Ken Burnett

Writer, communicator and inspirational speaker


Acclaimed fundraiser Ken Burnett takes a look at Relationship Fundraising – effective techniques to engage and develop a long-lasting relationship with your charity's supporters. Our video will introduce you to:

  • seven essential foundations of fundraising
  • what really matters most for fundraisers and donors, plus how to put them together
  • three keys to being an effective fundraising organisation.

Join acclaimed fundraiser Ken Burnett, our guest presenter, for a CAF online tutorial. Find out more about Relationship Fundraising – gain effective techniques to engage and develop long-lasting relationships with your charity's supporters. By the end of the session you’ll understand what really matters most for fundraisers and donors, and pick up tips to help fundraisers build better donor relationships. To help you manage your multi-channel fundraising campaigns with ease - find out how CAF Donate, an online donation processing platform, can help.

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This is an important topic at an important time, the future fortunes of fundraisers hang in the balance so the question is, are we heading for a fundraising golden age or a downward spiral? A bit of both. People are living longer, as the population ages but that means that our core donor group is set to grow. The corporate world is beginning to realise that charitable work is good for business and that making a difference in the world can attract customers with the empathy they show, more than with marketing.

There is a decline in the trust of charities and fundraising, with chronic short term thinking and underinvestment in the sector. There is a lack of long-term investors and the costs of getting new ones are high. Customers need to have a good experience as donors to make them want to stay so it’s even more important for us to do what we do as fundraisers right.


  • Fundraising = fudge. As a child, Ken would count the money from the Barnardo’s collection boxes that his mother was in charge of collecting. Anyone who brought in their coin box would get some of his mother’s fudge, resulting in queues down the street to hand in their boxes. It’s all about reciprocity.
  • What fundraising isn’t about – it isn’t about money. If you ask for it, you won’t deserve it. Fundraising is about work that needs doing urgently, and people talking about a cause important to them. It’s about inspiring people to believe they can make a difference and helping them to do it, and building long term, sustainable relationships that deliver lifetime value to the donor and the cause.
  • Building the dream. Walt Disney wanted the castle built before anything else at Disneyland, so that anyone working on the site could see the dream and why they were there, which is what we should do for our supporters. Show it in different ways but always make if the same recognisable dream. So build the dream and then engage people.
  • Don’t shout at my mum. Have empathy with our supporters, see things from their point of view, and inspire and innovate. Remember to respect the gap between being a donor and being a legacy prospect to avoid alienating them.
  • The most important word for fundraisers. Always make sure that you mention the donor, the most important word is ‘YOU’ in reference to the donor and how they can make things happen.
  • Finding your emotional heart. Use emotional words that describe the wonders of what you want to achieve.
  • Emotional storytelling can change the world. People remember stories, more than lectures. Present stories in ways that are digestible.

What really matters most, for fundraisers and for donors?

  • The need and reward cycle. Engage donors with an appeal, let donors know what their donations have achieved quickly, show donors what is in it for them to keep going and show them opportunities for them to make a further difference. Be Famous for Frequent, Fast, Fabulous Feedback.
  • Five great assumptions that underpin effective fundraising (
    • Donors are usually generous and caring people.
    • They are intelligent and know when people are taking advantage of them.
    • They expect to be treated courteously.
    • They are individuals.
    • They are more likely to respond better when they get from us what they want to receive, rather than what we want them to have.
  • Being a different kind of fundraiser – fundraisers need to be passionate and radiate compassion, instead of drains on that enthusiasm and emotion.

Three keys to being an effective fundraiser

  • Ensure there’s sufficient investment and enough time to fundraise properly.
  • Elevate ‘The truth told well’. Build an emotional story bank and communicate it properly.
  • Enshrine the five Fs in your commitment to donors and make sure your donors always feel very special.

The Investment Paradox

  • Charities invest in stocks and shares but underinvest in donor relationship development.
  • Investing in effective fundraising will cause money to leave your account but the return will far outweigh what you could get from stocks and shares.
  • The twin secrets to this are investing time and money.

Relationship fundraising in 2015

  • Start with ‘Why?’ and tell a story
  • Build a relationship
  • Ask properly for help
  • Consistent donor care
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Go back to the progression of the story

All slides and images used in this webinar are subject to copyright and so are not to be used, published or broadcast in any other form without express permission by the author (Ken Burnett). Please contact CAF at for further details.


Ken Burnett is a writer, communicator and inspirational speaker, author of several books on donor development and communication, including 'Relationship Fundraising', the 'Zen of Fundraising' and recently published 'Storytelling Can Change the World'.

Chairman of Trustees at ActionAid from 1998 to 2003, Ken began his fundraising career with that charity back in 1977. He is founder and managing trustee for SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, an independent trustee of the Disasters Emergency Committee and a commissioner on the Commission for the Voluntary Sector and Ageing.

For more information visit Ken's website.