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Do you have a Great Fundraising Organisation?

What makes a Great Fundraising Organisation, and how do you know if your organisation is one, or on the way to becoming one?  Howard Lake reports.
A Great Fundraising Organisation (the capital letters matter) is one that achieves transformational and sustainable growth in giving, according to Alan Clayton of fundraising agency Revolutionise International.
It isn’t something you do – following a range of fundraising tactics.  It is “something that you are”.  The concept was inspired by the writings of Jim Collins on commercial organisations that had achieved greatness, and which were built to last.
Clayton identifies four criteria that define a Great Fundraising Organisation.

  • Growth in fundraised income – transformational growth, typically 200-400% in the middle term, and sometimes more. This is growth on such a scale that it can have an impact on the organisation’s ability to fulfil its mission.
  • Sustainable growth – there are plenty of brilliant forms of fundraising, but they aren’t all sustainable.  A Great Fundraising Organisation achieves transformational growth and then sustains it at or above this new level.
  • Mission driven growth – this isn’t just smart tactical fundraising; it is growth in revenue and the number of donors. 
  • Donor-centred growth – Great Fundraising Organisations meet the needs of donors as well as service users or beneficiaries.  They inspire a desire to give repeatedly, and donors’ lives are enriched and fulfilled through their giving.

Revolutionise’s notion of Great Fundraising is based on three pillars:

  • academic research,
  • action research on 350+ organisations who have implemented or are implementing the approach,
  • and experience-based opinions from its consultants who have worked with these charities.

The academic research began with The Great Fundraising Report by Professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. They examined cases of two similar charities (in terms of size, income, and mission) where one grew slowly or not at all but the other grew successfully and at pace.
Key differences
What was the key difference? It was the internal behaviour of the successful organisation.
The research concluded that the behaviours of these rapid growth fundraising organisations were remarkably consistent, even across sizes, causes and countries.  At their heart was simplification to reconnect with the organisation’s purpose.  Can you fit your charity’s purpose on one slide?
Professor Sargeant said of Great Fundraising Organisations: “They re-connect with the vision, belief and passion which created the organisation.”
A clear purpose leads to pride, passion and then performance and profit.  And it works in that order – not back to front, with a focus on the fundraising and tactics.
Simplification and reconnection
The research confirmed that Great Fundraising Organisations were all master-storytellers.  Once you reconnect with the founding emotion, across an organisation, you can scale it: why save some children when you need to save them all?  Simple emotion plus massive ambition underpin a Great Fundraising Organisation.
You’ll have noticed that purpose, pride and passion are all emotions.  Great Fundraising
Organisations are those that have mastered emotional leadership.
Pride in fundraising
Nyasha Njela, Director, Southern Africa at Revolutionise adds: “Another hallmark of the Great Fundraising Organisation is that the whole organisation is proud of this achievement and status.  How many other charities are as proud of their fundraising as they are of the organisation's charitable work?”
Growth can be repeated
The research found that Great Fundraising can be repeated.  Looking back it became apparent that, whenever growth stopped or slowed, Great Fundraising Organisations, before the term was coined, managed to reconnect with the mission and simplicity, align the organisation with its messaging, and go again.
If your organisation has the ambition to become a Great Fundraising Organisation, you can start by exploring the original research and case studies, all available for free, on
Howard Lake is the Director of Giving X Ltd, working on growing giving on a massive scale.  A digital fundraising entrepreneur, he founded UK Fundraising ( in 1994 and sold it successfully in 2022.  Co-founder of GoodJobs, he also works with Revolutionise.

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