Wednesday, 19 September 2007

insider dealing with fundraisers

One of the greatest experts on fundraising (and I had the pleasure of meeting him, and garnering useful advice many years ago) is Ken Burnett. But how does it look when his company is one of the sponsors of the Institute of Fundraisers Annual National Awards, and Ken Burnett is the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award? I have made my position over these sorts of awards very clear in the past, and this simply confirms my cynicism. Like so many awards, (from peerages downwards) are they simply rewarding those who put up the cash? Don't get me wrong, Ken Burnett is a very clever guy, and his company undoubtedly does a very good job for those that can afford them. But is it right to reward your sponsors with awards?

The Institute of Fundraising National Awards are "championing best practice in fundraising". I could paraphrase that as scratching the backs of those that scratch their backs. Particularly as the whole selection process is based on proposing each other. No one is actually going out and searching for the best. Surely, even within the fundraising world, it is NOT best practice, to give awards to those that pay for your awards? Or am I just too cynical?

Edited:Turns out I was being too cynical - and wrong: The sponsors of the awards are Burnett Works, which is not Ken Burnett's company at all - that used to be Burnett Associates, although Ken sold his controlling interest in Burnett Associates in 1999 to a management buyout. And as Ken Burnett points out (below) Burnett Associates not only doesn't sponsor the Institute of Fundraising, it actually hasn't existed since 2001. My sincere apologies to Ken for this error on my part.

But my views on awards remain unchanged. You only have to look at history to see how often the award givers get it wrong. Just check out the number of great films that never got an oscar. And Darwin didn't get a knighthood.


  1. If you are cynical, that cynicism is justified!

  2. Hi John Burton!

    Long, long time no see.

    I hope you are still thriving and challenging all the world's wrongs.

    Wonderful point you make about my Institute of Fundraisers Lifetime Award. If what you say were true I should hang my head in shame.

    But sorry John. It's not true at all.

    Burnett Associates not only doesn't sponsor the Institute of Fundraising, it actually hasn't existed since 2001. Anyway I sold my controlling interest in it in 1999 to a management buyout.

    Since then I've been writing about things up your street – see my 'Field by the River' on

    Keep up the good work – and keep being cynical too, please.

    All best,

    Ken (