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Kindness – the perfect guide to fundraising?

by Susie Hills | May 24, 2019 | Fundraising

What if we reimagined fundraising using the guiding principle of kindness?

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that kindness is ‘the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate’.

To help us further:

  • ‘friendly’ is defined as ‘kind and pleasant’,
  • ‘generous’ is defined as ‘showing a readiness to give more than is necessary’, and
  • ‘considerate’ is defined as ‘careful not to inconvenience or harm others’.

Sounds like a pretty good guide to how we should behave as fundraisers. Let’s see how they could look as a set of ‘rules’ for fundraising. Maybe something like this:

“We will be friendly, generous and considerate as we fundraise. This means we will:

1. Be kind

  • We will be respectful and positive in our communications
  • We will look after each other as we work
  • We will be respectful of our donors and our recipients

2. Go above and beyond

  • We will work hard for our chosen cause
  • We will use resources efficiently
  • We will take great care of our donors and our recipients

3. Respect others

  • We will respect the right of people to say no (whilst being hopeful they will say yes)
  • We will take care of the information donors give us”

Once we have our established our ‘kindness rules’, we could then measure all our fundraising techniques against them – perhaps even giving them a score out of 10 on our ‘kindness-o-meter’. This might help us rethink some of our fundraising practices.

Let’s give it a try with street fundraising.

Now I haven’t yet met a street fundraiser who didn’t seem kind and pleasant as they beamed at me and tried to engage with me. They often seem charming and likeable. They seem ready to give more than is necessary to get me to talk to them, but it’s more than I want as I rush down the street with other things on my mind.

That’s when we get to Rule 3 – not inconveniencing others. Here is where they fail and why, ultimately, this form of fundraising is not sustainable. The reality is that I am going somewhere to do something, and I don’t want, or have time, to stop and consider giving to a charity at that moment in time.

In fact, maybe it isn’t kind to try to stop me, to make me feel rude or guilty for not engaging. I feel inconvenienced and annoyed, even though I haven’t really been inconvenienced at all. The reality is that when I am on the street going about my business, I am not ready to give my thought, time or money. It feels uncomfortable to be asked in that situation, no matter how kind or pleasant the asker is. If I do stop and talk and end up giving, the likelihood is that I won’t continue my donations because I don’t feel I have freely chosen to support the cause.

You can see how we can test our fundraising activities against this list. Similarly, on a micro-level we can test our individual actions against this list, and use it to develop new practice. How powerful it is to ask, “Will the donor feel looked after when they receive this?” or “Does this show we are kind and ready to give/do more?”

It may also help us to foster teamwork. Fundraising is hard work and turnover amongst fundraisers is high. It’s hard to recruit, and keep, good fundraisers. What if we recruited people for kindness (amongst their other qualities, skills and experience), and fostered a team where kindness drove our behaviours? See my previous blog on this topic. I am pretty sure that the fundraising results of a team which operates from the basis of kindness will be higher. If we are kind to each other, we can be kind to our donors.

And kindness doesn’t mean never asking for a gift. Indeed, once of the kindest things you can do is to ask somebody to help change lives. Many of the philanthropists I have worked with are grateful to have been asked, grateful for the joy that their giving has brought to their lives, and grateful for the satisfaction that comes from putting their money to good purpose.

Kindness does mean that you ensure the donor understands the purpose of the conversation, that you respect their interests and time, that they have a choice and that nothing is hidden.

Kindness means we can trust one another, and that trust will allow us to try new things and challenge the norms. Our profession needs to regain trust and we have to start with one another.

Susie Hills, Joint CEO and Co-founder, Halpin