Monthly Archives: October 2011

Are there more original voices in UK Higher Ed Fundraising?

A couple of months ago I spoke at the CASE Europe Annual Conference in Manchester. I turned out to be quite a busy boy – speaking about some of the work we’ve been doing at Leeds on data modelling, chairing a session by the excellent and provocative Stephen Pidgeon, and helping to feed back on the results of the first attempt by 15 UK higher ed institutions to benchmark the effectiveness of their ‘annual giving’ programmes.

And now I’ve got my feedback – and thanks to all who gave me good ratings and constructive criticism! And yes, 45 minutes is not long enough to try and teach folks how to do data mining from scratch 🙂

But one of the comments has stuck out for me over the weekend, from someone who evidently thinks I’m a bit over exposed, “there have to be more original voices in the annual fund realm”!

And you know what – I agree! There have to be, don’t there? After all, I don’t see myself as a particularly original thinker – I’m just trying to take and apply years of what I’ve learned in charity fundraising outside the university sector, and make it work for the university that now employs me.

Stephen Pidgeons’s comments from his Third Sector article about the conference seem very pertinent to me – while he thinks that universities are excellent at soliciting major gifts, he thinks our direct marketing fundraising is ‘stuck in the dark ages’. I agree.

I think it’s linked to the perception, still very prevalent in the HE sector, that what we do in annual giving is an ‘entry level’ job – from which someone will progress to the heady heights of major gifts. Which of course is the only route to becoming a head of a university fundraising department.

Many of my fundraising colleagues outside HE will find this unbelievable. The activity that accounts for 90% or more of our individual supporters – ‘entry level’? When major national charities have had heads of fundraising who have worked all their careers in the DM sphere?

Major gifts are undoubtedly hugely important to any charity and we universities are pretty good at getting them. But look at the figures for a moment.

I know from screening our data that around a quarter of our alumni give to other charities. Yet only around 2% of those same alumni in any one year give to us, Leeds, their university. If we could inspire them to give to us it would be worth around £2,000,000 annually, that we urgently need! And nationally, because the proportion who give to universities vs other charities are pretty comparable, it could be worth tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds of philanthropic income.

But it requires a massive leap in our messaging and practice. So who’s going to lead the way to get our ‘annual giving’ to the level of our ‘major gifts’? Will it be CASE, our university fundraising association? Will it be Bob Burdenski, the much loved and respected godfather (in a good way!) to the UK annual giving sector? One of my excellent senior colleagues in annual giving who do great work but just don’t blog or tweet as much as I do? Or a hugely talented young fundraiser in this ‘entry level’ sphere who could help make the biggest difference to university fundraising in a century?

Come on – let’s be seeing you, whoever you are!


1 Comment

Filed under Fundraising, Universities, University fundraising

Remembering Steve

Here is what I sent to ‘‘:


To the entire Apple family and Steve’s family,

Thank you for giving us this way to write in with our memories of Steve and Apple. Steve and Apple have been part of my life since I was a boy of 11, bereaved, sad and lonely in my first year at boarding school in the UK, and I found my way into the wonderful world of computers that he and Woz opened up to us all.

I can proudly say that I have never owned a PC since, nor had one in my house. I always felt as if it would be a betrayal of Steve’s and the original Mac team’s vision, to make do with something I felt was a second-best rip-off. And like many others, I went through the long years of the mid-90s hoping and praying that that original spirit would return to Cupertino, and (oh my goodness) did it ever.

I’m now nearly 42, and it struck me this morning that at that age, Steve hadn’t yet accomplished the half of what will now always be his legacy. I know I’m not set to change the world in anywhere near the same way, but I can try to bring some of the spirit of Steve into what I do every day.

I work as a fundraiser for one of the UK’s great universities, and it’s my privilege to work with an extraordinarily committed team of young people who are our student telephone fundraising team. As far as I can I try to be a bit of a ‘mini Steve’ to them – I have the glasses, and the beard, a bit more hair (so far), and I’ve occasionally been known to wear a black turtleneck. What I try to give them, above all else, is the joy of accomplishment – of setting a goal that we all reach together, even if we think it’s mad and unattainable when we start, for something in which we passionately believe. I hope that spirit gets across into everything else they do and that they’ll take it on into all the many and varied jobs they’ll do in the world once they graduate – staying hungry and staying foolish, and doing great things.

I can only imagine how sad a time it is for you all right now, but I do have just one more thing. For me, Steve’s defining legacy is that feeling of surprised delight – when he would announce something completely unforeseeable, but suddenly totally obvious. Amidst your sadness, and your sense of things unfinished or never begun, I hope you as his closest inheritors will still be able to epitomise that spirit of his. Please, all of you, be his ‘one more thing’, in whatever way you can. Continue to make his legacy to the world one of surprised delight.

My sincerest and heartfelt condolences go to you all.


Best wishes



Adrian Salmon
Footsteps Fund Manager
Alumni & Development Team
University of Leeds, UK

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized