Fundraisers: think “Snog Marry or Avoid”!


Have you ever played the game “Snog, marry or avoid”?

It’s where your friend names three famous people, and you have to say which of them you would hypothetically snog, which of them you’d marry, and which of them you would want to have nothing to do with. Simple fun.

You haven’t played it? OK, just me then. Those 1980s winter nights in north west London just flew by, I can tell you.

Anyway, it struck me recently that fundraisers could usefully play a version of Snog, Marry or Avoid” when doing their strategic planning. I’m actually being serious. Allow me to explain how.

You see, I’ve worked in a wide range of charities over the last 20-odd years, and the fundraising picture is so often the same. They’re trying to do too much. The areas with lots of potential aren’t being developed well enough. And then there are the things we’re doing because we’ve always done them, or because we think it’s something we ought to be doing.

So why “Snog, Marry or Avoid”? We need to be much more selective in prioritising our fundraising, and this exercise, based on a similar premise, can help.

Do this: Write a list of your actual and potential income streams. Against each of them, you will put one word: “reject”, “retain” or “develop”.


Are you doing a type of fundraising or this event, say, because it’s worked for you in the past, even though it’s not working so well now? If so, have you accurately put in all the staff costs in order to calculate Return on Investment? What could you or your team be doing instead with that time? What are the opportunity costs, in other words? What is the long-term potential? Will you be bringing in people who might become longer-term supporters or is it a one-time only thing? Is it worth the candle?

If you have to pick only one word, the answer will become obvious. Reject.

Who will you go steady with?

Which income streams perform consistently well? It’s important to ensure that your income profile has elements within it that are stable and, within reason, easier to predict. Your ‘bankers’, if you like. Trust fundraising may fall into this category, although it can of course grow spectacularly too. Which groups of supporters or income streams are more likely to commit to support you over a longer term?


Don’t be afraid of commitment

And this is the really important one. Think about your longer-term vision for your fundraising – more than five years down the line. Which areas have you put off doing because you’re worried that there might not be short-term returns, even though you can see the long-term potential? Legacy fundraising so often falls into this category. Ideally, you will have freed a bit of your staff time by rejecting areas that were distracting you from the real prizes. And you’ll have the security of your reliable retained income streams. So this is the time finally to think strategically and finally pay attention to the areas that can take your organisation to the next level. What are the milestones and steps along the way that will take you there?


Yes, I know of course, your daily fundraising life is more complex than this. But this is the point. This can help you see the bigger, longer-term picture.

Play snog, marry or avoid, but do be careful about how you introduce the exercise in the workplace.

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Richard has worked and volunteered in the charity sector for over 20 years. Prior to setting up his own company, 3rd Sector Mission Control, Richard led the fundraising function for two national charities. He is also an NCVO consultant, and has worked as the interim Head of fundraising at several national charities. Richard's key strengths lie in charity strategic planning, income generation and communications. He blogs regularly about the charity sector at