The Primark Approach

Jason Lewis has a great book out there — the War for Fundraising Talent. It is a real eye-opener and I have learned quite a few new things.

Lewis quotes Mark Astarita’s comments in 2014 (Astarita was the chair of the Institute of Fundraising and the head of fundraising at the British Red Cross). He noted that nonprofits ask for small donations to attract more donors; in effect, they have lowered their expectations. Astarita characterized this method of fundraising as the “Primark approach”. Primark, an Irish retailer, now sells more clothes than any other retailer in Britain. Some say Primark has contributed to a culture of disposable fashion: consumers are encouraged to buy heaps of items and quickly discard them after a few wears.

Lewis goes on, saying that for retailers like Primark, the company makes its money on volume; the cheaper the goods are, the more of them shoppers buy, and the quicker they come back for more.

Lewis states over and over that the [fundraising] system needs to change. We need to focus on relationships. Just as Primark focuses on ‘disposable’ gifts, so too do mass appeals — it is next to impossible to create a relationship with donors through mass appeals. (My caveat is that some donors actually prefer this modality, but they are the outliers, not the norm).