Monday, 2 December 2013

What we don't know about supporter care...

Supporter care. Stewardship.  Donor relations. 

How do you look after the people that look after you?  Do your supporters even think that they need looking after? 

Supporter care is on my mind at the moment. If fundraisers had a school report and supporter care were on the curriculum my strong suspicion is that it would get a C- and a 'could do better.'  Because in the great drive to acquire and ask, the simple art of staying in touch can get forgotten.

Dorothy Donor

My mum is a classic Dorothy Donor.  A pre-war baby, she's now approaching 80 and gives to a number of charities. She's your classic DM favourite. She reads all her post. She likes human interest stories, whether they come from the parish gossip, from the local news or from a cash appeal. Instead of buying Christmas presents for her numerous progeny she sends goats to Africa and candles to nuns.

So how does she feel about supporter care?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Have you thought through the potential impact of Scottish independence on your charity? If not, here are 4 questions to help.

Well has your charity (or have you) thought through the potential impact of Scottish independence?  What does this mean for your organisation and for your ability to fundraise?  If yes, great and well done.  If no, where do you start?   

The Scottish Government will publish it’s white paper on independence this Tuesday and on 18 September 2014 the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide whether or not the country should remain part of the United Kingdom.  The prospect of Scotland becoming a wholly independent country has created many areas of uncertainty and has the potential to affect a range of matters which will directly and indirectly impact on fundraising.

In my day job I have started to consider the potential impact of Scottish independence on my charity (the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – a national charity working across borders) and I have been particularly grateful for the work undertaken by the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) in Scotland to stimulate the debate and grow my understanding.

In May 2013 the IOF Scotland published ‘Scottish Independence and Fundraisingwhich looks at the potential impact of independence on fundraising in Scotland.  The report presented the findings of 135 Institute members who participated in a survey and found:

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

5 Golden Rules for Writing a Fundraising Strategy

Collectivist Margaret here. 

Four months ago I skipped sectors to embrace a new Head of Fundraising role in the voluntary sector. It's a big job, transforming fundraising at a charity which is itself undergoing transformation at every level. 

Put yourself in my shoes. I've got a blank sheet of paper and strategy to write.  Where do I start?

Okay, that's rhetorical question.  Here's where I'm starting.

Not with money.

Rule 1: Fundraising isn't about money.

It's about enabling something important by raising money.  If you start with a financial target you'll very quickly go off track and lose one of the most important benefits of having a fundraising programme - its potential to affect the culture of an organisation

So where do we start?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Community fundraising: 7 ways to tell better stories

Did you go to the Institute of Fundraising Scottish Conference this year?  NO? Well, worst luck, neither did your humble friends here at the Fundraising Collective. And we missed out because it sounds like this year's conference was a stonking success.

The IoF conference makes for a happy fundraiser 

However, thanks to the kindness of our Collectivist Chums (like Carebear Cousins but without flashy tummies) all is not lost. We might not have gotten to the Conference but the Conference has come to us, in the form of Super Guest Collectivist and Chair of the IoF Scotland's Professional Development Committee, Gary Kernahan - back by popular demand (and no Gary, that's not stretching things).

The theme of the IoF Scottish Conference 2013 was Storytelling - and who doesn't love a good yarn?  Well our friend Gary is going to tell us exactly what storytelling means to him.  Conference, Schmonference.  We have the best bits right here!
Over to you Gary....

Monday, 21 October 2013

Seven Things I Learned About Writing at CASE

A couple of weeks ago I co-chaired CASE's Writing for Fundraisers 2013 Conference. 

For those that don't know, CASE is the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (and yes I do have to look that up every time).  It's mothership that gathers all us hapless education (and related) fundraisers up and spits us out with more knowledge than we had before

Collective Rachel shares her one golden rule
The best thing about co-chairing or speaking at a CASE conference isn't the CASE branded apron that you are presented as a thank you - though that is of course both stylish and functional.  It isn't the biscuits - though they are of an exceptionally high standard.  It isn't even having a good reason to play about on twitter throughout the working day in the spirit of live tweeting top tips from the speakers.

It's having the opportunity to watch the other speakers and learn from the best. 

So which seven pearls of wisdom have implanted themselves in my noggin?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Capital Appeals are their own reward

There are a few things in life that stand out forever.

First Smile by Inforcer on DeviantART
Your child's first smile. Watching your best friend say "I do". Getting tickets to the Stone Roses come back concert in Heaton Park.

And then there's the moment you see a capital project come to fruition. Not just any capital project, but a capital project you saw conceived. The one you helped through it's early, difficult infancy. The one to which you introduced donors. The one which had the vision your donors fell in love with - just as you already had. THAT project.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

What I learned at the IOF national convention and what I’m going to do about it

The Fundraising Collectivists are delighted to welcome guest poster Gary Kernahan, Head of Volunteer Fundraising at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign to our ranks with his first ever blog post! And a cracker it is too.... over to you Gary.

What I learned at the IOF national convention and what I’m going to do about it

I was very pleased to be asked recently to write this my very first blog! Originally I was asked to write about what I learned at the recent Institute of Fundraising (IOF) national convention.  But as several weeks have passed I thought it would be more appropriate to blog about what I’m going to do about what I have learned.

Quite often we attend training events and leave with the best of intentions meaning to implement everything learned back at work.  The reality of the day job, however, can mean those good intentions quickly fade and I was keen for that not to be the case.  So, with a spring in my step following the convention, I quickly went about working on my top 3 learning’s.

So in no particular order here are the top 3 things that I learned at the national convention and have taken back to my day job:

Friday, 12 July 2013

Capital projects and capital campaigns: the difference

Capital Campaign, Fundraising, Major Gifts Fundraising, Capital Projects
A couple of weeks ago you found me talking about IMP avoidance.  Imps, as you may recall are Impossibly Monstrous Projects.  The ones that are bound to fail.  The ones who will take you all with them.

Let's assume you have taken my advice and avoided an Imp.  You have been left with a capital project which has a half decent chance of success.  It has a Case for Support.  It has a prospect pipeline

In short you have half the tools for a fundraising campaign.  Half you say?  Yes half. There's more to a fundraising campaign than a case for support and prospects but more on that in a later post.

What IS a capital campaign? 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Working with Corporates – learning on the job

Now I am a one man band, I’m responsible for all areas of fundraising – including the previously unknown area of corporates.

So I've been learning on the job and thought I’d share my thinking to date.

Work out why they’d want to work with you?

Companies tend to have a different agenda to your regular donors. Some donate philanthropically to fulfil their ‘corporate social responsibility’ but most are looking for membership benefits, the PR that goes with being associated with you or exposure to your donors/members.

This is ok, (unless of course they are a company of dubious moral standing – in which case steer well clear) and the outcome is the same  - your charity gets more money to do its excellent work – but it’s good to realise there is a difference.

If you’re offering brand association – be clear to understand why this would benefit them, and if you’re comfortable with this. Are you selling your brand ‘too cheaply’ for the positive press it will bring them?

Are the membership benefits you offer what companies are looking for? Do they want invites to events, or would they rather their logo was attached to your latest appeal? Ask them what they are looking to gain from working with you, and then tailor your proposal accordingly.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Let your charity speak for itself

Case for Support, Fundraising, Multimedia, Digital, Audio, Communications
Last month I made the leap from the higher education sector back into the voluntary sector.

I loved working in higher education, but I'm thrilled to be working for a really fantastic voluntary sector organisation.  In the last few weeks I've been to services and centres in different parts of Scotland and met some of the most inspiring people it has ever been my privilege to meet.  

Staff and services users alike have shared their stories, laughter and frustration, showed me some of the things they really care about.  They've given me a sense of their history, passion and enterprise.  I have really felt the friendship and warmth that exists throughout the communities they built. I got to smell the earth in the community gardens, touch the blankets a service user had crocheted for a local hospital and share the laughter that echoed off every wall.  

Travelling back from these visits I've felt excited, inspired and moved to work as hard as I possibly can to get the resources these people need and deserve.  Bubbling with enthusiasm I've turned up home and tried to explain...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Trust Me... I'm a fundraiser

Every year NFP Synergy conduct their utterly fascinating Charity Awareness Monitor.  They survey the general public and find out interesting things like has anyone ever heard of you?  If they have, do they like you - or want to run a mile?

I recently had the privilege of attending a briefing on their Scottish survey and one thing really struck me.

People don't trust us.

And I mean US in the broadest sense.  You and me, charity friend.  All of us.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Fundraiser's Guide to Avoiding Imps

The experienced fundraisers amongst you know already know what I am about to share:

Imps cause mischief.

No, I don't mean by curdling the milk and making the baby cry. Not THAT kind of imp.  I mean the fundraising kind of Imp AKA Impossibly Monstrous Projects.

You know the kind I mean. "Dear fundraiser, your job is to raise money for asbestos stripping and tile recladding for the city's most hated building." [N.B. this was a real project]

Cue the soft whimper of a fundraiser searching the trustfunding website for that charitable trust that, you know, is set up to provide money for asbestos removal.  Right.

Not impossible, no.  But is it the project most likely to command millions?  Probably not.

So, how to avoid Imps? 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Is the problem fundraising - or planning?

Fundraising: the missing partner in your planning process
Recently, I wrote about private funding as a strategic lever for public funding. This is highly relevant for the higher education sector, but not so relevant to the voluntary sector.  Right?


Far too often voluntary sector organisations think about private philanthropy as money that fills in the gaps and keeps the lights switched on. Unrestricted is the name of the game.

The consequence of this is that private money - philanthropic money - is seen as a poor cousin and its true power as a strategic force is underplayed. There is a chronic fear of being donor-led when what is needed is

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Learning to be a strategy super-hero

Mask optional
Since I have started my new job it’s been non-blooming-stop. The combination of learning about a new sector and the gap between fundraisers has meant it’s been all about hitting the ground running and cracking on.

I am a fan of cracking on. Too often there is too much talk, not enough action. You cannot raise money without action.

But (yes there is a but) the downside of going at 100 miles an hour, is that all too often you don’t always know exactly where you’re going, or whether that place is even the one you want to get to.

So, with that in mind, I've been working on a strategy. Now luckily for me, fellow Collectivist Margaret is a strategy super-hero, so she’s offered me the benefit of her wisdom.

So, if you need to step back and take a look at your fundraising, maybe spending some time thinking about your strategy will help you find the right way.

Here are my tips on Strategy Writing for your organisation

Monday, 27 May 2013

Fundraising isn't just Fundraising. Fact.

Built in 2007, like many University buildings Edinburgh's Informatics
Forum was funded from private and public sources. 
Major gifts are worth more than their apparent monetary value.  So is any philanthropic funding. Fact.

This simple truth is attractive to donors. Fact.

When I write this, I’m not talking about fact that a philanthropic donation is made by donor who believes in what you’re doing and is thus an advocate for your work though this is also true.  

I’m not even talking about the fact that having multiple income streams de-risks your financial future, though this is something I firmly believe in.

I’m talking about the strategic value of private donations.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Keeping it real - and your supporters happy

I love Edinburgh during the summer festivals, really I do. I love that for four weeks every year, the city swarms with wide-eyed tourists armed with maps, guides, reviews and flyers. I love that on every corner there are artists and artistes - often in elaborate costumes and sporting outlandish face paints - shouting, posing, singing, chanting. I love that for this brief period of summer madness the streets and squares are full of pop-up bars, foldaway theatre venues and impromptu music spaces. Indeed - what is not to love?!

But all this - it is not the Edinburgh I fell in love with one January all those years ago. Sure, it is shiny and enchanting, but to me it is not 'real'. And it is not mine.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Blooming good boxes

I have just stumbled across a marvelous piece of fundraising, promotion and initiative by Homelessness charity Depaul UK, which I thought was worth sharing.

They have started a company - selling boxes.

In their own words:

"Where we came from

The Depaul Box Company was started by a youth homeless charity called Depaul UK. Instead of just relying on donations, we wanted to broaden our horizons and act like a business to raise money, rather than a charity.

So we thought out of the box. Everyone associates the homeless with sleeping on boxes, so why not sell boxes to help the homeless?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Reasons not to ask Elton John for a fiver

No way. I'm going to a party in the county jail. 
Okay, slightly facetious title, but bear with me.

Every year the Sunday Times publishes a Rich List. Every year celebrities Do Stuff for charity. We know about these things because they are in the newspapers and on TV.  If someone very wealthy or very well known does something - anything - for charity, we often know about it.

That's handy.

It's also unfortunate. Because if WE can read that information so can about 60 million other people. "Hey look! Elvis just funded Greenpeace because he wants to save the whale. I do sort of environmental stuff (well I work with donkeys) - maybe he'll fund me too!"

Friday, 22 March 2013

On looking before you leap...

Our lovely Collectivist Rachel posted recently on the trials and triumphs of crossing sectors and starting a new job.

It's a great post and great advice for anyone, new start or not. One piece of advice jumped out:

Agree to nothing

"Listen, ask questions and tell them you'll let them know.  Promising the earth on day one will make a very large rod for your back." 

Wise lady. Especially when applied to Major Gift fundraising.

It's a mistake to ask colleagues "What do you want money for?"  It's doubly a mistake to ask that question if the people you are asking aren't experienced in raising philanthropic money and don't know what makes a fundable project. If you ask that question you're making two mistakes (I know, because I've made them, many, many times):

Monday, 18 March 2013

Fundraising: the Art of being Invisible

Time to disappear
Want to run really effective fundraising campaigns and be The World's Best Ever Major Gifts Fundraiser?

Make like Sue Storm and turn invisible.

No really.

In his fabulous book, The Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications (read it!) Jeff Brooks makes the point that smart fundraising isn't bragging.  Smart fundraising puts the donor at the heart of the communication.

So that's no more...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Jumping sector: One month in

I have made a leap – from the world of Higher Education Fundraising, a world that was like a cosy old jumper, a comfortable old friend – to Arts Fundraising, which currently feels like a new pair of shoes that need breaking in and are rubbing the skin off the back of my heels.

It’s hard leaving a job and a sector that you know well. Going from being a relative expert to a newbie takes adjustment.  

I am one month into the new role, and this is what I have learnt so far about jumping sector.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Fast Fundraising... on your marks, get set...

Scenario:  you just got the teensiest bit of seed funding to dip your toe in the water of getting a volunteer project off the ground.  It's basically enough to pay a person (you) to work on it for three months.

You are desperately passionate about the project and you have the backing of an existing not for profit. Unfortunately, that not-for-profit, like so many, is fairly skint.  The cupboard is bare.  You need to stand on your own two feet... and fast.

What the devil do you do?

Scream? Panic? Run for the hills?  

Of course not.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fundraising... From Fig Leaf to Friendship

Capitalist excess complete with fig leaf
Have you ever asked a colleague to describe fundraising?  Or major gift fundraising in particular?

It's an interesting exercise. 

When you get the answer, "a fig leaf on the rotting carcass of capitalist excess," you might start to think that perhaps your profession has an image problem within your organisation.  

That's a direct quote, in case you're wondering. 

Whether working in a voluntary sector organisation or a university, we fundraisers can get a hard time.  Especially we Major Gift-y types.  People don't really understand what we do.  There's a suspicion of pushy sales, or dumbing down.  A whiff of schmoozing, or worse still money grabbing. In some places, fundraising is a dirty word. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

How to analyse your appeal letter

Would you like a tool that helps you simply see if your writing is simple enough, if you're focusing on your donor enough, if you're showing the need most clearly?

It's called 750words. is a free website was originally created to help people keep track of their daily writing.  The owner of 750words, Buster Benson, also created another website called HealthMonth, which provides a similar function to, except it helps people track their healthy activities.

The concept behind 750words and HealthMonth is called “The Quantified Self.” This means measuring pieces of your personal life so that you can feel motivated to continue with a course of action, whether exercise, writing, eating better, or some other edifying pursuit. How can you measure running every day, or what you eat? You report back to these websites.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

That difficult second gift

Donors are a pesky bunch huh?

You get them to make a donation, (no mean feat in itself) but can you encourage them to give again? Can you heck.

Retention of new donors is a tricky one.  Say you keep 20% of your new donors. You pat yourself on the back – you’re doing well with a difficult group. No. What you should be saying is ‘what on earth happened to the other 80%?’ Did they not feel their gift was appreciated? Did they think we spent their money unwisely? Did we even tell them how we spent their money? Are they (shudder at the thought) bored of us?

We all know that to grow loyal donors we need to make donors feel loved and valued. But what are some practical steps we can take to make that happen. Here are a few ideas.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Making your fundraising Case for Support work for you

This is one of my all time favourite images.

I promise you, it's nothing to do with the Titanic.

This image is what I have in my mind when I'm talking about a Case for Support in Major Gifts (or any) fundraising.  The top part - the tip of the iceberg - is what your donors see.  The rest is what YOU see: the Internal Case for Support (1)

That comprises a huge portfolio of material: interviews, reports, costings, strategy documents, surveys.  It's the vast body of information that helps to support and define your project.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Making the Ask

Fairy Dust - essential when Making The Ask

“Can you walk me through an example of Making the Ask?”

This is a standard interview question for a Major Gifts role.  I have sat opposite any number of candidates and asked this question, but deep down I don’t think it’s a very good question.

It’s the phrase you see.  Making the Ask. Sometimes I think that the phrase Making the Ask is the main source of the Major Gifts fundraising skills shortage.   It strikes fear into people’s hearts.  It suggests special technique or a killer moment, something shrouded in mystique and held up as a highly prized grail.

Which is, as it happens, a whole load of nonsense.