11 year old Caroline

Eleven year old Caroline

Has anyone noticed that there are certain words and phrases being used in exceptionally high volume right now?


  • Innovation
  • New ways of working
  • Shift
  • Change
  • Pivoting (yep, I’m also picturing THAT scene from Friends right now)


This all makes me feel super uncomfortable


Why I hear you ask?

It’s because I have spent many, many years honing a fundraising craft which is not particularly innovative.

There are tried and tested ways of doing trusts and major gifts fundraising which work.  Whilst I don’t doubt there are people out there who disagree with me, ultimately, I believe that both practices, rely on some foundational elements which over decades of practice have not (and will not) change.

Innovation is not strictly necessary here.

At their core, these are:


  • Research
  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Relationships


This is not new.  I’ve referenced it before, but I love Simon Scriver’s piece on the ‘classics’ and his recognition that so many people (despite knowing about them) don’t do them, preferring to take the easy route.

For many, it can be hard to have the courage of our convictions and to speak out even though your experience points to a better way.


And yet it’s something I don’t struggle with at all.   I think I’m quite rare in this.


Allow me to tell you a story about 11 year old Caroline.

In 1994, before the Spice Girls were even a thing, I moved from a medium sized primary school to a huge, secondary school with c 1,400 pupils (not unusual).

An aspiring musician, in my first term, I fought off competition from several other junior choir members and was chosen to perform the first verse of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ in the carol concert.

At my rehearsal on the day of the concert, I stood on the stage, ready to sing in our huge school hall in front of the orchestra and various other hangers on who we waiting for their rehearsal to start (or who had just finished and were mooching around no doubt attempting to skive lessons).

The Head of Music, a larger than life character with a reputation for being a mix of extremely talented, charismatic and also someone you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of (he was VERY scary when he got angry and as such didn’t have to do it very often) handed me a microphone and suggested that just the strings and wind sections accompany me (and that the brass could join in for the second verse along with the choirs and audience).

The equally scary Head of Performing Arts (if Mr G from Summer Heights High was a chihuahua, this guy was like one of the scary dogs from the movie Up!) was sent to the back of the hall to see how I sounded.


I stood in shock.


A microphone?




My eleven year old self was horrified at the total disrespect for tradition (the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City is ALWAYS sung unaccompanied).


How could little Caroline be the one to tell them all?

I engaged my inner Britney (even though she was still in the Mickey Mouse club at the time and not yet a global superstar) and gave his suggestion a half hearted go but knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to work.


I stopped singing then without (much) fear of the repercussions, I let my opinions be known.

The audacity.


I seem to remember a bit of shock, some sniggers from the back row of the orchestra before being allowed to give it a go.  My way.

I also remember feeling that not pointing out their error was unthinkable and that even as a tiny Year 7 small fish in a big pond, I was simply not willing to participate in such a gross violation of musical authenticity (so precocious, I know, I know…).

It (of course) worked and for all my subsequent years at the school, the Year 7 kid picked to sing the first verse of ‘Once in Royal’ ALWAYS did it the Caroline way (aka, the ONLY way!)


I have absolute confidence in my way of doing things.   


I believe that my way is the right way (and you can jog on if you don’t agree).  I am notoriously inflexible.

Sometimes this definitely doesn’t serve me well.  It is highly likely one of the reasons that my previous employer decided to restructure our team (hello redundancy) and is the primary source of tension between me and my other half as we navigate running our business together.

But often, it works.


  • I don’t get distracted
  • I can share my learnings with others, giving them shortcuts to success
  • My experiences of failures / ‘trying stuff’ can be used as warnings to those I’m working with
  • I’m focused on what works and this makes clients feel confident that they’re in safe hands


When my clients pay me to do work for them, they’re not paying me for a day. 


They’re paying for years of experience, success, failure and tried and tested, repeated practise.


If you’re not already courageous in your convictions, ask why?

I suspect it’s not because you don’t know the answer.   There are SO many brilliant fundraisers who receive our email newsletter each week.


  • And yet you might know in your heart that your charity still has a way to go before the ‘classics’ are mastered
  • You might feel frustrated that there’s too much on your plate and you’re not doing the basic things to the best of your ability
  • You know that your bad habits around emails and meetings are preventing you from forging deeper relationships with your donors.


So I challenge you today:


What’s one thing you can do today where you stick up for a fundraising practice

which you know works


(even in the face of a very important and scary board member asking you if you’ve ‘tried the Lottery’?)

Channel 11 year old Caroline.  I know I need to sometimes….


Thanks for reading,




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Posted in Fundraising, Major gift fundraising, Trust fundraising.