Fundraising: Research boost for UK's major donor fundraisers

New research has found that the process used by fundraisers to secure gifts from major donors is the same the world over, providing a boost for UK charities looking abroad for donations.

The findings, which suggest that UK major-donor fundraisers could attract funds in other countries using the same process they apply here, will be presented in a closing plenary at the International Fundraising Congress in Amsterdam on Friday.

The researchers, Tony Myers, adviser on strategic initiatives to the president of the University of Calgary, and Guy Mallabone, vice-president of external relations at Sait Polytechnic in southern Alberta, studied the major-gift fundraising processes in five countries - Germany, China, South Africa, Brazil and India.

They found the same five-step process occurring in each: identifying the donor; discovering whether they are interested in the cause and capable of giving; introducing them to the cause; giving them the opportunity to donate; and looking after both the gift and the donor.

But in a pre-conference interview with Third Sector, they said fundraisers must familiarise themselves with the "political and cultural overlay" that influences the process in each nation.

In Brazil, for example, security is a huge issue because of the gap between rich and poor. In China, fundraisers must understand the importance of family.

According to Mallabone, the UK, US and Canada are "developed countries" in terms of major-donor fundraising. But many countries are still developing, even in the west.

"This is not because those nations' rich are unwilling to give their money away," he said. "It's because fundraisers have yet to ask them."

Both the fundraiser and the donor must summon an element of courage to create major-gift commitments, Myers said.

"The fundraiser encourages the donor to transform," he said. "Then the donor transforms the charity, which transforms its clients, which transforms society."

Myers added that in order for charities to reach the holy grail of generating 80 per cent of their income from 20 per cent of their donors, they need to spend more time in personal contact with wealthy prospects rather than concentrate all their energy and resources on direct mail, telephone and internet fundraising.

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