Nonprofit Heroes is our series of interviews with industry experts, successfully proven fundraisers, and nonprofit heroes with stories and tips to inspire your charity to use technology to your advantage and do good, better.
Let’s start with some background information – who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Craig Linton, I help charities raise more money through individual giving and improving their supporter experience. I run Fundraising Detective, a consultancy that provides practical support, strategic advice, creative ideas and training.
What was your first job?
My first permanent job was community fundraiser at St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington. I loved it, though it wasn’t meant to be a long-term job.
I came out of university with a plan to work for a year or two before going back to my studies. I applied for lots of jobs, including odds compiler with a bookmaker and the FA graduate programme, but got offered a job at a hospice near my home.
How did you get into the charity sector?
After two years at the hospice, I needed to decide whether to go back to uni or stick with fundraising. I had an amazing chief executive who offered me the chance to become the corporate and trust fundraiser and run a small appeal to open a bedded unit. She also offered to contribute towards an MBA and so I abandoned my legal studies and committed to fundraising. It is the best decision I ever made!
You're known as the Fundraising Detective. What's the approach you take to fundraising?
I’ve always loved learning and wanted to be the best read and most informed fundraiser I could be. Reading Relationship Fundraising by Ken Burnett early in my career was the moment I could see a career and future in fundraising. I firmly bought into that approach to fundraising and tried to focus on offering great donor care and building good relationships with donors.
As I got promoted and took on more responsibility, I started sharing things I was reading with my team and colleagues. I started blogging as a hobby and a way to share my learning. In the error and exuberance of youth, I said a few things it would’ve been wiser not to say and got into a bit of trouble with a senior manager!
"I’ve always loved learning, and wanted to be the best read and most informed fundraiser I could be."
I still wanted to blog, so decided to do so anonymously and hence the Fundraising Detective was born. When I left the organisation I continued blogging, but the need to be anonymous subsided. I decided to keep the Fundraising Detective name, as it sums up my approach to fundraising – I want to seek out the best and most interesting books and articles to help me be a better fundraiser and then share that with others to help them solve their own issues and improve their fundraising.
You've recently published a book, Donors For Life. Tell us more about that.
As I mentioned, Relationship Fundraising was a huge influence on me and I tried to bring it into my approach to work. My boss was on the Institute of Fundraising Convention Board and encouraged me to do a session on the subject with Paul Stein (my co-author).
Ken Burnett was in the audience and approached us afterwards to see if we’d be interested in writing a practitioner’s guide to relationship fundraising. We jumped at the chance and Donors for Life is the result.
One of the things I hear from fundraisers is that they love the idea of creating great supporter experiences and better relationships with donors, but that it can be hard to do in reality. Often short-term targets, being under-resourced and other problems get in the way. The book aims to help overcome those hurdles and explains how to improve the donor experience.
We’ve shared our own experiences and mistakes and tried to get a blend of theory, practical examples and useful tips. We’re really proud of the end result and honoured to build on Ken’s work.
If you could change one thing to improve anything in fundraising, what (or who) would you change, and how?
At this exact moment, I’d stop fundraisers spending so much time, money and worry on GDPR. Instead, focus on making sure you have sensible policies in place that record your decision making and then focus your time and energy on doing great, emotion-led fundraising.
(Editors note: Donorfy can help take the stress out of GDPR. )
How do you think fundraising will change in the years to come?
I don’t think there is a choice anymore between transactional, hard sell fundraising and more relational, experience-led fundraising.
It has become so expensive to recruit new donors that the era of recruit and then push, push, push for as much income as quickly as possible is over.
The commercial world has invested billions in improving customer’s experience and there is a clear correlation between the most customer-focused businesses (with the happiest customers) and profits. It is why customer feedback surveys are now ubiquitous and so much is spent on design, reducing friction and connecting emotionally with customers.
We need to change our mindset and invest in improving the supporter experience and delivering outstanding care. It should be seen as profit, not a cost-centre! Not everyone wants a relationship with a charity, but those who do must be nurtured and those who don’t must be ‘wowed’ and inspired with every transaction.
"We need to change our mindset and invest in improving the supporter experience"
Fundraising needs to make better use of technology to provide more engaging, rewarding and emotional fundraising and supporter experiences.
A few quick-fire questions:
Your Desert Island disc, if you had to choose one?
So hard to choose! My most listened too album is ‘Push Barman to Open Old Wounds’ by Belle and Sebastian.
My favourite single to make me smile and dance around is ‘Burning Love’ by Elvis.
PC or a Mac?
The most used app on your smartphone?
Citymapper – I don’t know how I lived without it! It is so useful for getting around London.
Finally - do you have a nonprofit hero or heroine? If so, who and why?
I don’t have heroes as such, but I have worked with some amazing people who I have learned so much from and respect immensely.
On the services side, the doctors and nurses I’ve worked with in hospices are amazing and provide outstanding care at such an emotional and difficult time for patients and families.
Similarly, at Amnesty International the researchers and campaigners were a massive inspiration. For example, an ex-colleague from Turkey was recently jailed for standing up for human rights. It takes amazing courage to do that in the face of adversary and her humility and dignity through her detention was humbling.
I also admire those leaders who share their experience and advice freely and help you progress. I always remember being told that a leader’s job is ‘to make people see more in themselves than they thought possible’ – anyone who does that is a bit of a hero to me!
Thanks Craig for being our nonprofit hero!