The Taming of the Shrewd


Episode 2: Neuroscience of Giving

Season 1, Ep. 2

I was joined for this fascinating episode by Dr Jo Cutler. We discussed the science behind what makes donors want to donate to a cause, and how you can use that science to write better fundraising appeals.

Jo is Postdoctoral Researcher in the Social Decision Neuroscience Lab at the University of Oxford. Her research uses techniques from neuroscience and physiology to understand people’s ‘prosocial’ behaviour and charitable giving. You can find out more about Jo’s work on her website, or contact her on Twitter @DrJoCutler.

Despite so much negative media coverage in recent years about charity fundraising, Jo explained how her research shows that donating has a positive impact on the donor as well as the organisation. It stimulates ‘reward regions’ of the brain and results in a measurable ‘warm glow’ that tends to last longer than the satisfaction we feel when we buy material items.

Jo shared four key actionable ideas with listeners:

  1. How to make your appeals more engaging and relatable to donors by focusing on one identifiable person
  2. How ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ stories or imagery have very different effects on donors, and why they each work in different circumstances
  3. How saying thank you quickly makes donors more inclined to associate their donation with that ‘warm glow’ and therefore more likely to give again
  4. Why science can’t give you a magic formula for writing the perfect appeal, but how you can begin testing some ideas in the context of your organisation

For further reading, check out Jo’s recent blog on how donors ‘learn to give’ and the power of an immediate thank you:

This also overlaps with my own recent blog on thanking donors, which we discussed in the episode:

These days we all need to measure the impact of our work, and it’s the same for Jo. We'd therefore be very grateful if you could fill in Jo’s super quick, four-question survey about the episode:

More Episodes


Episode 5: Crisis Comms

Season 1, Ep. 5
A familiar face for Episode 5 - Gemma Pettman, good friend of Lime Green Consulting and trainer at our regular fundraising strategy and trusts and foundations training courses. Gemma's also an independent accredited PR expert and joined us to discuss an important topic - how should charities and social enterprises communicate when bad news strikes?Gemma gave us a whistle-stop tour of her approach to crisis comms, including:The different types of crises that typically hit organisations, and how you can work together as a team to create a list of scenarios to prepare forPlanning in advance for a crisis - who to communicate with, what to say, how to use social media and the press, and practising your key messagesAssessing a live situation - how do you decide when to respond and what to say? how do you avoid making the situation worse? how can you turn some crises into an opportunity?Looking after your people - how to support staff who are on the 'front line' of a crisis, and how to follow up after a crisis passesWe discussed how good crisis comms is crucial for building and maintaining trust with supporters, why organisations are often put off planning in advance, how social media has changed the nature of crisis comms, and how many organisations have successfully turned a crisis into a fundraising opportunity.If you're interested in learning more, Gemma kindly recommended a few follow-up resources for listeners:A best practice guide to crisis communications for charities by Charity Comms: Sugden's blog about how you can deal with a positive ‘crisis’: examples of successful fundraising in response to a crisis: the RNLI after Tory MPs' criticism of its overseas work and the National Trust in response to a fire at its historic Clandon Park siteThanks to Gemma for her typically cheerful and expert insight. You can find out more about her PR work here:

Episode 4: A Fresh Approach to Risk Management in Fundraising

Season 1, Ep. 4
Ed Wyatt is one of a very small number of risk management and compliance experts in fundraising. He's worked with several of the UK's household name charities to introduce a fresh and more positive approach to risk management.While he's passionate about his work, Ed is the first to admit that risk management can be boring! Too often it's seen and done as an unbearable tickbox exercise which squashes and dilutes the most exciting fundraising ideas. But there is another way to tackle risk management, which can enhance and protect your charity's reputation, and empower you to confidently create new fundraising products and engage newsupporter groups.Ed and I talked about the importance of defining your organisation's "risk appetite" - in order words, how much risk your organisation is willing to stomach. This must align with your organisation's mission, rather than the personal opinions of individuals. We wandered slightly off topic to talk about the complicated world of creating a gift acceptance policy, something that has since become very topical in the wake of the toppling of Edward Colston's statue in Bristol.Ed also talks us through how to identify risks that you are willing to live with, and put in place sensible and manageable controls to reduce those risks. I shared my own experience from 10 years ago of running one of the UK's largest student fundraising events, and the risks and rewards that came with it.Finally, Ed shared some practical tips about how you can keep learning and improving your approach to risk management over time, without making it too complicated or unwieldy.Since recording this podcast, I've written some more detailed thoughts about "hypocritical philanthropy" and deciding which grants to accept: and I previously shared some more thoughts about risk management in this blog, which we refer to during the podcast:

Episode 3: Embedding a Fundraising Culture

Season 1, Ep. 3
After two episodes exploring how to develop trading income streams, and the neuroscience that drives donors to give, Episode 3 is more one for the fundraising purists!I was joined by Lottie Donovan to discuss how to embed a fundraising culture in an organisation, so that everyone understands their role in fundraising and feels a responsibility to make it successful. Lottie draws on her experience as Head of Development at Watershed, a well-known arts organisation and cinema on the Harbourside in Bristol, just a stone's throw from where the statue of Edward Colston was recently pushed into the water.Lottie shared three key areas to focus on if you want to build a fundraising culture in your organisation:1. Crafting your story and case for support, so that supporters want to "walk alongside you" and be part of your journey2. Building your supporter base by working with staff to map their networks and encourage good donor stewardship3. Challenging perceptions and avoiding assumptions - what does a wealthy donor really look like, and who in your organisation actually has valuable contacts?This is our first episode actually recorded once lockdown started, so you'll hear us muse on why some of these issues are now more important than ever, and how you can use time away from the office now to get started.During the podcast, we discussed two of our recent blogs:What fundraising and dating etiquette have in common: importance of thanking your donors: up for our Fundraising During Covid-19 online briefing in July, featuring presentations from both Lottie and me: