Fundraising 101

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

I used to sit by the window at a previous job. Great seat – looking out on the world below – contemplating how the money I was raising was making a difference, and taking inspiration from these thoughts to write the next campaign piece.

Every two weeks, the window cleaner would come by, I’d give him a wave as he washed the outside, and when he’d come inside, I’d offer to make him a cup of tea (being British and all) and we’d have a chat about the past weeks occurrences. I’d tell him stories about our charity and he’d recount all the weird and wonderful things you get to see whilst up close and personal with people’s windows!

Our window cleaner was a born and bred Cockney from East London. Dressed in ripped jeans, scuffed shoes and with an unkempt beard and a strong regional accent, he was your typical, salt of the earth, Londoner. No-one else in the Development team paid him any mind, barely even lifting their eyes to say good morning.

“So, what’s the point of this tale?” you may ask. Well, as it turns out, the window cleaner was a millionaire. He had earned a fortune in start-up tech firms and retired at 40. He cleaned the windows for local non-profits for nothing; wanting to give something back to his community and genuinely enjoying the work.

I found all this out when he turned up one day, clad in Hugo Boss, with a check for £100,000 ($170,000). He handed it to me, as I stared at him, dumbfounded, and he told me his tale. He said he had chosen to make the donation to my organization as I always made him feel welcomed and never looked down on him for his scruffy appearance and blue-collared job. I couldn’t help but wonder; would the gift have been even larger if my whole team had shared that approach?

Something to keep in mind perhaps; after all, Richard Branson was a high school dropout and Steve Jobs always wore jeans. Don’t judge a book by its cover; you have to open it up to get the full story.