I’ll never forget my first ‘voluntary’ fundraising effort. It happened when I was 12 years old.

Now, I’d done a bit of ‘involuntary’ fundraising before that. As a cub scout, I’d sold apples outside the beer store on Saturday morning. At Halloween, I got my orange box at school and collected change as I accumulated my candy stash. I joined my peewee hockey teammates selling 50-50 tickets outside the hardware store.

But, when I was 12, I took it upon myself to raise some serious money and start saving the world. I took pledges from family, neighbours and anyone else I could arm-twist – because I was going to walk 20 miles to end famine. I’ll change the name of the charity (you’ll see why shortly) to The Famine Project.

I’ve always felt very much at home with The Famine Project. I like the social justice slant they take to development work. I like it that they talk about the rights of the poor, and not just their needs. Over the years (many years, truth be told), I’ve become a steadfast supporter.

In fact, as I became older, I became a monthly donor, and ended up serving a term on their national board of directors. In short, I love these guys – and the incredible work they do in the Global South.

Last week, I got a newsletter from The Famine Project and gave it a quick scan. On the back page, I noticed a headline called ‘Leaving a Lasting Legacy’. Great! I’ve been advocating for some time now that this organization push legacy giving much more proactively.

Then I read the article, and things started going downhill…

The article was a profile of another longtime supporter and board member. It talked about his decision to leave a bequest to The Famine Project. The article contained a quote from this guy that read:

“The Famine Project family stands out as a federation that tackles the challenges professionally, fairly and vigorously.”


I was so surprised and shocked that I almost spit espresso all over my kitchen counter!

What was wrong with this quote? I could give you a laundry list, but here are a few of my top gripes:

  1. Refer to the people, NOT the ‘federation’.
  2. The words didn’t sound like they came from the donor. Rather, they sounded like they were written by someone in the marketing department who also writes grant applications to CIDA.
  3. The quote talks about the organization, and not the people who matter most: the global poor!!
  4. Finally, there was no FEELING. No HEART. No PASSION!

So how can you learn from this example? It’s simple:

  1. When you quote a donor (or volunteer), have them talk about the people who your mission was created for – in this case, the poor.
  2. Write like the donor talks. This means you need to listen to him or her before you write.
  3. Stay focused on the end game. In this case, the end game is ending poverty, NOT supporting the organization.
  4. Have the person you’re quoting talk about how she FEELS! Whether it’s fear, anger, hope or love, talk to the heart more than the head.

I know you’re asking, “Okay smartypants. How would you have written his quote?”

My version would sound something like this:

“I believe deeply that each of us on this earth has a duty to ensure that we do whatever we possibly can to love and help the weakest among us. I want everyone born into this world to have the chance to reach his or her full human potential. I feel a deep satisfaction knowing that I will have helped equip those who will continue the struggle for global justice even after my time on this earth is done.”

Or something to that effect…