important, but that shouldn’t mean that giving back to universities is just seen as the preserve of the mega-rich. All of us who are graduates can do our part to ensure that access to our universities remains possible for all, by giving small monthly amounts – often no more than the cost of a daily paper like the Times, Telegraph or Guardian each week. And with all those modest gifts we can provide tens, no, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of scholarship provision, to ensure that future students don’t have to worry about which university they can afford, but can go to the very best one they can aspire to.

That’s why I do what I do, and I believe in it whole-heartedly.

The other day I spoke to one of my alumni donors who called in to enquire about her regular gift. When I checked her details I found that she had two gifts coming out each month and I asked if we’d by any chance made a mistake? She said no, that was entirely what she’d intended. But she wasn’t calling to ask about those two, but another, joint gift, she and her husband were making! It had stopped and she wanted to restart and increase it, having heard the news about the CSR.

When I’d got all the details straight, I said to her, “You’re doing an awful lot for us, Mrs X,” because I didn’t see anything to suggest that she or her husband were hugely well-off. She replied that she felt it was the very least they could do to acknowledge the huge difference their time at university had made to them.

There’s a ‘Giving something back’ article on the Times from the same day – the call-out boxes from the printed version of the article, I think. Have a look at those and if you feel the same way, find your university’s alumni webpage (there are some handy links here ) and sign up to a gift of a few pounds each month. You’ll be helping to change lives, and, until the end of July, the Government will match your donation, making it worth even more.

Education is priceless – let’s do all we can to make sure anyone who can benefit from it, does so. And let’s help keep our universities the pride of the world.

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