To paraphrase physicist Sir Isaac Newton, if I have raised more funds than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. Ken Burnett's Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration is a testimony to just how relevant some of the old giants still are to fundraising today.
Despite this, their brilliance is all too often covered by the lone and level sands of history. SOFII, a free online resource for charity fundraisers that includes an archive of the best international creative fundraising, gives us a great opportunity to challenge the next generation of fundraisers to learn from and build on this heritage.
Take the pen pack from Amnesty International that showed images of a man who was tortured by having his eyes poked out with a pen. The mailing included a leaflet that read: "What you hold in your hand can be an instrument of torture or it can change the world." It set the standard for intelligent, evocative use of involvement devices.
I hope other classics will join it: the National Asthma Campaign's mail pack that included a drinking straw recipients could breathe through to give them an understanding of what it is like to have asthma; or Help the Aged's translucent plastic square to replicate the effect of cataracts.
Surprising examples from the past include Dr Barnado's very personal 1889 appeal for donors to give their details - presumably to be passed to a team of Victorian database clerks - and a Japanese fundraising appeal from 1235.
I can see agency creative teams and their charity clients turning to this website for inspiration when they start new creative projects. It is already on my own favourites list for when I need to research a brief or find material to inform a creative review.
This early prototype has a great deal of content but will reach its potential only if we all dig deep into our archives. Oxfam's original £2 a month mailing? The NSPCC's 'Ellie' direct response TV advert? We need them on here.
Development work on the site will help it come into its own. Most importantly, a robust search function allowing multi-category searches by year, charity, type of ask and medium would be ideal.
Adding alerts and interactivity, perhaps by allowing comments and ratings from users, might encourage user engagement and generate thoughts and experiences for fundraisers to draw on.
There are a couple of minor niggles. Image quality on many reproductions is poor and the body copy is generally illegible. As the site stands, there does not seem to be any intention to cover TV advertising or telephone fundraising effectively.
These are all easily sorted, though. The prototype oozes enthusiasm and expertise. What better challenge to us all to up our game?
<b>5 more things...</b>
- Book Aid International: The Reverse Book Club, 2002 - This asks people to pay money for books to be sent to readers in the world's poorest countries.
- Buddhist sage Eihei Dogen's fundraising letter, Japan, 1235 - An appeal for funds to build a training centre for monks in Japan. It identifies the audience and describes the benefits donors receive by responding.
- Operation Raleigh toilet paper mailing, 70s and 80s - Operation Raleigh's expeditions leader, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, handwrote 'thank-you' notes to the expedition's corporate supporters on hard toilet paper.
- Amnesty International UK's press adverts from the 80s and 90s - The long fundraising ads developed by Indra Sinha were a powerful means to raise social consciousness.
- Stromme Foundation poverty buster - This Norwegian charity, which fights poverty in developing countries, asks young donors to text the amounts they wish to donate and get involved through other media, such as blogs and the web.
- Mike Wade is head of central fundraising at WaterAid