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?

1. Finding the compelling societal reason for the project we are raising money for is tough.  Try it yourself...  just ask "Why is that important?"  Why is important that musicians have somewhere to practise? Why is it important that we preserve art for the nation?  Why is it important for there to be a new sports pavilion?  Why does it matter?  No, not to your university. Or to your students.  Why does it matter to the rest of the world?  Test each other and be tough. Never forget - you're competing with cancer, sick donkeys and small children for that pound in your donor's pocket. 

2. It takes people 8 seconds to decide if they want to read your proposal. Your first 30 words are key.  Practise that hook! Use a story... use a quote... use a case study... use a fact.  But whatever it is, make it stand out.

3. Delete stock phrases. If you've read it before your reader probably has too.  That means they will skim it. If you want them to pay attention, be original. So no innovative, interdisciplinary centres... find a new way to express what you're trying to say. Forget "with your support...." - find a new way.

4. Rituals bind. This is a cracker for HE fundraisers who want to start extending their digital reach.  Is there a hall in which your graduates have always graduated?  Is there a mascot you all celebrated?  Find common ground and ask people to share their stories.... Facebook will be aflame with responses. It's a great research tool... and imagine that hall is your next fundraising project! You've built an amazing foundation for talking about it.

5. You can use social media to find out information and inform campaigns.  Raising money for bursaries?  Ask your alumni what their budget went on when they were students and compare then and now.  The differences can be startling - and provide an entry route to talking about what your students find challenging.

6. Digital communications can change the conversation. Don't believe me?  Check this film about how Troy, Michigan saved its library.

7. If you're running a conference make sure the clock in the conference room isn't fast. Or you might have half your delegates leave 30 minutes early because they're scared of missing their train. Oops!

And the most fun part of the day?  Seeing this piece of stewardship...  absolutely amazing!


So thanks to Kate Clift (Co-Chair and Proposal Writing Guru), Rachel Brown (Direct Marketing Queen) and Sonia Mullineux (Tsarina of Digital Communications) - and of course the fantastic team at CASE - for a splendiferous day of learning.  It's axiomatic that I would learn a lot.



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