Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Fundraising's Image Problem

Recently, BBC Breakfast aired an item on street fundraising. Without a hint of irony, Susanna Reid introduced the subject by asking rhetorically whether 'chuggers' are a nuisance or a necessity (or words to that effect).

Now like many people I am not a great fan of en-masse street fundraising. I will even admit to faking an urgent phone call every now and then to avoid a fifth polite no-thank-you-I-have-already-spoken-to-your-colleague. However, I think it's unnecessarily rude to refer to people doing a useful job in a lawful and often cheerful manner as thieves or robbers (charity+muggers) on national television. Not even in a Robin Hood kind of way.

Similarly, newspaper headlines about fundraising often make me cringe. "Obama/Clooney Cash Grab To Set Dollar Record" referred to a fundraiser at the actor's home to "rake in $12million." Not a local rag, but TIME. Sensationalist verbs such as hauling, grabbing and raking do little to dispel the idea that fundraising is a murky business.

Bad press for fundraising annoys me. Not so much for the fundraisers' sake - after all, growing an extra layer of skin can be helpful for the inevitable cold calls. No, the reason why I find it hard to stomach is because it demeans the generosity of so many donors who genuinely care enough about something to part with their money in order to make a difference. Referring to fundraisers as muggers, rakers or haulers portrays donors as victims of evil cash-obsessed grabbers. And that's just not how it is.

Donors are great people. They listen. They care. They want to help. They are empowered. They are not victims, they are heroes.

Friday, 24 August 2012

My Survival Guide To Starting A New Job

Your first day in a new job is like the first day at school; you're not quite sure where to go, what to do and who to talk to.  I hope this will give you some advice on what to do so you can stop worrying and start settling  in.

Before your begin:
  • Try and take some time off between jobs - it will clear your head and give your body the rest it needs.
  • Research where you're joining, beyond their website. Find out who's there, what they've done, how they've grown, what their reputation is like across their industry. This will really help you once you get started.

I know it takes a lot of effort to get a new job so here are my tops tips for you to take away so your first day goes as smoothly as mine did!

  • Dress  to impress - it will help you act more confidently.
  • Be on time – allow yourself extra time that morning – if you arrive very early, go  and get a coffee in a (very) nearby cafĂ© and breathe.  Watch your timings at lunch. 
  • Be confident – if you aren’t that confident as a person, act it out.
  • Introductions – make it your business to introduce yourself to others.
  • Feel free to ask advice – people love to share their answers with you. 
  • There are probably lots of transferable skills from your old job, but remember that every office has its own way of doing things.
  • Go for a coffee break – get to know your new colleagues on a personal basis.
  • Never talk negatively about your old role or colleagues – onwards and upwards!
  • Keep your phone on silent.
  • Be the one who volunteers for something, no matter what the task - team work!
  • Connect with your new colleagues, add them to your LinkedIn profile and follow them on Twitter. I would leave Facebook for personal use.

Remember the qualities that got you the job in the first place. You’ll have plenty of time to relax into your new role so make the most of it and enjoy your new work environment. 

Good luck!

Niamh, @niamini 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Writing a Fundraising Case for Support: 5 Key Questions

A couple of years ago, I wrote some articles for Kate Clift's Six Sisters Fundraising blog on writing a Case for Support. Recently, I was explaining once again the purpose of a case for support and how to go about developing it and I distilled my thoughts into one simple page.  In the spirit of sharing, this is it...  

Case for Support 

A case for support is not a glossy brochure – it is your hymn sheet. It is a central argument, usually captured in a written document, which all the key stakeholders involved have bought into and feel ownership of. It tells us what the point of your project it, why we need it at all and why we need it now. It paints a picture of your vision for the project, and tells us what we can all achieve by investing. It also tells us how much all of that will cost.

“The case statement is not intended to be a marketing piece; it is the document from which all campaign materials come.”
-        Cathy Blankenship, Lear Theatre (like this quote? Find out more... )
Image by Howard Lake - yes he does pictures too!
The really important thing is that this meaty document can be distilled down into one simple argument – or with a really strong case, into a few choice words. It has at its heart your project’s heart. All of the stakeholders associated with your case for support can relate to that single beating heart. They own that heart, they believe in it and therefore they can talk about it. It makes sense of your project and from that, everything else flows.
The key questions that a case for support document needs to address are as follows:
What is the need?  Why is this important?  In determining this it can be useful just to ask yourself “why?” until you drill down into the core reason for the project you want to do.
Why are you the best people to meet this need?  What makes you or your organisation uniquely well placed to deliver this project?
What is the urgency?  Why would people need to give now?  Will it make something happen which needs to happen?  Will it stop something from happening that shouldn’t happen?
How do you propose to meet the need?   This can be translated as ‘what do you plan to do?’
What are you missing?  This is where the potential donor comes in.  What do you need from them to make this important project happen?  



Monday, 20 August 2012

The hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

If you are in the business of writing anything, chances are you like words. I love words. I love writing, because it allows me the luxury of time. The time to find the right word, the right phrase, to consider how I’d like to present my thoughts. No-body ever has to type ‘oh what’s that word again?’ in copy-land.

One of my favourite sites is letters of note. It isn’t a fundraising site, it is a collection of, to quote the founder, ‘correspondence deserving of a wider audience.’

It is a great resource, jam packed full with other people's words, thoughts and letters. If you have to write anything for your charity you should head to the site and take a look. If you don’t have to write a single word, you should head over and have a look anyway.

One of my favourite letters on the site is 'I like words.'  It is a brilliant piece of persuasive writing - something we fundraisers are constantly striving for. Written in 1934 by Robert Pirosh, it is the ‘begging letter’ of a budding screenwriter. He sent it to all the directors, producers, and studio executives he could think of. And it worked. After securing three interviews off the back of these words, he took a job as a writer at MGM and went on to win an Academy Award in 1949.

Here’s what he said

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave "V" words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around. 

I have just returned and I still like words. 

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

Another site I rather like is lists of note (do you see a theme developing?) 

This list, sent in 1982 by advertising legend David Ogilvy to the employees of his advertising agency, was entitled 'How to Write,' and consisted of the following list of advice.

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather.  People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like 
reconceptualize, demassification,attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.



And with that I have a donor report to write, and I’m paying particular attention to point 4. 


Friday, 10 August 2012

Top Tips for Public Speaking

We’ve all heard it before, public speaking is categorically the most frightening experience one can endure but in fundraising, it’s an inevitable part of advancing your career.

While you might not ever have to speak in front of the nation, you’ll likely lead meetings or be asked to present at a CASE or an Institute of Fundraising conference.

Like many things, the secret to public speaking is to look like you know what you’re doing. Here are my top tips to speaking like a pro:

  1. Memorise your main talking points Remember why you’re speaking in public because you know your stuff and you have something to say. So, channel that confidence and speak from your mind, not from paper in front of you. Do your homework and think through what you’re going to say and memorise your main talking points. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need notes, don’t use sheets of paper— they are noisy, flop and can show up a shaky hand from across a room. Use a notebook, clipboard or thick cards instead.
  1. Speak with confidence Public speaking is 10% what you say and 90% how you say it. It doesn’t matter if the audience is two people or 2,000—if you’re presenting, it’s because you have a reason to be there. Embrace that authority and deliver your content like you’re the best person for the job, even if you don’t fully believe it. Speak up, enunciate, and smile — it’ll make even a boring speech seem much more engaging.
  1. Prepare for technical difficulties If you’re already nervous, an iPad that’s not connecting properly, a faulty projector or microphone can seem like the end of the world. If this does happen make a joke to ease the tension in the room and win over the audience. You can’t be funny under pressure? Prepare something in advance as a contingency plan. 
  1. Ground your feet Nothing is more distracting to an audience than a speaker who’s fidgeting, or moving constantly. Try your best to plant your feet in a comfortable stance and keep them there. Whatever you do, do not cross your legs while you’re standing – people may think that you’re not confident and even worse, could cause instability.
  1. Make eye contact What’s the best way to connect with your audience? Look them right in the eye! Don’t let your gaze wander aimlessly around the room—it makes you look shifty and untrustworthy. If you find eye contact difficult, try this trick: look directly at one person for each full sentence you say. When it’s time for a new sentence, move on to someone nearby, and so on. Avoid the temptation to dart back and forth between opposite sides of the room; transitions from person to person should be smooth and steady across the audience.
  1. Keep your hair out of your eyes Give the audience an unobstructed view of your face so you can engage them with eye contact. If you really, really prefer it down, be sure to clip it back out of your eyes or think about putting it up.
  1. Keep your hands out of your pockets It may seem comforting putting your hands in your pockets when you’re talking but don’t do it. Not only does it look unprofessional, it redirects the audience’s eyes downward, calling attention away from your face. Your hands should be loosely by your sides unless you’re making a purposeful and confident gesture.
  1. Don’t touch your face A common reaction among presenters is to bury their face in their hands and sheepishly apologise upon making a mistake. Remember, public speaking is about confidence. Resist the temptation to say, “I’m sorry,” unless you really have reason to be. If you don’t call attention to your flub, the audience may not even notice it. And even if they do, your grace-under-fire will impress them. 
  1. Take a second or three If you lose your place or make a mistake, just pause, recollect your thoughts, and resume speaking when you’re ready. Audiences are surprisingly tolerant of a quiet moment—it’s better than the alternative of awkward stammering. Silence can be your friend, so just take a breath and let your mind catch up with your mouth.

What if you make a mistake?

We’ll be putting a list up of where you can come and hear The Collectivists at events near you.

Any comments of suggestions for speaking like a pro to @niamhini


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Major Gifts is a Team Sport

Health warning:  this is not a blog post about the Olympics.

I know it's good to be topical and all, but damn I've seen a lot of blog posts about the Olympics this week.  So this isn't one.  Still, always nice to have a picture:

Not a blog post about the Olympics.  But a picture just the same.

So if this isn't a blog post with a slightly tenuous Olympics analogy what is it?  It's a Defence of Major Gifts Fundraisers.  And here's why...

This week I heard a nice lady talking about Major Gifts fundraisers.  They were, she said, the lone wolves of the fundraising world.  Good major gifts fundraisers are lone wolves, general fundraisers make better managers.

I thought about this.

And I don't agree.

I vehemently don't agree.

Here's why:  major gifts fundraising is a team sport.

There seems to be a lot of myth making around the art of bringing in Big Money, as though major gifts fundraisers are sprinkled with magic fundraising fairy dust. Much as I would like to be sprinkled with magic fairy dust of the wish granting type, it just is not true.

Sure, there's a thing about instinct.  And there are particular skills - rapport building, sensitivity, sensing what's happening in a room.  But how are you going to get into that room?  Who identified the potential donor?  Who opened the door for you?  Who gave you the project information?  Took you on a tour?  Designed the publicity materials?  Wrote the reports?

And it's not just about giving credit where credit is due.  It's about recognising that it's not all down to you.  In fact, sometimes the best contribution a major gifts fundraiser can make is stepping to one side - recognising that he or she isn't the best person to take a particular relationship forward and handing it over to a fundraising colleague who is more suitable.

Really high performing major gifts teams aren't those where Major Gifts fundraisers are hogging key relationships to themselves.

Really high performing major gifts teams are those where teams are cross-fertilising opportunities, supporting each other and sharing success.

Really sharing success.  Not just with the support teams, but with other fundraisers.

If you're a really good Major Gifts fundraiser, you should be all about team.  

Lone wolves need not apply.