“We’ve got a newly impoverished society, we’ve got a younger generation who are going to have to build their lives via totally new economic mores, we’ve got an apparently endless recession and we can begin to talk about the end of growth through consumer spending. And in the middle of this apparently apocalyptic state of affairs, we have millions of rich people getting richer…Is this a case for specifically targeted fundraising, or isn’t it? Hit the pause button and think.”
And while you’re on pause, here’s something else to ponder. When do you think those words were written? Seems a fair representation of the problems we face today, doesn’t it? Except, of course, it isn’t.
That analysis was written by George Smith nearly 20 years ago and appears in a new book, published by the White Lion Press.
Up Smith Creek brings together articles written by George for various publications, including Professional Fundraising and Direct Response. So here’s an idea. Give yourself something rather wonderful to look forward to. Click here, put in your bank details and – hey presto – George’s book will be on its way to you.
In the meantime, let me whet your appetite.
When it comes to George’s articles, editors Marie and Ken Burnett recommend ‘One a day, taken at bedtime’. I’ve been a little disobedient and have upped the dosage. So I’m just under half way through and already there's plenty of gems to share.
There’s no one quite like George.
The articles I’ve read so far are all beautifully written – just what you’d expect from George Smith. Witty. Elegant. Truthful.
George always seems to find the perfect word (even if one or two sent me scuttling to the dictionary). Do you know anyone else who would refer to ‘the fundraising caravanserai’ making its way up to Birmingham for the annual IOF conference? If you do, be sure to let me know as I’d like to offer him or her a job. But if you want to start with writing that makes the hairs on your neck stand on end, turn to page 11.
“I just saw the Serbian mortars exploding in that Bosnian graveyard. I saw children cowering behind gravestones who only wanted to put flowers on the coffins of their little murdered friends. I saw an old lady carried off, the mayhem, the panic, the terror, the tears. And I cannot forget that there are men in those hills, Western men (Christian men?) who look through binoculars, peer through gun sights and press buttons. Do they laugh? Are they pleased with themselves?”
Good fundraising is writing is done with feeling – just like that.
He’s funny too.
If you prefer to start with a laugh, I recommend p86 and the article ‘Read any good t-shirts lately?’ Some of the more mischievous comments made me laugh out loud. On the bus.
The truth doesn’t date.
Here are some of George's thoughts on fundraising, which seem as valid today as ever. Or dare I say it, more so?
On advertising taking over from fundraising.
“The mores of advertising were bound to invade the mores of fundraising. But there are signs that the host culture is being swamped. By which I do not mean that all fundraising is nice and all advertising is nasty. What I do mean is that most advertising is pretty silly and that all fundraising is pretty damned important. We should do well to dwell on the difference.”
Jeff Brook’s spotlight on stupid ads shows just how far we’ve gone down this particular road.
On what’s wrong in fundraising…
“We live in a jaded society, increasingly suspicious of the value of good, increasingly resentful that there are no apparent simple solutions to any evil. Apathy is beginning to seep through us all, apathy born of skepticism.”
This also struck a cord:
“I sense the dead hand of dutiful professionalism squashing the fine old instinct of passion.”
On what’s needed…
“We need more candour, a greater indication that we can still think imaginatively and liberation from our predictable vocabularies.”
I met George Smith – just once, many years ago. At the time, I'm ashamed to say I hadn't read much of what he'd written. These days, I'm slightly less stupid. Here's in part why.
Tiny Essentials of writing for fundraising by George Smith (Given to new Bluefrog copywriters on their first day – if it hasn't been sent to them to read before turning up.)
Asking Properly by George Smith (The book most likely to be borrowed and not returned to the Bluefrog library)
(Click the link for your own copy).