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The future of fundraising
Why and how fundraising has to change. Introducing a personal view from Ken Burnett.


Introducing a five-part feature on
the future of fundraising, from
Ken Burnett, author of Relationship Fundraising, (1992).

The first of this series appeared in November 2014 and the final part was published in mid-May 2015.


The future of fundraising.

Part 1
Why fundraising has to change.

Part 2
A fundraising Utopia.

Part 3
Some keys to
fresh fundraising success. Three mega-opportunities
for fundraisers.

Part 4
Marketing was a mistake.

Part 5
Fundraising and the rule of law.

book cover
Ken’s storytelling book (which, not entirely coincidentally, focuses many of its pages on remedies for the issues opposite) is reviewed here and here and you can buy it here.

CF cover

You can order Ken’s latest book
The essence of Campaigning Fundraising
here. Please follow this link for reviews too.




The future of fundraising seems bleaker to me now than at any time in these past nearly 40 years (I’ve been a professional fundraiser since 1977 and a volunteer fundraiser even longer). So in the five articles that form this one-off series I’m going to try to sum up my anxieties and set out some possibly encouraging signs and opportunities too.

Right now fundraisers face an important choice. If I’m honest, I’m not optimistic we’ll follow the best direction, mostly because I see little evidence that fundraisers as a body have the capacity to collaborate and implement the change that we plainly need.

The key point in this series is about the donor experience and how we need to dramatically overhaul and improve it. I hope these articles might add to other voices and concerns I hear from all corners of the fundraising fraternity, which I hope will become a groundswell for change. Because a big change is needed. And it’s needed now.

Animated image

Fundraisers I’m sure could be on the brink of a golden age. But we won’t get access to it unless our customers’ experience becomes consistently and continually very much better and more desirable.  

This argument is a work in progress, clearly not the last word, so please do email me your thoughts here.

My analysis of the future of fundraising is in five parts:
Part 1. Why fundraising has to change.
Part 2. A fundraising Utopia
Part 3. Three mega-opportunities for fundraisers.
Part 4. Marketing was a mistake.
Part 5. Fundraising and the rule of law.

Each article is designed to stand alone. Together I hope they add up to a case for change.
See also the forewords to two important fundraising books published in 2015, here.
Retention Fundraising by Roger M Craver and How to love your donors (to death) by Stephen Pidgeon.

I hope this series of articles will make you rethink how you do fundraising in your organisation, with your donors. Because at the end I’m going to ask if, working together (which means with your help and input), we fundraisers might actually be able to define what fundraising should be, for our donors, for 2020 and beyond. A kind of 2020 vision, if you like.

Somebody should do it. Despite the risks and hardships, in the spirit of volunteerism, it might as well be us.
I hope you’ll give it a go.



© Ken Burnett May 2015 (see footnote).

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NB. This note added in December, 2015
Though I’d never wish to say, ‘I told you so’ the above series has proved to be alarmingly prophetic. In June 2015 the Olive Cooke story broke in the British media, which led directly to the Etherington Review which in turn has led to the external imposition of a raft of regulatory and other changes which will ensure British fundraising will never be the same again.

For more comment on this evolving drama please see my later articles
You have six minutes to defend or redefine fundraising...
• Where now for fundraising?

• Evolving into the inspiration business.