Social Media & Professional Development; Little Digital Steps to Make Big Career Moves

As I sat in the Amsterdam sunshine, recovering from a week of speaking at the CEEFC in Slovakia and enjoying a moment of calm before IFC Holland, I couldn’t help think that without social media I wouldn’t have had these amazing opportunities.

I’ve written recently for Lightful on how to get started with social media for fundraising relationships, but social media has also played a HUGE part in my professional development too.  Without Twitter and LinkedIn I wouldn’t have built a relationship with co-speaker, Viki Hayden-Ward, that led to my first international speaking gig.  And without using social media to share fundraising best practice I wouldn’t have been invited to write and speak about my fundraising experience, which led to my involvement at IFC (and I would have definitely missed the Tweet advertising the opportunity!).

Social media enables you to connect and network with those beyond your immediate fundraising circle, be exposed to the brilliant ways of working from other charities and fundraisers, and gives you a platform to promote your charity and yourself to be noticed amongst those who are making big waves.

Interested?  Read on…

Getting Started

  1. I’ve mentioned this before but think about the social media platforms you can add the most value to and focus your energy here.  I’d rather do a couple of things absolutely mint (that means ‘awesome’ in Geordie) than be mediocre at everything.  Twitter and LinkedIn are the obvious ones for professional development, but with Facebook groups like Fundraising Chat, you may find that Facebook works for you too (I’m back on so be sure to say hi!).
  2. Be you; perhaps THE most important advice on getting started is to not be afraid to twitter2have your personality come out through your posts.  I met the lovely Joelle recently and was delighted when she said the person sitting across the table from her was exactly what she’d expected from my online presence.  Relationships mean human to human connections, get it started on the right foot.
  3. Find your tribe; fundraisers and leaders are increasingly active on social media and through their posts you will learn who is doing amazing things in charity, how they’re managing to do it, and what jobs they’ve got going at their organisation that might be your next big role! (thanks Emily for the tip!).  Search for fundraisers you’ve heard of and check their posts; following the fundraisers you like the sound of, and going on to check their own posts for more people to follow.  To get you started I massively recommend Joe Jenkins and Michael Sheridan (you can follow me too if you aren’t already).
  4. Connect with new connections; met someone at an event? Follow up on LinkedIn and/or Twitter to keep the conversation going. I 100% recommend personalising your LinkedIn invites or getting involved in online discussions with your new connection within the fortnight to keep you front of mind.
  5. Bonus tip: your timeline is getting pretty hefty now.  Use Twitter’s list function to keep your Twitter users in mini categories so you can find them, and their tweets, easily.
  6. Post! Much like a conversation, if you don’t engage, ask and contribute you’re not going to attract any attention or response.  Be sure to keep your timeline filled with relevant content about you, the work you’re doing with your charity, and get involved in conversations to entice people to follow and connect.

Getting Going

  1. Ok, you’re posting regularly and building up a bit of a following; go you!  Now we can step it up a notch.  Photos, and especially videos, are a key to online engagement; they get more preference in the social media platform’s algorithms and statistically users engage with these posts more.  Next time you post ask yourself, ‘can I add more value by adding a photo/video?’.  The answer is probably, ‘YES!’ – so do it.  Not comfortable with video?  I run a training session and/or workshop to help you so get in touch.
  2. As with supporters, the best way to spark a relationship is face to face.  If there is twitter3someone online that you really admire and you’d love to know more about them, ask to meet them for a cuppa the next time you’re near their office or at a work event together.  Show genuine interest, be prepared with the questions you’d love to know the answer to, and be sure to say thank you for their time.
  3. Stay in touch! Once you’ve built that connection, don’t let it fizzle.  Keep in touch with your new fundraising friends through, you guessed it, social media; get involved in conversations, drop them an occasional message when you see something that reminds you of them, and get involved in online conversations when you have something positive to add.
  4. Celebrate and return the favour;  it’s tough sometimes as a fundraiser so a little kindness goes a long way.  I love using social media to celebrate my fellow fundraisers and the amazing work they’re doing. And I’m always keen to repay the support shown to me through my career and pass it on to the newer ones starting their own.  Pay it back when you can.

Expert Level

  1. Wow, you’re a social media superstar now!  What next? After around two years of tweeting best practice I knew the next step to furthering my career was to start blogging but my gosh, was it terrifying. Would it be well received?  Did it make sense?  What if they don’t like Prince?!  Luckily I had some very supportive friends and an exciting idea, so ten drafts and a New Year’s Eve celebration later, my first piece was up!  Blogging is a fantastic way to elaborate on your tweet ideas and reach new audiences.  Get in touch if you’d like to guest post on here to get you going.
  2. Another way to progress and get in front of the right people online is to feature ontwitter1 other fundraisers’ online platforms; sharing relevant content and being retweeted is great, but guest blogs, featuring on podcasts and webinars show that you have something great to say, and that you have the backing of the host.
  3. Don’t be shy!  Once I started working remotely for the BHF I started to use Twitter to shout about my work; partly because I was excited and proud of what I was achieving, but mostly because I knew my bosses were on there and it was a great way to get noticed from so far away.  If you have a great fundraising success, share it!  It helps other fundraisers do better work and promotes you as a brilliant fundraiser that another charity would love to have as part of their team.
  4. Take it offline; since starting to speak for national, and then international, fundraising conferences I’ve noticed a big difference in fundraising opportunities.  It’s a big step but with practice, preparation and confidence it has a huge impact on what you can do professionally.  Couple this with ongoing social media sharing and watch your fundraising networks increase, alongside exposing you to greater and better ways of fundraising to improve the work you’re already doing (and giving you new things to post about!).

Development for fundraisers is a hot topic right now but it can be difficult to get started when looking for added value.  I hope these social media tips have a positive impact on your development but it’s important to use alongside traditional progression methods for the best results (networking, secondments, and putting in the hard graft for your work to speak for itself).

Get signed up, get posting, and get moving on up; see you on Twitter!

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How Social Media Can Help Fundraising Relationships: A Guest Post on lightful.com

This month I had the opportunity to share my fundraising social media advice with Lightful readers, thank you to Kirsty Marrins for the opportunity.  Read on to learn how to use social media platforms to have a big fundraising impact, and access the full article for free on lightful.com.

During my time at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), I’ve utilised social media as a relationship finding and building tool because – as the only fundraiser looking after a large corner of the UK – I need to be smart with how I work! It’s helped me find the doers in my community who are keen to support us, to communicate easily with volunteers (on a platform they’re already engaging with), and most importantly, it’s added an extra layer of supporter appreciation.

If you want to use social media to build fundraising relationships, here are three tips to consider:

  1. Think about where your supporters are and increase your online activity on those platforms; it’s better to be amazing at a few things than mediocre at everything.
  2. Do your supporters want to be contacted or celebrated in this way? Not everyone is comfortable with online relationships; supporter first every time.
  3. The magic happens when you personally connect. Anything you start online, be sure to take offline (safely) to find the spark that leads to long-lasting relationships.

If you’re keen to crack on and learn how social media can help you build relationships, here are the platforms I’ve been working with over the last few years and how they’ve boosted fundraising at the BHF… Access the full article on Lightful here.

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Low Budget Video for Big Impact; How to Build Relationships (& Raise More Money!) with your Smartphone

This month’s Fundraising Magazine features an article with myself and canny lad, Stephen Noble, writing about why community fundraisers should be generating their own video content on their phones.

It’s mad that fundraisers are only starting to use their mobiles for recording their own video; but it’s not surprising.  When you contend with GDPR and fundraising/communications/who does what battles conversations, it’s easier to shove the thing back in your pocket and say, ‘nah, that’s not my job’.why self-shot video_ (2)

But isn’t capturing, telling and sharing stories our job?  Video adds depth way beyond just words and photos, and can become a powerful tool for sharing the raw, and often breathtaking, story direct from the storyteller.

Not only that, but it increases engagement.  Did you know that you’re 95% more likely to remember a message from a video compared to just 10% from text?  Oh, you like those numbers?  How about the fact Twitter users are 120% more likely to share a video than images and text posts combined?! Mhmm, it’s that good.

But briefing, booking and reviewing professional video can be timely, costly and has the potential to miss the mark…that’s why community fundraisers need to feel empowered and supported to capture the magic as it happens with their smartphone for day to day activity.  Advice on how to make this happen is included in the main article.

For now though, here’s a few ways I’ve used self-shot video in my fundraising relationships. More tips given in the main article. Perhaps you could try one and unleash your inner Spielberg?

1. Engage beyond your corporate contact

You’ve spent so long building that important relationship with your corporate contact; you may have won the pitch already (go you!), but how do you make sure the rest of the staff are as engaged so they know why they’re raising money? Or it’s over to the staff to vote, will your message have made an impact beyond that person you’ve worked with?

Video gives us a chance to reach out and personally connect with supporters when company size and/or location makes it difficult to do it in person.

When joining the BHF I inherited a partnership with a Newcastle HQ and offices scattered across the UK.  To introduce myself and say thank you, I recorded a short video explaining how I was excited to work with them myself, who I was and how I could help, and what their fundraising had achieved so far.

Little tip: if you run your own social media channels for work, direct them to this in your video to keep the contact going.

Sent before an event or fundraising ask works wonders for your success rate.  And if there’s nothing planned, just to let them know they’ve been noticed and appreciated has a huge impact on their experience with you (which raises more money in future).

Which leads me on to…

2. Layer your pitch

Everyone knows about “the pitch”; the chance to show your potential supporters just why you need their support, and how they’re the ones to solve the problem.  You have your meetings, do your pitch and then you wait…or do you?

The corporate mentioned above were coming to the end of their partnership after three amazing years.  After a few meetings and a written proposal the CEO decided that staff would have the final say on whether we extended the partnership by an extra year.  I recorded a second video in a BHF lab featuring a BHF funded researcher saying, direct to camera, ‘my research is funded by people like you.  Without your support I can’t continue to research.  Please vote to extend our partnership and join me in saving lives’.  Guess what? They did.

Because using your phone to film is so accessible and cheap, it’s easy to capture footage like this when you’re out and about to use at crucial moments.  Follow up your pitch with a video reinforcing your message, saying thank you for their time or better yet, from a person their support will directly impact.

3. Show some donor love

Ok, so this is my top favourite reason for using self-shot video with supporters.  Not only can I record their stories to show their voice is important and needs to be shared, but I can record myself and others from the organisation sharing enthusiastic gratitude.

They’ve heard me say thank you a hundred times (& there’ll be a million more!), but self-shot video means when I’m with researchers, our CEO, colleagues or people whose lives they’ve positively impacted, I can record their thoughts and appreciation and show supporters that we’re loving what they’re doing.  What a feeling!

Ok this is a bit cringe, but here’s a thank you I recorded early in my smartphone video adventures following a pitch for a deaf-led organisation’s support.  At least I hope I’m saying thank you, my BSL is very rusty (and apparently a bit ‘street’.  Thanks Dan for dubbing Snoop Dogg over this…). I mustn’t have said anything bad because, they chose the BHF!

4. Show your impact

It isn’t possible to give everyone a tour, take a survivor to every meeting or in some cases, easily show where a supporter’s money will go without flying them somewhere.  So how about we take the experience to them?

Self-shot video means we can easily record an interview with someone you’ve helped, the building of a new facility or the moment a puppy is rehomed (send this last one directly to me please).  As community fundraisers we’re constantly in the field experiencing these moments, and to take a snippet to a supporter or share a clip online means you can bring them into your day and help them see where their donations are making a difference.  Also, I need more puppy content on my timeline.

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself..png

I’m very fortunate to work for an organisation that encourages its fundraisers to record their own content, and I never hesitate to capture a moment that makes me think, ‘I want our supporters to see this’.

It’s key that community fundraisers are encouraged and supported to capture and share their own video.  This may mean additional training in making sure everything has the same ‘voice’ or follows the right rules, but it’s definitely worth the investment.  Community fundraisers are the on-the-ground relationship builders who are meeting people, attending events and quickly become tuned in to spotting an opportunity.  If they need to come back to the office, send an email, find the budget and set up the filming, you might have missed out big time.

For the full article and Stephen’s advice on when the professionals can help you out with strategy and long term goals, subscribe to Civil Society today and have a read!

Shooting your own video is fun and has a big impact but if it looks terrible, is anyone watching?  Next month’s blog will feature learnings I’ve picked up along the way to make your videos POP.  Subscribe and make sure you don’t miss out on the advice!

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