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…
- 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!
- 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!
- Thank, Thank, Thank
One of the main lessons I learnt from Simon was about saying Thank You… and I say it A LOT! 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
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.