NEW VOICES: ‘Lights, Camera, Capital Appeal!’ – Emma Leiper Finlayson, Sue Ryder

In January 2018 a fundraising friend gave me the chance to host my first blog on their site, and a phenomenal year of opportunities followed.  I wanted to do the same for fundraisers looking to take the next step in their career and asked fundraisers to submit their first ever blogs to be featured in a month-long celebration of new voices. Today’s blog from Emma Leiper Finlayson focuses on Sue Ryder’s launch of their capital appeal; from nothing, to £3.9m with limited resource and support. Emma is a phenomenal fundraiser with masses of talent, drive and enthusiasm and I know she’s going to make big waves in the sector.

Over to Emma…

“One neurological care centre expansion, £3.9m to raise, zero prospects and no database, and little or no awareness of the charity and the centre in the city.  This was a job for a PR specialist.

When I started my role with Sue Ryder to lead on the £3.9m expansion of their Aberdeen based neurological care centre, Dee View Court, there was certainly much to do, not least with PR and marketing.  It was a daunting task. I was a fundraiser, not a PR person. I’d only dabbled in PR in my previous roles, writing some press releases, organising social media feeds; I’d never created or implemented a concerted PR strategy. Initially it felt like two very different roles, but what the capital appeal has taught me changed the way I think about fundraising:  And my epiphany was this:  Fundraising is PR and PR is fundraising.  They are one and the same. You can’t do one without the other.  Perhaps obvious to many, but it was a game changer for me.

The need to raise awareness  of our appeal– and fast – precipitated my foray into the strategic world of PR, and it’s this that I’ll outline below: What we’ve done PR-wise to drive forward the appeal, and lessons learned along the way.

Read all about it – getting press support 

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A media partnership with a local, well read newspaper was essential for us to get the word out. We were fortunate to have a contact within the local newspaper, and so we formally approached for a media partnership. A proposal was prepared which outlined that we would provide them with ongoing exclusives, such as when we reached fundraising and building milestones, or when someone important came to visit, like the Queen!  Our proposal was accepted (right time, right place) and we worked with the newspaper to prepare an ongoing programme stories, aiming for two or so features a month. I quickly learned three things:

  1. Not all stories will be run: Because of our partnership, for a while we weren’t sending press releases to any other newspapers, and it began to feel like we were missing out on PR opportunities.  And so we changed tactics.  We discussed it with the editor and came to an agreement that if they couldn’t print a story for whatever reason, then we could release it to other publications. It means we remain loyal to our media partnership by offering them exclusives, but don’t miss out on opportunities to put out news if they can’t run it.
  2. Target your press releases: Every paper has a certain culture and we need to angle our stories as such.  Our media partner is a business paper and to appeal more to the audience (and for more of our stories to be picked up) we have to emphasise the wider impact that our expansion appeal will have on the local economy – such as the creation of new jobs in the area or the benefits to healthcare provision in the area.  Likewise for more family orientated newspapers, we send stories about individuals doing fundraising events – warm and engaging stories that aren’t always suitable for a business focussed paper. The result – we have more stories running about our appeal than ever before.
  3. Direct Calls for Actions are hard to get published: News stories will be published, sure, but with overt call for support to the appeal? Trickier. Newspapers want stories, not requests.  So we balanced up our media partnership by securing sponsorship from a local company to cover the cost of paid-for features directly conveying the fundraising need and ask.  It has balanced up well with the news stories and we always receive donations off the back of that specific ask feature.

 Choose your Social Media Weapons

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At the beginning of the appeal we set up the usual social media platforms, but as Aberdeen is a tight knit business city, we quickly realised LinkedIn was our best weapon for securing corporate support.  As we built up our supporter base, our contacts would share our posts, and in turn others would see it and we have literally received donations from companies just seeing us on LinkedIn. No relation to the cause – they’ve just seen others supporting it and decided to do so too.

And so we’ve ramped up our LinkedIn presence; we post about meetings with contacts and tag them in (thus ensuring their contacts also see the post), and we’ve started posting videos taken on our phone showcasing the building work and updating on the appeal. And it works.  Video content is so hugely popular –people tend to scroll past a post but not a video.  Our videos routinely receive thousands of viewings and consequently we’ve managed to secure a great amount of earned PR – I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met that have said they’d heard about me and the appeal by having seen a video that we’ve made.  Our appeal is in the middle of a lot of noise – and a number of other capital appeals – but videos are making us be heard.

A quick note on Facebook.  We initially used it to recruit for challenge events, but with a limited audience base and many other charities promoting the same running / walking / cycling event, it just wasn’t working for us. Again we needed to stand above the noise, so we organised something a bit different – a Fire walk, which no one else was doing in the area.  At the same time we realised that Facebook Events were blossoming and we, the fundraising team, were personally seeing so many new events in the city because of it, through people liking, sharing, or posting that they were attending. And so we created our own FB event for our Fire Walk – we had two sign ups within 24 hours and more coming through later.

Network like a Boss

Networking is face to face PR. Because we had minimal awareness of Dee View Court, least of all our appeal, we had to literally get out there and tell people about it. Likewise, because we had little (read: zero) contacts we had to get out there and make them.  We needed more corporate prospects, more potential major donors, and more community challenge event participants. And so for the first year of the appeal the fundraising team went to the opening of an envelope.  And I learned this: big level events like the Chamber or SCDI are just as important for corporate/ MG prospecting and cultivation as are your smaller SME or one person business.  Why? Because you never know what might come from that one person or who they might know. At a BNI meeting I met a self-employed person who wanted to take part in a challenge event for us. Turns out they were also on the board for a Foundation and through their influence, we were invited to submit an application for over £100K (note: we’re awaiting the outcome!). Never think that a smaller networking event won’t have the high level supporters that you’re looking for.   And even if they don’t, you’ve made a new contact on LinkedIn, and they’re another person to like, share and spread your appeal messages (and not forgetting the videos!). Their audience is now your audience too.

A Pause, not a Conclusion

I won’t say ‘in conclusion’, because our appeal is still ongoing and our story isn’t over yet. There is still so much to learn, but my newfound PR knowledge can be summed up in a nutshell.  Whether it’s traditional press, social media, or face to face PR – figure out the culture of your town, your audience, and your local press and tailor your PR accordingly.  What might work for one area of the country might not work for yours.  Be noisy with your PR, but make the right noise!”

To follow Emma and see PR and fundraising in action, catch her on LinkedIn (to see those fab videos mentioned above), and Twitter, @EmmaLeipFin.  Emma is also delivering a session about this appeal at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention in July 2019.

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NEW VOICES: ‘What Failing Has Taught Me About Fundraising’ – Andy King, East African Playgrounds

In January 2018 a fundraising friend gave me the chance to host my first blog on their site, and a phenomenal year of opportunities followed. I wanted to do the same for fundraisers looking to take the next step in their career and asked fundraisers to submit their first ever blogs to be featured in a month-long celebration of new voices. In the first of these guest blogs, Andy King shares an honest look at fundraising failures. Andy is a bright star in the fundraising world and there’s big things to come; as Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Fundraiser of the Year 2018’, Vision Africa trustee and self-confessed bad dancer, he’s going to do amazing things in the sector.

Over to Andy…

“In the three years I’ve worked at East African Playgrounds, the team have delivered constant innovation, experimental approaches and an openness to new ideas. This has led to significant success – two new fundraising streams and a huge increase in income. But it’s also led to some notable failures. An abandoned marathon project, rejected ideas, and much more.

On recent reflection, I realised that the projects we left behind have taught me as much as the projects we’ve taken forwards. As a sector, we’re so focused on sharing our success that we often don’t mention our failures. As such, I thought I’d share the 3 key things I learnt from failing in 2018.

  1. Keep it simple

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If you look like this explaining your new product, it’s better to start again.

This year, we attempted a project called ‘Festival Hitch’ – a combination of an existing hitchhike project and an existing festival volunteering product. We thought combining the best elements of both would allow us to create a truly unique product that would allow us to appeal to a wider range of students than either pre-existing programme. To be blunt, we were wrong.

What we failed to realise was that the best element of these products is their relative simplicity. Combining them created a complicated product that appealed only to the crossover in the Venn Diagram of the existing markets, leaving a very small selection of our database.

In our post event review, the over-complication seemed suddenly obvious. Even as I explain this now, I don’t know how we didn’t see it at the time. But it’s important to constantly ask yourself if the person on the street would understand what you’re asking of them.

It’s a similar concept to the fundraising advice of speak like an actual person rather than a fundraiser – speak to your ideas like a member of the public and see if you’re wrapped up in a product that excites everyone or just your fundraising team. Your supporters aren’t always like you.

  1. Really consider your capacity

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A fundraiser’s strategic goal for 2019

As I’m sure is the case in all fundraising teams, there’s a huge amount we’re not yet doing – we’ve absolutely nailed certain elements, but there’s a lot we’ve still not scratched the surface on. To use a broad example, our events/community income stream has been steadily growing for the last 9 years, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of recruiting supporters from schools or churches.

In times of strategising and re-focusing, it can be tempting to bite off more than your team can chew – more projects, bigger targets, higher retention – than can be realistically expected. Fundraisers are never satisfied with repeating last year’s performance; the goal is always “more”.

Having attempted for six months to get several new products off the ground all in one go (ranging from a fledgling corporate partnerships programme to the above-mentioned festival hitch), all I’d achieved was burnout. We had several projects looking like they might go somewhere, but nothing to show for the backbreaking effort we’d put in. The old saying is true – less can be more. After shelving the products that were moving particularly slowly, we were able to deliver above and beyond the initial targets of the remaining products by some margin.

The lesson of making incremental changes and introducing new projects slowly in order to give each one the best chance to succeed is one I will carry forwards until I retire.

  1. Some things work better in the background.

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Sometimes a product will surprise you

In the meeting in which we agreed that we were working on too many projects at once, we gave ourselves three options for each product – continue, abandon, and backbench. The products we put on the backbench were the ones we genuinely believed had potential. The ones that weren’t necessarily right for right now, but we weren’t ready to give up on. We kept them live on the website and decided to take a reactive approach with each of them, should we get anyone approach us organically.

To our pleasant surprise, both projects that we put on the shelf – a primary school fundraising pack and a new international event – have received a steady stream of attention since then. We’ve been able to follow up with the warmest of leads for these projects without putting the effort of prospecting in, growing their potential and credibility to be picked back up on in the future. Neither of them will revolutionise our fundraising team anytime soon but having the option there has allowed us to deliver our initial aims.

This is something I will bear in mind moving forwards – sometimes, it’s worth keeping something in the wings rather than binning it entirely. If you’ve already put the work into a project to get it on your website, for example, it may as well stay there. Even if you stop focusing on it entirely, you’ll be surprised what might come to you organically.

Overall, this year of fundraising has taught me a huge amount – how to spot potential, how to prospect and how to dream. But it’s also taught me to communicate doubt, share my failings and be honest about what I want for my team and myself in the future. In this sector it can often feel like you’re the only one struggling, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

So, let’s share: what have you failed in recently?”

Thank you to Andy for To learn more about Andy’s processes mentioned above and to share your failure learnings , catch him on Twitter, @AndrewEKing.

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GUEST BLOG: Charity Websites; Turning Visitors into Supporters

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This month’s blog is from Matt Saunders, founder of Charity Box. Matt is the founder of Charity Box, a social enterprise providing cost-effective web design and online fundraising solutions to charities. With over 10 years professional experience in helping organisations of all sizes, Matt is passionate about helping the UKs third sector achieve its digital aims. Thank you Matt for sharing what you know, and for giving me a holiday from blog writing over the Christmas holidays!…Special thanks also from both of us to James Gadsby-Peet for adding your digital wisdom.

Over to Matt…

In this fast-paced age of information-overload it can be tricky enough just getting visitors onto your website. Provoking a visitor to take positive action is trickier still, but not impossible. In this article I’m going to run through some techniques that you can use to turn passing visitors into brand advocates and long-term supporters of your charity.

Start at the start
Before we delve into how to convert visitors into donors it’s important to point out that you’re sending the right kind of people to your website. You can usually curate a following on social media of like-minded people who are interested in what you do, but it’s also very easy to send the wrong type of traffic. For example, if you advertise on Google Ads it can take a lot of refinement to ensure people are not visiting your website through similar, but ultimately unrelated keywords. Being mindful of your traffic, and having an idea of who your visitors are and what they want helps to increase your chances of conversion.

Creating personas to illustrate your visitors groups can help here. This video on YouTube helps to explain the concept if it’s unclear.

Tell a story
Once you’ve got the right people coming to your website, you need to captivate them. It is an uncomfortable truth that in order to get somebody to support you, you will need to offer something in return. In the third sector, this usually comes in the form of emotional currency.

Take time to explain to your visitor why they should support you. Show them how their donation – whether it is their money or time – will help not just others but also themselves. Try to tell a story interwoven with facts and figures to support your claims, and then ask for them to take action at the right moment.

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Prostate Cancer UK go to great lengths to provide engaging and informative content in their 10 Years to Tame Prostate Cancer campaign.
In this example we see persona use clearly – we’re introduced to Andy, a dad with two sons, Errol, a black man (whose ethnicity is linked to a greater chance of getting prostate cancer) and William, a 13 year old boy who lost his father to prostate cancer.
By utilising storytelling and keeping your intended reader in mind, you help to conjure emotion in your visitors which will increase their likelihood of taking action.

Make it easy

Accepting online donations from website visitors is surprisingly easy to get wrong, and with a myriad of tools and platforms it can be difficult to make the most optimal decision for your charity. Stripe or PayPal? JustGiving or a fully integrated system? How to handle Gift Aid? What about GDPR? The difficulty here – and the key to success – is making it easy! Regardless of which integration style you choose, try and keep the user experience clear and consistent, and keep the following in mind:
● Make donation buttons stand out – experiment with the colour, size, shape and position
of buttons and links so they are highly visible
● Ensure donation forms contain only the fields needed – don’t ask for unnecessary
information and make things complicated
● Remind the visitor how their data will be used in accordance with GDPR and privacy
laws to build trust and confidence in your organisation.

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GoodUI’s example of using contrast to bring attention to specific elements

Follow it up
When you receive a donation from a first-time donor make sure you have a system in place to follow up. This could be through an automated set of rules in a CRM like SalesForce, or a manual process where you contact the donor personally.
Writing for Charity Digital News, Janet Sneddon says “We know that nine per cent of all donors make 66 percent of all donations. Without data, however, you can’t know who those nine percent are. But when you use the data you hold to identify your most valuable supporters, you can target communications more effectively.”
When you interact with a new supporter with whom you are hoping to engage long-term, you can use CRM data to gain important insights over time either of individual donors or segmented groups (i.e. by location, age or some other relevant metric). Janet continues “Your data can tell you who opens what. It can tell you when. It can tell you for how long. Carefully analysed data will show you the recipients who never read a word, but will click on a video link, and it will show you the people who will take the time to digest a story.”
The key takeaway here is to not let a potential long term supporter slip through with a one-off donation, and to ensure processes are in place to nurture that relationship through data-driven touch-points. This is crucial to developing sustainability within your charity’s fundraising efforts.

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