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The Zen of Fundraising

Ken Burnett. Jossey-Bass Inc.
Published 2006. £18.99+postage and packing.
Softback, 176 pages. ISBN 0-7879-8304-4.

If all that has ever been said and written about the art and science of fundraising could be distilled down to just what really matters – what fundraisers everywhere need to know – there would be only a small number of true gems deserving of the description, ‘nuggets of information’.

Ken Burnett, author of the classic Relationship Fundraising, has identified and defined 89 such nuggets for his new book The Zen of Fundraising, a fun read, one-of-a-kind look into what makes donors tick and – more importantly – what makes them give.

Nearly three decades as a leading international fundraiser have taught Ken what donors want and how fundraisers can best deliver it. To achieve their true potential fundraisers now have to really understand their donors and their causes, to communicate more effectively, to engage, involve and inspire their donors more consistently, to be extraordinarily good to do business with, to play smart and keep themselves and their colleagues motivated as they do it. In short, fundraisers have to ensure their thinking is right so they can get all their important messages spot on, appreciated, remembered and acted upon. This book will show fundraisers how to do all that and enjoy their work too, while they make the world a better place.

The Zen of Fundraising will entertain and surprise you but more importantly, it will help you to sort out what’s important and what matters, what you really need to know from what’s merely interesting and worth knowing.

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See also from this author Relationship Fundraising, Friends for Life, Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board, Storytelling can change the world and The essence of Campaigning Fundraising.

See below what professor Adrian Sargeant, and other reviewers have to say about The Zen of Fundraising.

Reviews of The Zen of Fundraising

In eZine 6, issue 18, ePhilanthropyFoundation.Org, USA, professor Adrian Sargeant wrote:

The Zen of Fundraising is classic Burnett, but unlike Relationship Fundraising it can sit neatly in your pocket to be thumbed on your travels or when there are a few moments to spare. The bite-sized chunks that comprise this text make it ideally suited to this purpose.

‘An odd title though? As Ken says in his introduction, the term Zen has come to mean “thoughtful wisdom and insights” and there are 89 of these “timeless ideas” in this text. No more than a page and a half is devoted to each so they come at the reader at quite a pace. Not all are new, extensions only of common sense, but it is always amazing how much of “common” sense turns out not to be common at all. Conference speakers, for example, have stressed the importance of thanking donors appropriately for as long as I can remember yet, as a donor, I’m frequently surprised at how few organisations manage to do this well. The Zen offers a number of suggestions for improvements here…

‘With 89 ideas there really should be something for everyone in this text. If you find just two or three of them to be worthwhile implementing, this little book will have paid for itself many times over.’




‘This book is wicked. I brought it because I started to work for a charity and I wanted to be fab at my job. It's simple and logical and easy to follow. A lot of it is common sense that we appear to have forgotton. Buy this book and make your fundraising more effective!!!’

J. Matthews , on Amazon

From the website of Nonprofit Charitable Organisations,, USA, Joanne Fritz wrote:

‘The Zen of Fundraising: 89 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop Your Donor Relationships by Ken Burnett is one of those little but powerful books that you will go back to over and over.

‘Ken Burnett is a well-known expert on fundraising and in this book he has employed the essence of Zen. A hallmark of Zen is “koans” or little parables that teach through stories, examples, and riddles.

‘Burnett doesn't make us solve any riddles, thankfully, but he does capture the heartfelt and wise quality of Zen with his little parables drawn from his own vast experience.

‘These bits of wisdom don’t seem obvious until you read them and then they do seem very obvious making you wonder why you didn’t think of that.

For instance, Burnett suggests that since we, as fundraisers, do not have unlimited resources, we must be choosy. He suggests that we focus on donors who really count. And who are those? A “real donor,” for Burnett, is someone who has given repeatedly over time. People who have only given once are “responders,” and not yet donors.

‘Burnett would use his resources to “ask fewer people for more money for better reasons.”

‘How commonsensical but profound is that? Such is the essence of Zen, and of Burnett’s book.

‘We loved this little book so much that we had to restrain ourselves from reprinting the whole thing right here.’