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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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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Why You Shouldn’t Say ‘Thank You’

You’re livid aren’t you?  You’ve come here to skip the blog and leave a comment about how I’m a terrible fundraiser.  But hear me out…

I want you to imagine a colleague has just put a £50 donation from me on your desk.  Now, stop reading this and write me a little thank you.  Come back when you’re done.

Finished?  Excellent.

I’ll bet you that £50 donation your thank you started with those exact two words, ‘Thank you…’.  If it didn’t, you’ve probably been listening to the same people I do – you belta! (but please don’t hold me to the £50 bet thing, I’m skint).

Saying thank you to our supporters is one of the most wonderful, and important, jobs to do as a fundraiser and we should be thanking everyone as sincerely, quickly and as personally as possible.  Shouldn’t we then assume that supporters are going to receive a lot of these letters and notes all starting with the same thing; ‘Thank you for this…’ and ‘Thank you for that…’?

We need to STAND OUT.  But most importantly we need the supporter to really feel that we mean it when we say ‘thank you’.  That we LOVE they’ve chosen our organisation out of the countless others they could have given to.  That we are EXCITED to get to know them and share this journey with them.  That we APPRECIATE them and the wonderful thing they’ve done today.

I’ve been learning from the masters on this one and here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way;

  1. Don’t open with ‘Thank you for…’: make your opening sentence something personal about the supporter or your relationship with them before you say thank you.  Stephen Pidgeon teaches this and crafts emails and letters that make you smile, and want to re-read. Imagine having that effect on supporters?
  2. Be authentic: you want the supporter to know their gift has been seen and appreciated, and that this isn’t just an automated response.  Beyond a handwritten note, how do we do this? John Lepp at Agents of Good encourages us to stop trying to perfect everything! Leave the ink smudges where they are and embrace the coffee mark.  All of this shows the supporter an actual human has written the message; the imperfections on your note are proof of the handmade gesture of one person wanting to connect with another.
  3. Add a little something extra: and to really show the supporter you’ve taken the time to think about and do something for them, actually attach a photo, link or news story to your thank you about what will be done because of their wonderful gift.  Simon Scriver refers to these as our ‘paperclip moments’.  Simon says, “It makes it stand out and sparkle, and people can feel it in the envelope”.
  4. Pick up the phone: my favourite way to thank is with a phone call.  With a background in telefundraising it’s hard to kick the habit – and I absolutely love it.  It gives me a chance to get to know the supporter better and it usually leads to a meeting over a cuppa where more great things can happen.  And then I write my thank you.
  5. Be you: I absolutely ADORE these ‘before’ and ‘after’ letters from the exceptionally talented copywriter, Lisa Sargent.  Let’s add a little passion, personality, fun and masses of creativity into our thank yous and let the supporter get to know you, so you can start to know them.  With an opening line like, ‘Robots whir. Comets streak…’, you can guarantee they’ll want to read more and look forward to anything else you send their way.

So the next time you pick up your pen to say thanks (which I hope is very soon!), really think about what you’re thanking them for, the way you want them to feel when they read it and how you can get across that this is one person connecting with another.

It’s not about not saying ‘thank you’, it’s about saying it in the same personal way you treat your relationships.  The actual words, ‘thank you’, should be nestled amongst a glowing show of gratitude, which will leave the supporter with no doubt you really mean it.

I’d love to hear about the canny little things you do to make your thank yous stand out.  Tweet me @CharityNikki or get in touch at nikki@charitynikki.blog

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Frasier Fundraising; Seattle’s Finest Teaches us the Basics

Last week we lost the brilliant actor, John Mahoney.  Best known for his role as Frasier’s father, Martin (Marty) Crane, in the 90’s sitcom; he delivered some of the best one-liners in TV history and gave a gruff, loveable edge which won the hearts of millions of viewers.

I’ve never needed an excuse, but the news inspired another series re-watch from episode 1.  And like many of you who write about your work, I couldn’t help but notice some links to fundraising to give me a reason to write about my love for Frasier –  and be able to share my nerdiness with you.

So what can Frasier teach us about fundraising?

* spoiler & very tenuous link alert *

You are not your audience138381612

Let’s start at the beginning.  Did you know the Frasier series was created around the often rocky relationship between Frasier and his father?  The show was meant to be based on the contrast of characters; rough and wise vs sophisticated and exasperated.  But after the pilot episode, producers noticed the audience responded better to the interactions between Frasier and his brother, Niles; and the whole concept was overhauled.  Thanks to the change, what resulted was eleven amazing series of character chemistry and quick-witted exchanges, winning audiences and awards for over eleven years.  Pretty impressive.

No matter what YOU think or hope will work, if you’re audience isn’t digging it then you’re going to have to change it.  Find out what they love and go there.

If you’re wasting time, you’re missing out daphne

Who can forget the moment Niles falls in love with Daphne in Season 1? (“you’re Daphne?!”).  What came next was seven seasons (that’s seven YEARS) of Niles hopelessly adoring from afar and watching her fall in love with other men before finally asking her to be with him instead.  It drew in audiences and provided plenty of laughs but if this were real life, it’s actually pretty sad.  Because of his fear of rejection, Niles and Daphne missed out on seven years of building their relationship and creating wonderful memories.  Sound familiar?

Getting to know supporters is a wonderful part of our job but if you’re not asking them to give, you’re wasting time and losing out on income.  You need to ASK or they’ll run off with your ‘Donny Douglas’ of charities.  Which leads me on to…

Timing is important 

He was never nominated for an Emmy, but Frasier wouldn’t have been the same without Marty’s dog, Eddie.  His timing was impeccable and his scenes with Frasier was what got me hooked on the series in the first place (that, and the “I am WOUNDED” delivery).  During one of my favourite episodes, ‘Eddie the Wet-Nosed Reindeer’, he rushes in at just the right moment dressed as a reindeer for the Crane family Christmas card, adding extra hilarity to the ridiculousness of Christmas in October.

Get your timing wrong and you risk fluffing it.  Learn from Eddie and listen for the cues that your supporter is open to be asked and go for it.  It might be your third meeting, it might take even longer, but leave it too long and you’ve lost that magic moment where everything has fallen into place.

Don’t be afraid to take risks

If I mention the 1980’s sitcom Cheers, who would be the first character that comes to mind?  Norm?  Carla? Maybe even Sam?  Chances are it wasn’t Frasier.  Yet following the show’s end in 1993, Frasier was the one that got his own spin-off show.  Initially cast as a temporary character, producers thought they might be onto something and took a gamble basing the spin-off show on a character originally intended for just six episodes.  And it paid off; Frasier is the most successful spin-off TV show created and has over 100 awards nominations and over 40 wins.

Don’t be afraid to take risks; failing is only a bad thing if you keep doing it.  Fundraisers should feel supported and brave to try new things and not be afraid of it not working out the way they’d planned.  Wonderful things will happen if we try, learn, and better ourselves in the work we do.

I’m listening listening

How could I write about Frasier and fundraising without referencing this iconic, and relevant, catchphrase?!  In the series, Frasier utters this infamous line to every caller on his KACL radio talk show (voiced by famous actors!).  It told the caller he’s listening, he’s ready to support them and wants them to do the talking; and then he actually listens.  I don’t need to say much more on this one really.

Too often we listen to reply.  Next time you’re meeting a supporter, truly hear what they’re telling you; why they’ve come to you, how they want to support and what matters to them.  I love this TedTalk that teaches us how to be better conversationalists, take 10 minutes out of your day to watch it.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in my Frasier addiction.  If you’ve made it to the end without smirking at my attempt to pass watching TV off as work, you’ve done canny well!

There’s one final thing from the show that I’d like to share with you.  Watching the series, you watch the characters evolve and get to share some of their best and difficult moments in their lives.  Through it all Frasier is at the centre; driving the stories forward and, despite the moments when it doesn’t work out, brings a smile to the millions of viewers who are huge fans of the show…that sounds a lot like the wonderful job that you have.

So on that note…

Goodnight fundraisers, we love you!

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FREE Skills Training for North East Charities

Are you a fundraiser looking to develop skills outside of your role?  Are you a manager who’s interviewed the most wonderful relationship builder, but they’re not Microsoft savvy? Or perhaps you’d like to keep your learning sharp but your organisation doesn’t have the budget to support this?

Then I have good news!  My pals at Gateshead College have £7.5m of funding to provide local organisations with skills training & courses such as:

yoda

  • Events Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Data Analytics
  • Project Management
  • Team Leadership
  • ICT skills
  • plus much more!

Visit their website to find a course that’s right for you and register your interest.  Classes can be scheduled for your charity if you have more than 10 people you’d like to send along.

There’s no catch; Gateshead College provide the venue, training and trainer so we’d be ackas* to miss it!

Funding is available until July 2018 so act today.

Be sure to sign up to the North East Institute of Fundraising newsletter to be kept up to date with regional fundraising training, and North East Fundraising Conference news!

 

*ackas – daft