Adrian Sargeant - Association of Fundraising Professionals


Great Fundraising

Adrian Sargeant

Director – Centre for Sustainable

Philanthropy, Plymouth University

Professor of Fundraising: Indiana

University and former Hartsook Chair

@Rogare FTT


• Exceptionally high quality (Merriam-webster)

• Eminence or distinction (Oxford Dictionaries)

• Superiority within a particular sphere (Oxford


• The particular person, object or place, when compared to others of a similar type, has clear advantage (Wikipedia)

Greatness in Fundraising

• Defined by 20 sector’s leading thinkers

(directors of fundraising and senior fundraising consultants):

– They defined greatness in terms of delivering substantive growth (double, triple or even quadruple fundraising income)

• so that the charity climbs dramatically up the league table of charities as ranked by voluntary income.

• It transforms the organization

• It transforms the essence of how an organization accomplishes its mission.

Sargeant and Shang, (2013)

Greatness in fundraising

• This presentation tells you how these organizations did it:

– Cancer Research UK

– British Red Cross


– Save the Children

– Royal British Legion

AND what that means for fundraising education


• Leader characteristics

• What leaders manage

• How leaders think

Our great leaders …

“I didn’t wake up one morning and just think

‘I want to be a fundraiser.’ I joined a specific

Cause that I feel really passionately about

And my way to make a contribution to it is to

Raise money and support”

“So fundraising is the expertise that I’ve been able to bring, but I think I can bring many other contributions into the organization as well.

And to be honest, I think I can see that from other Directors as well.”

“I’m absolutely in love with and besotted with the

Cause … I do love fundraising, I love the chase,

I love the accumulation of wealth in that sense,

I like the process.”

Professional Will

Creates superb results, a clear catalyst in the transition from good to great

Demonstrates an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best longterm results, no matter how difficult

Sets the standard of building an enduring great organization; will settle for nothing less

Looks in the mirror, not out the window to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming their team, external factors or luck.

Personal Humility

Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public education; never boastful

Acts with calm determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate

Channels ambition into the organization, not the self

Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the organization – to other people, external factors and good luck

Collins (2011)


• Inspire through their confidence

• Make others accountable for their own and team goals

• Create shared mental models

• Create an element of task conflict

And fundamentally – embed themselves in the organization

• You need to have supreme, quiet self confidence.

• You have to have a sense of purpose and really mean it.

• You need to be so committed you stay for a long time.

• If you ain’t into it, or they ain’t into you, leave.

Task 1

• How do you represent your role as a

Fundraising Director or Director of


“50% of your job is about your functional

Responsibilities and 50% is about your

Responsibility as a director of the organization”

“I spend very little of my time managing the fundraising function. Most is spent managing the organization to allow my

Team to do what they do best”

Task 2

• What metrics do you use to assess your fundraising?

Task 3

• What goals do you have for your fundraising?

What time horizons are associated with these goals? Represent in a diagram how these goals relate to each other.

Short-term goal

Shortterm goal





Term Goal










Sargeant and Shang, (2013)

In order to transform the organization

• Our fundraising leaders were able to identify the “bigger picture”

• All aspects of the environment that might be relevant for securing improvement in fundraising rather than allowing organizational constraints (budgets, established patterns of behaviour, etc.) to dictate the problem definition.

• They are able to think about this bigger picture at a sufficient level of complexity (Ulrich and Reynolds,


• In other words, they know both “what” to think about fundraising and “how” to think about fundraising.

They built



Teams of



Structures guided by


Systems geared towards learning

Sargeant and Shang, (2013)

They begin, however by building the team

Team: Must have

– Technical Skills --The ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise. All jobs require some specialized expertise, and many people develop their technical skills on the job.

– Human Skills -- Ability to work with, understand, and motivate other people, both individually and in groups, describes human skills.

– Conceptual Skills -- The mental ability to analyze and diagnose complex situations.

Their people

• Thought in the same way …

• Good technical skills, but …

• Conscientious

• Future leaders

And they worked on their belief

“So in an NGO you have lots of very smart people, certainly in fundraising, but most definitely in policy, advocacy and communications.

So as a fundraiser you need quite a lot of confidence to argue your corner on how you might want to portray a child, how you might want to portray an

Issue. And so in a weird way this was also about building people’s confidence to do that.”

Task 4

• How do they recruit these future leaders?

“I recruit people who have got a sense of where they might like to be in say three or five, well usually five years time. An idea of where you’re going; it doesn’t have to be definitive, but its just about establishing people’s aspirations and thought processes, keen to know what they want from me.”

“I think people that are able to work in a setting that is quite fast paced, they’re comfortable with a fairly high degree of change. They enjoy being a part of it. It’s not just that they’re subject to it. They want a high degree of personal autonomy or want empowerment, will take some risks and are usually energetic, just personally energetic.”

“I’ve been very much recruiting, very much looking for a certain personality type, but with that extra kind of drive and motivation. I think when people are having to work on a very busy growth program, they need that level of motivation and drive.”

‘We have been here a long time. We have stayed long in our jobs. I think the fact that we have been here from the start contributes something to the success. We come with history you know – we know about things that have been good and things that didn’t work out so good.’

Task 5

• What would these individuals find most personally rewarding?

• How do you retain them?


• Leadership, negotiation, conflict management, coaching skills

• Mentor programs

• Placements, secondments

• Talent program

• Recruit by personality.

• Invest in skills and attitude as well as knowledge.

• Groom them to become future leaders

• Talking is still the best form of communication, full stop.

And Great Structures

• Reward, remuneration

• Performance appraisal

• Team efficiency – more important than great people alone

Great Organizational Structure

• Leaders Upward Management

• Leaders Peer manage

– Coordinate

– Cooperation

• Leader build new teams:

– building new functional teams for specific forms of fundraising (or relationships)

– setting up an appropriate reward systems to support outstanding performance

‘ Our analysis is that the awareness of the Blind

Organization is almost 100%. But when you ask about liking they think we are a little slow, not very modern – and important for fundraising is that they don’t see us as relevant. And we want to be relevant especially for individuals aged

50+ so we took a sight problem and we did something in a passionate and very activist way. Our goal was to make a lot of noise.’

And Great Culture

• “… it is a culture of change, you’ve got to have a vision if you like, for how things can be different, so that people will come with you on that journey. You need to do that with the people below you, so that they feel enthusiastic and get behind you; but you also need to do that with the people in front of you and above you, in order to get their buy in, to give you the tools, the investment, and not to put barriers in the way that would prevent you from doing that.”

Great Fundraising Learning


• ‘‘a continuous testing of experience and its transformation into knowledge available to the whole organization”

• ‘‘a process through which managers try to increase organizational members’ capabilities in order to better understand and manage the organization and its environment”

‘We are always asking - are there other organizations doing anything new or exciting?

Always trying to identify the best – and the best small things too. It may be just a well-designed

‘give now’ button. It is the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen – long term gradual improvement. We always look around to see what might be learned from others.

Organizational Learning Culture

• Acquire knowledge

• Interpret it fully and transform it into knowledge

• Modify behaviour as a consequence.

Held together with great communication


Not Mentioned

Controlling behaviours

Motivating team

Social needs


Exerting influence in team

Exerting influence for team

Driving structural change

Conflict Mgt /Negotiation

Active Listening

• Active listening is a communication technique used in counselling, training and conflict resolution, which requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, to confirm what they have heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of both parties.

Objectives - seek out feelings and facts

Active Listening

• ‘provides more information about people than any other activity, builds deep positive relationships and tends to alter constructively the attitude of the listeners’

• And

Team members tend to listen more themselves, become less argumentative and more ready to incorporate others’ points of view

Rogers and Farson (2011)

And Thinking

Task 6: Your team have just reported underperformance in their recent donor acquisition campaign. What would you need to consider to solve this problem?

Levels of Thinking

• Great thinking, yes, but …

• Great systems thinking …

Types of systems

• Natural systems

• Designed systems

• Designed abstract systems

• Human activity systems

An organization

• Is made up of systems and problematic areas that exist in the mind of the observer…

• Our leaders discern complex systems and how they could be managed.

Leveraging systems thinking

• Embed themselves

• Understand themselves and the benefits that their intellectual, emotional and social system of activity could deliver for the organization

• And do the same with their team. Embed the fundraising function …

• So that existing systems can be transformed systematically such that great fundraising may be created

Systems thinkers

• Define Broad Context

• Make Critical Choices in that Context

• Continuously Reflect

• Synergy with the team


Sargeant and Shang, (2013)

In The Team

• Members will not share the same broad context

• Nor will they make the same critical choices

• So they must say what they think and how they arrived at their broad context and critical choice

• MUST develop capacity for viewing comms from the perspective of others

• All others then primed to think about other broad contexts so decisions less biased than other types of decision-making processes

• Exponential improvement in problem solving

Understanding in Systems

• Data

• Pattern Discernment

• Systemic Response

• Inter-System Response

• Critical Hermeneutics

To be great one needs to

• Be consciously aware that whatever understanding one comes up with for a reality will be only a partial representation of that reality

• Be consciously aware that one is engaged in multiple levels of thinking in order to understand reality

• Broaden one’s thinking to other levels

• Broaden individual thinking to collective thinking with others

• Go through the process in multiple iterations to reach the perfect understanding of the situation



Teams of



Structures guided by


Systems geared towards learning



Teams of



Structures guided by


Systems geared towards learning

Sargeant and Shang, (2013)

The GREAT fundraiser

Commits to a cause.

Thinks well and long term.

Sets an outstanding culture of learning.

Makes their people and teams awesome.

Inculcates systems thinking

Manages Upwards

Develops PRIDE on the part of the organization in its fundraising and fundraisers