Bright Spot Fundraising

Tried and tested fundraising techniques
that help you raise more money.

What surprising factor nudged people to donate?

dreamstime_s_31553459In late October 2012 Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Caribbean and parts of the north-eastern United States and Canada. Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged and more than 180 people died.


Following the event, fundraising appeals took place to help those affected by the disaster.  When the psychologist Jesse Chandler analysed the donations he discovered something intriguing.


He found that people were more likely to donate to a Hurricane Sandy appeal if their first name began with an S. Similarly he found that people whose names began with the letter R, such as Rachel or Richard, were 260 percent more likely to give to the Hurricane Rita appeal than people whose names began with a different letter. In fact the same effect has been found following every hurricane that he studied, going back several decades.


If you were asked to predict the factors that might affect the chances of someone making a donation, would it have occurred to you to include the first letter of their name?


I recently read Daniel Kahneman’s fascinating book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which includes a range of surprising findings about the reality of how humans make decisions. Above all it helped me move beyond the prevailing wisdom that just presenting a sensible case will enable people to make a good decision.


As fundraisers, how can these ideas help us?


  1. Kahneman’s research shows us that because thinking takes up effort, if something is remotely hard to work out, most donors tend to have less patience to follow through than is generally realised. As Thaler and Sunstein point out, real people make decisions less like Spock and more like Homer. However simple you think the process is for giving to your charity, research shows that some people who care and wanted to help are probably giving up. How could you test this? How could you make processes even simpler and clearer?
  2. The Initial Effect reminds me never to forget how important people’s names are to them. Research shows that we tend to like the letters that occur in our own names more than other letters. And in one experiment to encourage people to donate a day of their salary, when they received an email from their chief executive addressed to ‘Dear colleague’, encouraging them to consider it, 5% agreed. When they received an email which included their own name eg ‘Dear Mandy’, this success rate rose to 12%.  So when we are writing or talking to someone, however bad we might think we are at remembering names (and most people think they are pretty rubbish at it), any effort to use names (and get them right) is valuable.
  3. Kahneman’s book reminds me that an understanding of the mental short-cuts for how people do make quick decisions is vital if we are to help people support the causes they care about. The environment will always provide barriers to reduce chances they will take action.  A basic understanding of Cialdini’s influence principles can help you remove the barriers, enabling people to support the causes they care about.

On October 5, 2015 / Uncategorized

Client Testimonials 
‘What I love about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme is it’s so practical. I’ve seen loads of monetary value come from what we learned, including a gift of £200,000 from a trust that came about because of the learnings in the course. If you want to raise more money, I’d urge you to do the Programme.’

Paul McKenzie, Head of Major Giving and Corporate Partnerships, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Rob's outstanding pitch training helped me secure a partnership worth £380,000 over three years. One of the crucial things he helped me do was to better understand the psychology of who I needed to convince, and use this to craft my influencing strategies, structure and stories to help them say YES. If you need to win more partnerships, I would absolutely recommend you get on Rob's training.

Karen Arkell, Senior Officer, Corporate Partnerships, Teach First

'We recently had a pitch we just had to win. I'm absolutely clear that what we learned from Rob helped us get the deal, which is a partnership that's going to raise £1 million. Rob is better at helping you influence your donor to get the gift than anyone I've met.

Ben Swart, Head of Corporate New Business, NSPCC

Rob's exceptional training has taken our programme to the next level. One example was a colleague re-connecting with a lapsed donor on the phone, resulting in a £100k+ gift; his first in four years. I would absolutely recommend Rob's training programme as an invaluable investment for any fundraising team.

Victoria Stephenson, Head of Major Donors, UNICEF UK

Following the course, Major Gift Fundraisers at the NSPCC increased gift income by 29%

Citation by UK Skills National Training Award

We're currently involved in our largest ever Campaign, with a target of £500 million, so we've invested in the best training available. Rob's courses have been an essential part of our annual King's Knowledge learning programme for the last five years, because he continues to help us get outstanding results.

Gemma Peters, Director of Development, King's College London

I’ve found the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme hugely helpful already. It’s helped me in so many ways, but as an example, I applied one of Rob’s pitching techniques and it completely wowed the panel, and has resulted in a partnership worth over £100,000.

Kieran Cornwall, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Cystic Fibrosis Trust

I was on the pitch team to win a partnership worth £1,000,000. I was determined to pitch to the best of my ability. Rob helped me present with confidence, persuasiveness and enthusiasm, enabling me to connect with the pitch panel – and we won the partnership.

Kirsty Lawson, Corporate Account Team Manager, (Head of) at Alzheimer’s Society

Rob showed my corporate fundraising team lots of excellent new business strategies. The techniques made a made a MASSIVE difference to our financial results, including helping to win a partnership worth £2 million

Jess Coombs, Head of Corporate Fundraising, Teenage Cancer Trust and formerly at Action for Children