The Fundraising Parable of the Good Samaritan

Claire Squires stood at the starting line of this year’s London Marathon knowing she’d raised £500 for the Samaritans.

Hours later, when news of her death broke, donations were pouring in to her fundraising page at £500 per minute.

Claire’s death is a tragedy – but what does this phenomenon say about us and the state of fundraising today?

There’s no denying this is a tough time to be fundraising. Yet the day after the marathon saw the largest number of donations JustGiving has ever received in a single day – with more than 10,000 people donating at any given time! In just 3 days Claire raised almost a quarter of the £3.8 million that the Samaritan’s receives each year from individual donations.

Despite the bleak economic outlook we still clearly have the money to spare if a story moves us enough. Donations ranging between £2 and £250 have come from total strangers, people who had never met, or until Sunday, heard of Claire.

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of donors were giving to Claire and not the cause. Sixteen people commit suicide in the UK everyday; suicide claims more young men’s lives than road death.  But how many of these new cash donors would have responded with a gift of the same (or any) value if they’d been stopped on the street, received a call or been sent a mailing with this message?

By now there shouldn’t be anyone in the sector left debating the power of an individual’s story to motivate charity giving.

Donations on Claire’s fundraising page spiked when a picture of her taken the day before the marathon was released. We saw and heard of a young woman who gave so much of her time raising money for the causes she cared about.

This amazing outpouring of generosity is a vivid reminder of the power of storytelling to move and inspire us to take action

Claire’s the 11th person to die running the marathon in its 31 year history, but the first to do so since the explosion in social media. The proportion of donors giving online almost doubled between 2008/09 and 2009/10, but as of yet ‘Likes’ are not converting to revenue.

What makes this case so interesting is that there was no appeal, no ask. The same JustGiving page some of Claire’s friends responded to (others didn’t) was suddenly front page news. From the tragedy of one young woman’s death the world saw this simple message; no clever copy or branding…

hi guys as you all know i am running the london marathon it was just going to be for fun. but its a fab opportunity to raise money for my charity the samaritans if everyone i know could donate £5.00 that would be a great help and change lives’.

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