#IWITOT; Mermaids & the Marathon Gamer

In February 2019 I spoke at SOFII’s #IWITOT (I Wish I’d Thought of That) event, a fundraising learning forum where fundraisers get seven minutes to talk about a fundraising campaign or idea they wish they’d thought up themselves.  It’s brilliant.  Lots of fresh ideas, new ideas and plenty of sparks flying for innovation.

I spoke about the January 2019 supporter-led fundraiser for Mermaids where a gamer, Harry Brewis, used his skills and online audience for good to raise £250,000 for Mermaids.

I’ve been watching gaming as a fundraiser for a while now and just an hour after my talk JustGiving launched their gaming fundraising tool; so I know there’s more exciting things to come!

Check out the video here and Simon summed up the gist of the talk with this quote graphic.  Cheers @ToastFundraiser!

 

iwitot quote

GUEST BLOG SWAP: Employee Engagement – Work It!

HeatherLeaning

Heather Nelson and I are hosting a blog swap to share our corporate fundraising ideas with our audiences across the pond (although Heather has been WAY more efficient at getting her article together so you get to read hers first).

Heather is an experienced and passionate fundraising consultant specialising in non-profit and corporate partnerships and sponsorship. Building great relationships that meet shared goals is her playground.  

Over to Heather…

Are you one of those fundraisers who gets the call from a company and then, when they ask about employee volunteering, you run screaming from the room?

I mean, I don’t blame you. Most fundraisers I know who receive this kind of request suffer a mild panic attack before finding a nice-ish way to shut down the company representative or trying to redirect their enthusiasm.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Heather, you worked for food banks, employee volunteerism has always been easy for you!” Well, it’s true. I’m the first to admit that food banks do have it easier. They have a clear, tangible offering that is ready-made for groups of volunteers. There’s a host of charities that have this advantage. It’s just not fair!

All valid points … but, are we done whining yet?

Here’s the thing: A) Just because certain charities have a clear offering doesn’t mean designing employment volunteer programs is easy. And B) What these organizations don’t want you to know is that anyone can do it, including you. Keep reading.

All fundraisers know that hosting an employee volunteer group requires time and effort (and a lot of it). If you want to raise some funds, your program has to be thoughtful, impactful and have a mind-blowing follow up. The truth is, if you want to grow corporate support, having the ability to support employee volunteers is not just important – it’s a must. And despite the seemingly obscene amount of effort that goes into it – it’s worth it.

3 Reasons to Engage Corporate Volunteers

  1. Employee engagement is important to companies because of (at least!) three factors: it increases their staff retention rates, improves their reputation internally and builds a positive workplace culture. There is tons of research on this, you can trust me! Or email me and I can send you proof. The bottom line here is, if it’s important to companies, and you want money from companies, it needs to be important to you.

 

  1. Corporate support can be fickle. We have all been in a situation where you work so hard to solidify corporate support only to have a staff member leave, and with it, the money you worked so hard to get. Engaging employees is a great way to build additional relationships within a corporation! I call this having a “sticky” corporate partnership.  Sticky partnerships have multiple connection points between the charity and the company, meaning that while you never depend entirely on one advocate, you’re constantly building a rolodex of champions, corporate representatives who are involved with your charity in a deep and meaningful way.

 

  1. People LOVE a good story. There is nothing stronger than the ability to weave together a story that illustrates links between employees, the cause, your charity and the company. It’s a win-win for everyone involved and basically results in one big powerful pile of (very marketable) awesomeness. Send newsletters, share on social, tag your partners and keep the message moving.

 

Now that we all recognize the need to engage employees, the question becomes not why – but how?  Of course, if you’re a food bank, an environmental clean-up organization, or an organization that requires bodies to build homes, the how is pretty obvious. But what about the rest of us?

Ten Heads are Better Than One

This is not a job for one person. First things first – gather the troops. Host a meeting comprising of program staff, current volunteers and whoever else is pretty much available into a room and start brainstorming! Come up with an offering or two that you have available, so when you DO get that call about employee volunteer opportunities, you have an answer. Remember, the answer doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to not be NO!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer placements on event committees
  • Support roles at your annual gala, run, walk
  • Participating in a quarterly focus group on different topics
  • Writing thank you cards
  • Decorating for your beneficiary holiday party
  • Providing homework support for beneficiaries
  • Mentorship program for staff, volunteers or beneficiaries
  • Building a joint workshop for other volunteers
  • Building a joint social media, awareness raising campaign

 

You get the idea. Be ready with something that you can offer up at a moment’s notice. Next, figure out what you’re asking for from them and think of ways to continue the conversation. Remember, they called you! They wanted to engage with you! So, engage. Have a conversation and start building a relationship.

And, when you do get those employees into your organization, treat them right! I mean REALLY thank them, make them feel awesome. Do not let them know how much work it was for them to be there. Let them know that you APPRECIATE them! In the end, that feeling is what will have them eager to move forward and continue to grow the partnership. And that, is what matters most.

Want to talk more, I love talking to fundraisers, especially those tackle the corporate fundraising challenge. Drop me a note heather@bridgeraise.com or tweet with me @heathernelson12

Heather Nelson is a Canadian corporate fundraising consultant, who loves cheer leading fundraisers on, cuddling her puppy and dreaming about her next vacation.

The Future Of Community Fundraising

I want to reshape the way we approach community fundraising.

I want to develop community fundraising from a separate entity within a fundraising team to an interwoven strategy. To add value and insight across the fundraising mix, whilst driving mass engagement with the key people who will stay with us long-term.

Think about it…

You’re developing a new fundraising product and need to know what your supporters want and will engage with. Who talks to them on a daily basis? Community fundraisers.

You’re researching a corporate partner and want to know how to win the next big vote. Who has worked with their regional offices, engaging directly with the staff who will be voting? Community fundraisers.

Who has regular, direct contact with lifelong supporters of your charity; people who give their time, skills and money to help you succeed? People who would be PERFECT for engaging in legacy conversations. Community fundraisers.

You get the picture.

So how can we do this? 

Reduce the pressure
Give community fundraisers the support and space, and teach them the skills, to build strong, long-lasting relationships within their communities; to find the influencers aligned with your cause to increase your reach and impact.
The future of community is strategic partnerships; faith and investment in the few, rather than chasing the many. Create your next strategy around this approach but most importantly teach fundraisers how to do it.
Choose loyalty over transactions.
Involvement
Make sure your community fundraisers are involved in discussions to provide insight as to what’s happening out in the real world. We hear the inspiring stories, but we’re also the first to hear the grumbles that could spark the next innovation within your fundraising team.
Be better at communicating plans and campaigns to allow community fundraisers to recruit local leaders and influencers to increase your reach. Share your corporate pipelines with community fundraisers so they can build personal relationships and grow a following before the social media ‘vote for us!’ push.
And you, the manager. If you’re responsible for the community fundraising strategy at your charity, make sure you’re in contact with the fundraisers and most involved supporters who are doing the fundraising.
Data is cool, but words don’t paint the bigger picture.
Share
Responsible for an event and spotted a supporter with a strong personal connection and an even higher fundraising target? Don’t just put them on the usual stewardship journey, contact your community fundraiser and ask if they’ve heard about them and if not, arrange to make it happen.
Invite community fundraisers to discuss their experience with your other campaigns when working with supporters and write community fundraising involvement into your strategy plans throughout all fundraising activity. Take advantage of the impact that having a human to human interaction can have on fundraising income. Read about Yorkshire Cancer Research’s £8,000 fundraiser from one participant by doing just this.
And don’t keep this to just fundraising; do your supporter communications reference their complete support of you? We LOVE that they give regularly and run a marathon for us each year, so why don’t they know this?
Review your expectations
Are your measuring tools pressuring supporters into ways of giving that are right for them, or is it for you?
Are you spending too much time and money on creating products instead of looking at a supporter’s overall potential and how you can reach it?
As communities become increasingly time poor, are groups still the way to go for local engagement, or should you be focusing on stewarding your donor to host their one event better each time, rather than asking them to host more?
Are your unachievable conversation targets encouraging fundraisers to spend their time with people who aren’t engaged with your cause, and harming your opportunities to spend time with the people who are?
Experience over targets
Individual team targets, geographical boundaries, focusing completely on the cash, job titles…all of these things create a sense of protectiveness within a fundraising team and dictates what is, or isn’t, part of your job.
We’re losing sight of the supporter that doesn’t care who looks after what area or what product, they just want to know they’re going to make a difference and that they’re going to feel good doing it.
Instead of creating processes that work well for you but complicate delivery, think about what works best from a fundraising support viewpoint; if someone wanted to give to you, is it as easy and enjoyable as possible?
Don’t just think of support in monetary terms. Who do your supporters know, what skills can they share with you, are they a passionate campaigner with big reach?
Invest
Once you acknowledge that community fundraisers are event recruiters, legacy fundraisers, storytelling extraordinaires, relationship and engagement masters, digital users, corporate managers, and so much more, invest in their learning in these areas to better their professional approach and watch your engagement and income soar.

Community, regional and engagement teams are on the rise, and for good reason. 87% of teams have seen growth in this area in the last three years with 71% ready to invest more in the next twelve months (Source: THINK benchmarking).

So let’s go beyond the bake sales, groups and (as one professional fundraiser referred to community) the “gopher role” reputation of community fundraising, and really use these human to human, local representation opportunities to their full potential.

If you’re already working on community engagement within other fundraising methods I’d love to chat with you to learn more. If you’re sold on the idea and want to learn more, then I want to talk to you.Let’s show what community can really do.

I elaborate more on what’s discussed here on Jason Lewis’ ‘Fundraising Talent’ podcast.

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NEW VOICES: “New To Fundraising? Seven Tips To Nail It From Day One” – Jill O’Herlihy, Mental Health Ireland

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 comes from Jill O’Herlihy who went from new fundraiser to income queen in a little over two years, even being invited into Facebook to tell them how it works.  Here she shares her advice.

Over to Jill…

“I kind of fell into Fundraising! I was and still am Head of Communications with Mental Health Ireland and I found aspects of fundraising were creeping into my work load on a daily basis. We never had anyone looking after fundraising with a small number of people taking part in event in aid of our charity, so this was a new role for me and for the organisation.

After being in this role for two years now, here are my top seven tips to anyone starting out…

  1. Get a kick ass mentor!

The very first thing I did was reach out to an organisation called Ask Direct in Ireland. I needed a mentor to guide and support me…. And boy did I land on my feet. I’ve been working with the fab Simon Scriver for the past two years, meeting every month, to thrash out ideas and strategies, complain that nobody understands, chat about the world of fundraising and drink lots of tea.

His support and guidance has been critical to the success I have had in my role and we have had such fun along the way too. As a lone fundraiser in an organisation it’s really important to have someone who understands the fundraising landscape and lingo and also understands the frustrations and struggles we often face!

  1. Get organised

I’m not a terribly organised person by nature but being a fundraising manager/ officer demands this. Your supporters are taking time out of their lives and money out of their pockets in aid of your charity so the least they deserve in return is an organised response to their queries.

This doesn’t have to mean an amazing CRM with all the bells and whistles, up til now I’ve been using a gigantic spreadsheet to keep tabs on everyone; when they contacted, what events they’ve done, how much they’ve raised and when we’ve been in touch.

As I mentioned, I’m not terribly organised, so I didn’t always keep this in perfect order but after nearly two years and finally a new CRM I’m training myself to input the data after every contact I have. Yes, it slows me down a bit but I know it will save me time in the long run and also help me with my #DonorLove!

  1. Thank, Thank, Thank

One of the main lessons I learnt from Simon was about saying Thank You… and I say it A 2935LOT! I love that much of my job is taken up with thanking people and I haven’t written so much with a pen since my school days!

Everyone who supports our organisation gets a handwritten card from me. I always hand-write my cards, notes and envelopes. I use a stamp rather than franking when I can. I personalise every response and sign everything with my own name and a little smiley face too!

The supporters love it and many come back as a result of the personal touch.

Remember to keep track of the thank-yous in that big spreadsheet too… a few of our supporters have received two cards on occasion!

 

  1. You’re a storyteller

I love hearing stories about people’s lives and telling your supporters stories is no different. Not everyone wants to share but there are so many people out there who do. I decided to ask our supporters via email why they supported Mental Health Ireland and I got loads of great and useable stories back and so much love too!

It was a lovely way to connect with them and to learn why people are interested in aligning themselves to our charity.

  1. Pick Up the Phone

So, I’m not very good at this one. I feel like I’m intruding on our supporter’s time and feel a little bit weird about calling them. I’m great reactively and can chat for ages so the talking isn’t the issue. This is something I’m going to change for 2019 starting with one call a week to a supporter to see how they’re getting on and I’ll grow this as my confidence grows!

I’m also going to schedule some time to meet with them face to face when every I can… I know it will make all the difference to their experience and will enrich mine too!

  1. Facebook Fundraising

If your organisation hasn’t set up Facebook Fundraising, then what are you waiting for! I was an early adopter to this when it first opened up to Irish Charities and it has been an overwhelming success for us.

jill in fb

Facebook Fundraising talk at Facebook

When we first started in Jan 2018 I was a bit stumped by how I might contact these people setting up fundraisers in aid of Mental Health Ireland on Facebook. So I devised a plan to thank them on their fundraising page with a note, which their donating friends could also read, inviting them to email me so I could send them a thank you.

This resulted in me getting name, address and email address for each person. I posted them out a lovely little thank you and in that process invited them to join our newsletter.

It has taken a lot of hours to keep on top of this but I feel it’s worth it. Our conversion rate to our newsletter is growing every month and it is beginning to come full circle with a small but growing percentage donating and community fundraising in aid of Mental Health Ireland.

There have been a few issues but I feel Facebook have ironed most of them out at this stage however overall it has been a very positive experience.

  1. Network

There are so so many lovely and wonderful fundraisers out there and the very best thing I did and do is to get out amongst them. Some are in the same position as me but most have a vast amount of experience that I learn from.

Log onto your country/ towns charity institute and forums and find out what’s going on in your city and further afield that you can attend. Get onto Fundraising Forums on Facebook to learn about what everyone is up to and maybe you can help someone with an issue they are having. Start snooping on social media and follow the Kings and Queens of fundraising for their tips, content and great banter!

So two years in and I can happily say that I love fundraising. I never ever thought of it as a career and now I honestly don’t ever want to do anything else.

  • Twitter @mentalhealthirl
  • Instagram @mentalhealthireland
  • Facebook MentalHealthIreland”

You can find Jill on twitter and Instagram @jilloherlihy.  Jill will also be speaking at this year’s IoF National Convention alongside Simon Simon about the fundraising strategy developed for Mental Health Ireland’s amazing success.

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And The Winner Is…! #DonorLove Celebration Results

It’s official!

After asking for and getting some amazing examples of #donorlove, we have a winner!

Before we get to that, I’m sure you want to know how we selected a winner of the £500, $842 CDN, $640 USD prize!

John and I selected 3 judges each and asked them to go through the submissions and select their top 3 choices. No. 1 got 5 points, No. 2 got 3 points and No. 3 got 1 point. We then tabulated all of the scores and the charity with the most won. Easy peasy.

All of the submissions were fantastic! With learning in each for everyone. I invite you to go back and have another look at the submissions:

New Donor Love (Bungee) Heights from Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home

CLIC Sargent Collette & The Donor Love Calling Card

The College of Dentistry Know The Donor Love Drill

Sue Ryder’s ‘Thank You Thursday’

Tibet Relief Fund’s Non-Stop Thanking

A lesson from a Pro

Farm Africa and Their Forward Thinking Thank Yous

Yorkshire Cancer Research (UK) & The £8k Marathon Runner

Our judges were:

Simon Scriver (IRE), fundraiser and consultant

The Whiny Donor (USA), donor

Viki Ward (UK), fundraiser

Derek Humphries (HOL), consultant

My mam (hey ma!) (UK), donor

Julie Edwards (USA), Executive Director and fundraiser

We can’t thank our judges enough for their guidance and help.

So – we are thrilled to announce the winner of our first ever, #donorlove celebration is:

The College of Dentistry, University of Saskatchewan: submitted by Stacey Schewaga

https://charitynikki.blog/2018/12/03/saskatchewan/

Derek Humphries has this to say: What I value so much about this is that the delightful things they do are not grafted onto the outside, but are actually deep on the inside of what they do. It’s not a tactical. Or sporadic activity, but sounds instead like it’s a fundamental part of the ethos.

We couldn’t agree more Derek!

Stacey shared with us: ” I wanted to quickly send you an email to say thank you for the call yesterday and sharing the news I was the winner of your Donor Love celebration/contest. I am still smiling ear to ear, with joy that what I have created here over the last five years is something others in the industry feel is gold star worthy. One always hope what you do makes an impact but it is a good feeling to hear others think you are doing an exceptional job as well. I’m honoured and humbled by this.

As mentioned I feel it only seems fit to donate to my college where I have the privilege to do my work. I would assume many of us feel a special connection to where we work and I’m proud of what is done here and all the wonderful people I get to connect with daily.”

Amazing Stacey! Congratulations again!

Thank you everyone for your submissions and keep your eyes out for another #donorlove celebration in the year to come!

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 

press.jpg

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

dee

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

simple

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

more

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.

surprise .JPG

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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