Ben the Blue Pirate and his magic mirror


My son Joe is a nostalgic 12 year old. Every couple of years he goes back over his life – school reports and photo albums, back to when he was a baby. It’s a little ritual for him.

I was talking with my partner about it last night, and the thought popped into my head, “when he knows where he’s come from, it helps him understand where he needs to go next”.

That’s an idea that’s stuck in my mind since I was a child myself, and learning to read with Griffin’s ‘Pirate Reader’ series – does anyone remember it? There were three pirates – Roderick the Red, Gregory the Green, and Ben the Blue. The thoughtful Ben turned out to be the hero of the series.

Ben had a magic mirror. It always showed him exactly where he had been. If Ben was lost, he would look in his mirror, back over his journeys, and then he would know where to go next.

Mark Phillips’ collection of old fundraising adverts on Pinterest reminds me of Ben’s mirror.

Look over these adverts – from the YMCA and Barnardo’s at the turn of the 20th century to adverts from Oxfam and Amnesty in the 70s and 80s, and you can see just how long a journey we’ve been on as fundraisers. And what strikes me so strongly – from ads that are more than 100 years old – is that our fundraising forebears knew their craft supremely well.

I’ve seen it myself closer to home, looking back over the historic donations to the university I work for – which ran public appeals at the turn of the 20th century that raised tens of millions in today’s money. My predecessors knew their stuff!

I want to find their old appeals for Leeds now because I know when I see them, I’ll know much more clearly where I need to go next. Why not have a look at Mark’s board and then back into your charity’s ‘magic mirror’ and see if it helps you feel that way, too…


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Filed under Fundraising, Universities, University fundraising

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