All blogs| Archive
George Smith, two years late
Celebrating fundraising’s premier wordsmith

Time to reflect on a life well lived, with such a lot left behind.


A tribute
on the second anniversary of the death of George Smith, fundraising icon, constant source of fun and inspiration.

March 2014

He’s dropped already. He’ll never play again. In fact, consider him fired. We’ll make sure he never works
in direct marketing again, in this country at least

Books by Ken Burnett

George decided to have a bit of fun, so crafted
a dream application from the fictitious Ms Mary Hinge, specialist in early baroque music, aviation and fishing


Books by
George Smith

Home page




In 1995 George Smith wrote Asking Properly, widely acclaimed to be the best book on creativity for fundraising, bar none. For that feat alone the man deserves to be remembered and revered. But there’s much more to George than that.

Two years ago on 3rd March, after a long battle with motor neurone disease, George Smith died. He was my business partner for quarter of a century, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. He was also a fundraising international treasure, the kind of larger-than-life character who, if he hadn’t believed so passionately in our sector such that he gave it the best of his time and talent, we’d simply have had to invent him.

This article really is a reminder, lest anyone be inclined to forget, of what a very extensive and varied body of high quality work George left behind, in his writings. In all its richness it’s available from here and, with the exception of George’s three books, it’s all free.

So use it, please do. George I’m sure would be delighted if you would take full advantage of it.

Links to George’s writing on SOFII
Twelve suggestions to help you write effectively.
The customers always write.
Working with suppliers, part one and part two.
So you seriously want to be a client.
• Dislocation, dislocation...

A tribute to Terry Murray.
Harold, Leslie and Guy – a profile of Britain’s founding fathers of modern fundraising.

In seach of baubles.
At Charing Cross Station I stood up and wept.
Synecdoche, synecdoche we all fall down.
A strange, old-fashioned plea for respect.

Job-speak. A user’s guide.
A letter that parades fine thoughts and fine language.
Infantile musings.
Do you seriously want to be serious?

South London mob: George, Ken and Carol Trickey outside Smith Bundy’s Kennington offices in 1983.

Tributes to George
The master of using words wisely.
George Smith as others see him.
Guardian obituary 13 March 2012.
The wedding George missed, but was there anyway.

Hello sailor: Ken, George and Ian Ventham in a lifeboat, some time in the late 1990s. Those orange lifevests don’t look real, do they?

Buy George’s books now while stocks last!
Asking Properly
Tiny Essentials of Writing for Fundraising.
Up Smith Creek.

The George Smith memorial rant: a proposal to establish the young curmudgeon of the year award.
George was famous for the power and the passion of his rants, on any of a number of favourite themes. So, for next year, our idea is to see if we can set up, via SOFII, an annual award for anyone brave enough to step into his footsteps to deliver the George Smith memorial rant.

What do you think? For March 2 2015 I’d like to nominate Mark Phillips, founder and MD of the Bluefrog agency, ranting on the subject of things clients are definitely advised not to do. Or Charlie Hulme of DonorVoice, perhaps, sounding off about the idiocies of donor retention. Or Aline Reed, maybe, telling us off for our lack of genuine creativity.

It could be fun, I think. George would approve, no doubt.


Two reasons why I found George such fun
Sorry, old chap, but that’s simply
not cricket.

Scotland’s finest moment
at the grand summer game
George Smith once confessed to me that, really, the only reason that he'd ever aspired to run a direct marketing agency was as an excuse to have a cricket team.

The team was called the Bundies after Smith Bundy, George’s agency, though his partner of that name lasted but fleetingly and had departed long since. The Bundies played every Tuesday evening on Wandsworth Common against anyone who could put a team together and boasted stars of media and marketing such as John Hambley, Terry Hunt, Jon Allen, Chris Barraclough and Phil Hammond.

George really wanted me to play in the team, even though I confessed I’d never played proper cricket before. That didn’t deter George. He insisted, and though that first time we were matched against the agency’s biggest client, a major computer firm, he said he’d even let me bowl.

Secretly thrilled, I should have known better. For there was a cunning plan in this. The head client, a big, self-important type, was very, very competitive and George had decided it would be good for business to let him win, spectacularly. He reckoned they’d easily knock my bowling all over the park.

With due ceremony and seriousness I addressed the wicket, wishing I was almost anywhere else. The client eyed me with arrogant, confident disdain. After a short, ungainly run up with all the style of a penguin in tights I let fly in the general direction of the enemy bails. And I got the head honcho out, first ball. Gone. Clean bowled. He was furious. Incandescent. George and half the rest of our team rushed up to him, showering profuse apologies.

‘He’s a ringer, honest,’ George pleaded. ‘He’s dropped already. He’ll never play again. In fact, consider him fired. We’ll make sure he never works in direct marketing ever again, in this country at least.’

Undeterred by these undignified blatherings from my team mates I went on to take two more wickets just in that first over. They reckoned my bowling was so, so slow, it confused them. But it was accurate. Deadly.

Afterwards George professed he’d been secretly thrilled at the thorough trouncing we’d delivered to our biggest client, but just couldn’t show it. Later as we celebrated our win he swore to me with what seemed absolute conviction, the truth was he’d never really liked that client...

I almost believed him.

I bowled again for the Bundies, several times and though never fast, got reasonably good at it. Though I never again bowled as effectively as that first ever over, I was still grateful to George, for giving me my big break.

The Mary Hinge letter.
In the mid 1990s George allowed the International Fundraising Group, now the Resource Alliance, the people who run the International Fundraising Conference each year in Holland, to set up home in his South London office. Their then new CEO, Per Stenbeck, was eagerly looking to recruit a conference organiser. His standards were high. George decided to have a bit of fun, so crafted a dream application from the fictitious Ms Mary Hinge, specialist in early baroque music, aviation and fishing while working to produce the first translation of Kirkegaard in the Shona language for the Danish Academy of Arts in Elsinore.

Enjoy it here.


Ken Burnett is co-founder of Clayton Burnett Limited (now renamed as Revolutionise), a director of The White Lion Press Limited, a consultant to The Burnett Works agency, former chairman of the board of trustees for the international development charity ActionAid International and is currenty an independent trustee of the UK Disasters Emergency Committee. He’s author of several books including Relationship Fundraising and The Zen of Fundraising and is managing trustee of SOFII, The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. He is also a commissioner on the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing.

Inch hotel 2
The Inch Hotel, Loch Ness, inspirational setting for Clayton Burnett’s transformational events.2NB. Several images on this page are taken from Burnett’s ‘frankly ridiculous and unuseable historical images’ file.