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How to create magic moments
When you’re really committed to changing your fundraising, for good.


From Ken Burnett, on sharing one of life’s great pleasures.

Blog 5th June 2017

‘At one point the whole room was blubbing. I asked the same question again...

‘Stand up if you’re a fundraiser’.

‘The whole room stood up.’

Success in the fundraiser’s brave new world won’t just be a matter of mastering new regulation, important though that is. We need a different way of doing things.



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Pierre Lafitte’s wedding to Anna last week on the Greek island of Folegandros was a magical affair. Our son Charlie was best man and we were honoured guests. At the wedding party Pierre told me something that I didn’t know. He said, ‘When I was a boy I spent a lot of time at your house.’ That much I knew – he was at ours a lot. ‘There,’ he said, ‘I saw often a photograph of you in front of the Taj Mahal. It fascinated me – such a magical, exotic place. As a young boy that photograph inspired in me a desire to see the world’s great sights (Pierre is now widely travelled) and the first place I went was to India. That’s how I met Anna. Without that photograph, I wouldn’t be here today.’

It was a nice thing to say, on the best day of his life.

Pierre’s observation made me think how small things can so easily be pivotal influences on much larger things. You’ll have similar instances, I’m sure. Most are accidental, undirectable. How different life might be if we could create them, deliberately? So, as I’ve learned a lot of late about this concept, I thought I’d focus this article on how to create moments of magic. Because I know someone who does just that, consistently.

Jayne George, director of fundraising and communications at Guide Dogs, has personal experience of the transformational power of magic moments and she recently wrote about this on SOFII. Her article is priceless and you should read it. As can be seen in the following three short quotes from it. This is Jayne talking.

Jayne George, Emotional Fundraising must be in our DNA,
SOFII, June 2017, extract 1.

Wow! The moment when the whole room stood up. How great is that? And how do you get it? Well one thing, it called for unshakeable commitment. Leading that change is a big thing and Jayne is well worth learning from. Here’s Jayne again:

Jayne George, Emotional Fundraising must be in our DNA,
SOFII, June 2017
, extract 2.

The crucial phrase here is ‘…the potential that we saw in it’. This stuff is important because for anyone working in the not-for-profit sector, particularly recently for fundraisers, the world has changed massively and irrevocably. How you get to grips with that change will determine how your career develops. For sure, being a fundraiser hasn’t got any easier. As these changes have unfolded, some subjects have become a lot hotter. In the new fundraising order, failure to deliver a great donor experience is not an option.

Continued top of column 2, above.


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Continued from column 1, below.

Jayne George, Emotional Fundraising must be in our DNA,
SOFII, June 2017, extract 3.

It works. Guide Dogs income has more than doubled since implementing emotional fundraising. And is still growing. Hooray!

It’s been a season of weddings, for me. Recently I had to deliver the best man’s speech at Alan Clayton’s marriage to Malene. I poked fun and shared dark secrets, of course, but I also remarked that Alan’s strength of character is catching. Clients always comment on it.

I told the assembled guests about a lunch I’d had just a couple of weeks earlier with the same delightful Jayne George mentioned above. She said something remarkable, ‘I’ve never known anyone’, she said, ‘so good at firing people up as Alan Clayton. Whenever I want to inspire people I imagine Alan is sitting on my shoulder, telling me what to do. ‘

A nice accolade from someone who’s no mean inspirer herself.

Alan uses willpower and strength of character as formidable forces for change. John Paul Getty famously said the secret of success is just three things:
1. You have to get up early,
2. You have to work hard,
3. You have to strike oil.

The third of these is the magic moment and that, undeniably, is hard to achieve with certainty, consistently. But as David Ogilvy wisely observed, ‘a blind pig may find truffles, but it helps to know it should root around in oak forests.’ You’re more likely to find magic if you first know where to look.

Alan’s great skill is showing people the potential they have inside themselves. Success isn’t about finding something buried somewhere else, outside of us. It’s about finding the richness inside yourself. Not under the ground like oil or truffles, but just below the surface, inside yourself.

That’s what Alan shows people. And they love it. Seriously, working closely with him has been one of life’s great pleasures.

Success in the fundraiser’s brave new world won’t just be a matter of mastering new regulation, important though that is. We need a different way of doing things. If you want to dream big, find your why, secure trustee buy-in, unite your organisation, delight your colleagues and your donors, electrify your communications, raise more for your cause than you ever dreamed possible and heaps more besides, do one of these three things.
1. Come to the Inch, on the shores of Loch Ness, to find out for yourself.
2. Send a scout to check it out.
3. Take your top team, together. Bring all the leaders with you. Real change will follow.

After all, it’s a significant investment sending top people away for three days and you need to be sure you'll get a good return. Inspiration, like education, is expensive. But not so much as ignorance.

An amazing number of non-UK individuals and organisations have already savoured the magic that comes from Alan Clayton’s events. Come after IFC. Take a quick hop across the channel to transform all your channels.

The Alan Clayton Associates programme for 2017 is here. I recommend you take a deep breath and take the plunge (I can have my say about this stuff now because, other than a couple of cameo appearances with Alan at the end of the year, I’m no longer involved with running events at the Inch. So with no vested interest I can say what I believe).

Thinking big, planning for transformation and studying the lessons of great fundraising have always been key priorities for ambitious fundraisers. Now that imperative has just assumed a new prominence and urgency.

So, go find your advantage. All you’ve got to lose is the old way of doing things.

© Ken Burnett 2017

Related earlier blogs:
• Changing fundraising for good.
Something called integrity.

Pure gold: the 34 essential foundations of fundraising.