Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The importance of being busy...and being not busy

I recently returned to work after a lovely, relaxing holiday. I had no wifi while I was away for the first time in forever, and despite the irritation at not being able to check the weather forecast for the next day (sunny) or how to get to the town (down the hill, aim for the sea), it gave me my first opportunity to reflect and think in such a long time.

I gorged on books and one of the reads recommended to me was “Reasons to stay alive” by Matt Haig about depression and what it feels like. I’m grateful to have not suffered from this debilitating disease myself, but one of the stories he recounted from a period of depression that really stood out to me was about a time that he had forced himself to go to the cornershop: it made him feel so incredibly awful:
“There is no way I can do this. There is no way I can walk to the shop. On my own. And find milk. And Marmite…Do it. Just walk to the shop…One foot in front of the other, shoulders back. Breathe.”
This had me thinking about putting myself out of my comfort zone. I do it a lot. I like it. I get a real buzz from having to do something that makes me uncomfortable or that scares me a bit: Presenting work at important meetings; contacting someone when I’m not sure about what reaction I’ll get; making that ask when you really aren’t sure of the response…it all results in a great sense of achievement and an endorphin high – a bit of a buzz. Obviously if someone says “YES!” – the endorphin surge is better than if they say “no”, but either way you’ve achieved something by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and that is part of our development as fundraisers.
So then I thought some more.
The best fundraisers I know as very, very busy. They find it hard to stop. They have lots of other interests outside of their job (though you often find they are related in some way to their work). They might volunteer for other charities. They mentor, train or coach their peers or speak at events and conferences. They exercise. They like to write, make jewellery or be creative in some other way. They don’t stop. Are fundraisers constantly seeking the high of being out of their comfort zone? Chasing the endorphin rush? Are we trying to do so much that there is no time to stop and think?
So what? Well, I have finally been forced to think about this. And, I think that we DO have to stop and think.
We have busy jobs where we are juggling internal and external pressures at every level as well as internal and external relationships. Managing teams and fundraising projects, budgets, strategies, networking and keeping up with constant developments in fundraising regulations. This is all before we walk out of the door at the end of the day and have all sorts of other challenges (or opportunities!) to get on with at home.

The space that I recently gave myself (or that was enforced due to my lack of connectivity) provided me with the space I needed to think about new ideas for doing things differently at work, provided me with insights into my own mind, and made me realise how I can force myself to have the time to think that we all need (running – no distractions from my thoughts).

Oh yes, we want to keep chasing that high, putting ourselves in difficult and busy situations that give us a buzz. BUT if we don’t give ourselves time to reflect, we will end up being distracted from the areas that need our focus and attention across our busy lives.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Ways to succeed at a Fundraising Interview

You're nervous. Hell, I'm nervous and I'm sitting on the other side of the table. The recruiting side.

Yes, my friend, this is an interview.

Image by Dani Lurie via Flickr (CC)

First things first, you need to know that I'm rooting for you. You've put in a lot of effort to get this far - you've polished your CV, crafted your personal statement, got advice from your partner, your mum, the bloke next door. It's a few hours of your time - if you're dedicated, maybe even a whole weekend.

I know it's taken time and I appreciate.

It's taken me time too. It's taken a while to craft that job description and recruitment pack, to diarise interviews and craft questions which match up to the job specification and competencies. Then there's the sifting and shortlisting. That takes a while.

All in all it's taken us both a good deal of effort to get to this point, so I'm rooting for you. I want you to do your best because this is my one shot at finding the right person. If you've got the skills I need I want to know about them.

I need you to tell me about them. Because I can only go by what you say and do on the day.

On exercises...

Monday, 13 June 2016

Dear Fundraising Candidate... 9 Ways to Improve your Fundraising CV

Dear Fundraising Candidate,

It can be daunting applying for a job. It's hard to stand outside of yourself and understand your own experience and achievements. It's harder still to package them up in a succinct, easy to read, stand-out two pager.

Filling in an application form is even worse. All the fiddly little fields and then a great blank space where you need to sell experience to people you don't know and who don't know you. You've got a job description and a person specification. You know you can do the job. But you don't know who is going to read this thing.

What do they want you to say? Are you interpreting it correctly?

And damn it, you've only got Thursday night to do the thing and your week is insane. Argh, you're tired and Outlander is on, and you really fancy a glass of wine and an early night. How did the deadline creep up like that?

Crap, your CV is six years out of date. When did you do that management course anyway?  You wish you'd made a note of the dates. And why didn't you update your CV when got that amazing gift. How much did you raise in the summer appeal? Gah, you can't remember.

Friend, I'm here to tell you that it's hard on this side too. I'm fitting in recruitment on top of my day job. I don't have time to recruit. Nothing stops to make space for shortlisting and I'm a person down - that's why I'm recruiting.

Interviews - yikes, that's a whole day out of the office! I've fundraising proposals to write you know. Targets don't raise themselves. And quite frankly, I like Outlander too.
It took me ages to put together the person spec and get everything agreed with HR and designing the whole interview process was an epic task.

I just want to find YOU.

The perfect person for my team. The person who will love this job and be motivated. Please, please, please make it easy for me.

Here are some things you need to know:

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Do you know what your next fundraising job will be?

Late Spring. The penury of the post-Christmas period is long since past. Sunshine has given you a warm glow of confidence. You're ready to shrug off the coils of your current role and step boldly into the future. Yep, it's job hunting season - or so it seems from the number of people I know busily updating their CVs.

Last year I participated in a panel discussion about fundraising careers along with two fabulous fundraisers - Chief Executive, Ros Neely and Institute of Fundraising's Best You Can Be ambassador, sole fundraiser, Julie Christie. It was evident that both were in jobs they loved.

So how did they get there?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Falling out of love - when a charity gets it wrong

Fundraising is all about relationships. The problem with relationships is that when one party gets it wrong, the other party can end up feeling a bit hurt.

And the problem for charities is that a hurt donor is very likely to take their love – and their money – elsewhere.

I’ve recently had a bad relationship with a big charity. I’m not going to name them, we’ll call them Charity X. But I will tell you where it all when wrong in our romance, in the hope that we can all learn from their mistakes.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

"I wish I'd thought of that... before finishing my capital campaign"

A few weeks ago I went to the inaugural conference of the Institute of Fundraising's (relatively) new Cultural Sector Network. 180 people were there for all sizes and shapes of organisation, a diverse landscape ranging from zoos to music in the community groups, from  major national galleries through to small local museums.

Whitworth Art Gallery extension: made possible through capital fundraising

Understandably, given the preponderance of galleries and museums, capital campaigns were a feature, with great insights from Jo Beggs of Manchester Museums, who ran the Whitworth Art Gallery campaign, Alice Devitt, a consultant who ran the Lauderdale House campaign and Jim Beirne, Chief Executive of Newcastle's Theatre Live.

Interestingly, talking to folks throughout the day, people seemed less concerned with starting up campaigns than about what to do afterwards.

You've had a massive push, been successful, the building is built/renovated/transformed - now what?

Is there life after a capital campaign?

Thursday, 31 March 2016

5 Possible Futures with the Fundraising Preference Service

This week I've been channelling Minority Report and pondering what the future with a Fundraising Preference Service (as conceived under the current proposals) might look like. 

As my last post might have indicated, I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Fundraising Preference Service as it's currently conceived. In summary, my views are as follows:

Should it be easier for supporters of charities to manage the communications they get? Yes

Should there be a Fundraising Regulator capable of ensuring Fundraising bodies adhere to the Codes of Practice? Yes

Should Fundraising bodies who ignore the Codes of Practice be held to account? Yes, absolutely. 

These things will bring Fundraising into alignment with all other professions and ensure that bad practice takes no root. 

Will the Fundraising Preference Service as it's currently conceived do this? No.

Is there a better way to achieve the above? Yes. 

Are alternatives being considered? It appears not. 

But what MIGHT the Fundraising Preference Service achieve? 

Well, let's see....