Friday, 16 December 2011

Why can’t we all just get along? Why politics doesn't have a part to play in fantastic fundraising.

Last week I helped deliver a workshop about Integrated Fundraising at the IOF London conference – with a fellow charity chick @lucyinnovation. This was a new topic for me - and I was charged with focusing on how best to work together across teams and departments. So over recent weeks I’ve thought a lot about how best to work with others and the reasons why relationships with other teams can sometimes get in the way of fantastic fundraising.

I also reflected that the best piece of advice I was given a number of years ago was to stop spending my time being frustrated with colleagues and other teams and to instead invest all my energy in being as good I could possibly be at my own job and in raising money. Mr Tait's frank speaking changed my outlook overnight and rarely since have I let anything get in the way of raising the most possible money for the causes I'm passionate about.

But let's be honest personalities and politics can sometimes interfere with our work, our projects and our ambitions for fundraising. Making sure that people and teams integrate and work together is often easier said than done but at every level we have the responsibility and ability to promote collaborative working.

With any project, with any problem, with any achievement – we can get people together and share - share our vision, our goals, our challenges. That's before we even start a project but then we need to continue to do so throughout. We can bring our colleagues into the fold but then we need to truly value what they bring to the party – their perspective, their input, their assistance and their constructive criticism. 

We need to make sure people not only feel a part of it – but that they are a part of it. And yes this does take precious time that we might not have - and it can mean that projects are more complex and take longer to implement – but also that they will be more powerful. 

We are more likely to innovate, integrate and deliver fundraising campaigns that achieve stand out if we can work together with our colleagues at a time when competition for the donor pound is greater than ever before.

As leaders we also have a responsibility to make sure  integration and collaboration is central to the culture of our teams. I believe that fundraising isn’t and can’t be an island within a charity - we can’t and indeed shouldn’t work in isolation - because everything we do needs to be aligned with the vision, strategy and needs of the charities that we work for. That's why fundraising and fundraisers exist after all.

So in summary, we should all do our best to collaborate, because one thing is for sure our beneficiaries don't care about politics - especially all the lost and abandoned dogs and cats at Battersea.

Liz Tait
Director of Fundraising at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Become a freakishly good fundraiser

Thoughts from the Institute of Fundraising London Conference by Lesley Pinder.

What makes you a freakishly good fundraiser? This was the question posed by Rob Woods at the opening plenary of last month’s Institute of Fundraising London Conference.Isn't that what we all want to know? What makes the freakishly good fundraiser different? 

One reason for their great results, suggests Rob, is that not only do they believe in what they are doing but they are convinced that what they are doing is absolutely right.This really chimed with me. If you’re not convinced in what you are saying, then the person you’re saying it to won’t be convinced either. 

Whether writing a letter to a donor, convincing your boss to approve your fundraising plan or getting colleagues behind a campaign campaign - your heart and your head need to be in it. Not only do you need to feel what you are saying you need to KNOW it.

Rob’s suggestion was to write down the things that you believe to be true and then underneath them, write four or five pieces of evidence that ‘prop up’ this belief so that it becomes a conviction.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to rely on your own charity’s track record to back up your ideas - either you don’t have great data or you are starting a programme from scratch. And similarly for those fundraisers out there – like me- who are relatively new, you don’t always have years of experience to fall back on either.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. It means that you don’t get stuck in what has ‘ay bin’ (‘always been done’ for the non-scots out there) and can have a fresh approach. But, sometimes you can pull back from something you think will be brilliant and innovative because you haven’t got the conviction. 

When planning new activities, writing materials or coming up with new fundraising messages, it’s essential to have the expert opinions, examples of great practice and also the internal evidence to back them up so that you can move forward with confidence!

Thankfully, we are not alone!

We work in an industry where people are generous with their time, their knowledge and their expertise.  The IoF London conference sessions that I attended definitely showed this. Fundraisers celebrate successes  - Damian O’Broin shared his award winning door drop campaign for Women’s Aid for example – and we can also admit where things are hard or didn’t work - Craig Linton’s presentation on both successes and failings of a campaign was refreshingly honest. 

Most importantly, we also hold each other to account - Damian O’Broin’s and Mark Philip’s Mystery Shopping was a depressing account of how charity’s get supporter communications so very wrong.

This makes us SO lucky. And we should make the most of it.

I know sometimes conferences aren’t all that easy to get to – either financially or geographically – but there are a whole host of amazing resources out there that we can use to help build our convictions. 

Blogs like this one, or the Fundraising Detective fundraising blog round up, are great places to start and the Sofii website is invaluable. Most of the best fundraisers I know compulsively collect examples of great (and not so great) fundraising and marketing from other orgs and companies and I lost count of how many times speakers at IOF London talked about  brilliant books that have informed their fundraising.

And don’t even get me started about how twitter can make you a better fundraiser. I think that might have to wait for another blog!

Following Rob’s plenary, I have vowed to spend at least a couple of hours each week doing something that will build my knowledge and strengthen my experiences so that I can turn my beliefs in to convictions. Maybe one day I’ll become a freakishly good fundraiser too?

Thanks IOF London. You may have created a monster.

Lesley Pinder is Supporter Engagement Manager for Missing People.

On twitter: @Skipinder

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Can I sign up please?

Here at Charity Chicks, we receive a lot of emails from various organisations. It might be because we support them, or we might be signing up to check out what they’re doing (and to steal their ideas!).

Whatever reason we sign up, there is a huge difference in the quality, the length, the interest, the salutation, the personalisation – the list is endless. And there lies a different blog post to this one.

But we wanted to take a step back. How easy is it to sign up to receive news via email for certain charities? Are big brand charities making it easy for us? Is it an indication of how they view digital communications? 

So we undertook a very ad hoc piece of research (scientifically titled,  ‘Think of charity, ask people around us for some more, and look at their homepage’), to see how many charities would let us sign up easily. We researched 50 charities.

And the results surprised us. In fact, some shocked us. If you go to the NSPCC homepage you can follow them on Twitter, sign up on Facebook. But you can’t sign up to receive news by email. Same for UNICEF, the British Heart Foundation, Breast Cancer Care, Scope and Shelter. Suprised?  We were. 

And then there were the charities where we couldn’t even sign up with social media, let alone e-news.

At Charity Chicks, we’re fundraisers. We know the importance of the donation. It’s what we push for constantly. But we also recognise the importance of engagement. You see, sometimes it really is about donor choice. Some people quite simply want to read about you and learn more before they donate.

And email is a great way to do this. So, please – make it easy. Make it obvious. Because if I can’t sign up instantly, I’m likely to go elsewhere.  Average time on a web page is now 56 seconds. Are we really going to spend that valuable time searching for an elusive sign-up box? Somehow, I doubt it.

Here are the results of the research:

It makes for interesting reading. To steal the words of a blog we very much admire: all those in the middle column, give yourselves a raise!