Are US fundraisers better than their UK counterparts?

Martin Brookes of New Philanthropy Capital stirred up a hornets’ nest when he told a parliamentary committee:

We just don’t have a very high-quality fundraising sector in Britain. There is a dearth of quality fundraisers in the UK — unlike, say, in the US.

(Reported at Third Sector: Fundraising in the UK is ‘not very good’, Martin Brookes tells MPs.)

That comment annoyed a lot of people, who kicked around the questions Is fundraising harder to do in the UK? and Is fundraising really better in the US than the UK?

I’ve done some fundraising work in the UK, and I have an opinion on both:

Fundraising in the UK is more difficult than in the US. The main reason is the lower level of religious participation there. It’s just harder to find and motivate donors.

Now the harder question: Are US fundraisers better?

Many UK fundraisers are trapped an attitude: A belief that what’s perceived as “American style” fundraising won’t work because UK donors or the British public in general are “different.” Sometimes they say it’s that UK donors are more educated (actually, the US is slightly more educated). Sometimes it’s that they’re more “sophisticated.” What it means to fundraising is this:


  • UK donors won’t respond to emotional appeals
  • UK donors are put off by urgency
  • Specific, clear calls to action are too simplistic for UK donors, so they won’t respond.

If you fundraise this supposedly uniquely British way, you aren’t so good.

To be fair, many US fundraisers have the same attitude, and it blocks their fundraising too. The difference in the UK is that it’s combined with a kind of nationalism that makes fighting it futile most of the time.

But not all UK fundraisers are mired in this attitude, and a lot of truly excellent fundraising is happening there. Note that 100% of the winners (okay, all two) of the prestigious Fundraiser of the Future Award are UK fundraisers.

Don’t worry about what Martin Brookes says. Do your best with the hand history and culture have dealt you. Ban the “we’re more sophisticated” delusion. Do those things, and UK fundraisers will give us Yanks a run for our money every time.

Thanks to Beautiful World for the tip.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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