10 books to make you a better fundraiser (Part II)

Tim Connor | August 11th, 2015

Following on from my last post, here are the remaining five texts that make up my personal top 10 for essential fundraising reading.

These are all writings steeped in expertise from people working first hand in the fundraising and marketing fields. They still embrace fundraising, but I’ve also cast the net wider to the worlds of TV and psychology.

6. Asking Properly
by George Smith

I regard this as the definitive book on direct marketing best practice for fundraisers – and the wittiest. What John Watson’s ‘Successful Creativity in Direct Marketing’ did for commercial practice, Smith’s book does for charity fundraising asks. Some of the creative examples may look old fashioned, with shots of videos and cassettes (remember them?), but the principles are timeless.

His summary of Siegfried Vogele’s research on how people read is worth the price alone. The web may have been in its infancy when Smith was writing but, as he convincingly argues, human emotions – and our social desire to give – remain the eternal cornerstones of long lasting donor/charity relationships. That holds true regardless of the medium.

 7. Customer Intelligence
by Sean Kelly

Does the mere mention of data make you break out into a sweat? Fear not. Because it turns out data isn’t actually about numbers – it’s about people. So argues Sean Kelly. This book is a little known classic and, perhaps uniquely, a data tome with barely a calculation or model in sight. Instead, Kelly focuses on the foundations of transactional relationships and, of particular interest to us fundraisers, their relationship to longer-term lifetime engagement.

I especially appreciate his assertion that there must be a mutually beneficial exchange when a person shares their details – and that they should retain control over the intensity of how we communicate with them. Scarily, this book has been on my shelf for 10 years now. Its take-home message has never been more prescient.

 8. Empat
by Roman Krznaric

What is empathy? Is it something we are born with or something we acquire? How does it differ from compassion and sympathy? All big questions these, admirably addressed in Roman Krznaric’s immensely enjoyable read on human behaviour throughout history.

To say any more would give away too much. But know that you’ll be in the hands of an erudite and enthusiastic tour guide of emotions across continents and cultures. Krznaric peppers his stories and anecdotes with much humour and a personal touch that is both instructive and entertaining.

9. The Seven Lost Secrets of Success
by Joe Vitale

 Even if you know your advertising history, the name Bruce Barton probably means little more to you than being the second B in the ad agency BBDO. Joe Vitale puts us straight in this slim but truly profound survey of Barton’s philosophy of advertising and life.

If you can get past the tacky title, you’ll learn about a man who was commercial to his very core – a passionate salesman who believed in the social good consumer choice could bring to society. He also merrily courted controversy at times, particularly for writing ‘The Man Nobody Knows’, a book that turns Jesus into a leader of corporate business; an odd idea, certainly, from an otherwise fascinating fellow with an ethical attitude to making a fortune. Instructive stuff for all of us who are tasked with raising public donations to aid good causes.

10. Into The Woods
by John Yorke

Hardly a day goes by without the word ‘storytelling’ coming up in fundraising speak. It’s been the bedrock of our agency’s approach – and Ken Burnett’s relationship marketing philosophy – for over 25 years now.

Many tip their hat to the phrase but it’s quite another thing to truly know what it means in a charitable context – and how it can be executed to transform an organisation’s fortunes.

This book can’t teach you fundraising nous, but it will help you see the shared traits of ‘Jaws’ (the movie about the big, hungry shark) and the moment Zoe finds out Kat is her Mum in Eastenders, and illustrates what it takes to make your storytelling compelling.

When it comes to film, TV and drama, John Yorke is the leading authority on the architecture of stories. This is a dense book, for sure, but the best analysis I have come across of the natural shape of drama in our daily lives. From overheard conversations on the tube to the DVD box sets we are hooked on. I predict this will become a definitive text, alongside Robert McKee’s ‘Story’. I am already on my fifth read.

And there you have it – a little light summer reading! I hope it’s a useful list and contains at least a couple of titles you may not have come across so far, that will make you an even better fundraiser.

Do let me know what you think of my picks and use the comments to share your own favourites.

Until next time,

Tim