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 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:

Episode 1: Turning to Trading

Season 1, Ep. 1
Fran Ferris-Ockwell joins us for our very first episode to discuss how you can build trading activity and earned income streams alongside your fundraising activity.Fran is the CEO of Nomad Opening Doors, a housing charity in Sheffield (though she's leaving in a few months and joining the Lime Green Consulting team). A few years ago, Nomad faced a funding crisis that threatened the charity's existence. Fran explains how she worked with their trustees and staff to build support for developing a trading arm, and how this has transformed Nomad - not just their financial position, but staff morale, relationships with supporters and the charity's entire culture.We discussed how lots of people may perceive trading as 'too risky' and worry that they don't have the necessary skills, when in reality they're probably better equipped to succeed than they think.Fran shared her three key actionable steps with listeners:Getting colleagues and trustees on Board with the idea when they may initially be reluctantFinding your trading idea or specialism 'close to home' to give you the best possible chance of successSourcing support with the practicalities and legalities of setting things upIf you're interested in exploring this further, here are a few helpful resources, several of which Fran mentions in the episode:NCVO's useful guide to tax and legalities: rules around trading in charities:, funding, mentoring and resources from our friends at the School for Social Entrepreneurs: and guides from Social Enterprise UK: bono consultancy from the Cranfield Trust: local CVS might have someone who can offer advice: Business Support Helpline: call them on 0300 456 3565Find your local Growth Hub: