12 points Richard Sved learned from day one of Fundraising Convention, 2016.
1. Combine energy with conviction
This was the standout lesson for me from the opening plenary session dedicated to Tony Elischer. How can we, in our own fundraising work, combine Tony’s mixture of strong purpose and dynamism?
2. Each of us is a channel
Richard Turner spoke about why the principles of Relationship Fundraising apply today more than ever, decades after its publication. In today’s connected world, we are all marketers, all channels, and marketing can be a conversation, he said.
3. Focus on impact, not attrition rates or retention rates
I was struck by Lauren Semple’s words about reconnecting with the outcomes of our work, rather than spending all our time treating our donors as statistics and focusing on ROI and ‘churn’ for example. To this end, she also suggested banning all internal email so that we can focus on reconnecting with the people we work for – our supporters.
4. Fundraising can give people hope and control
Louise McCathie spoke movingly about how establishing fundraising relationships with charity can give relatives a sense of purpose and control in difficult times. This can help them turn difficult times into something truly positive and celebratory.
5. Get your proposition right
Julius Wolff Ingham generously shared how a range of the appeals he has produced for The Salvation Army were generated. At the heart of it all, he said was the importance of the proposition. A proposition is not a strapline. It is a single-minded sentence, exemplified by these words on their bold and successful legacy appeal: “When you’re in heaven, help someone going through hell.”
6. Don’t forget to make people feel tingly
We need to dig, delve, hone and craft our appeals, Julius argued, but above all, they need to have that special something. We need to ask ourselves – “Does it tingle?”
7. Stay connected to your cause
The importance of building a strong connection with our cause as fundraisers recurred throughout the day. I was struck by Michelle Chambers’s words in the plenary session that staying connected gives our voices much-needed legitimacy, and by Paul McKenzie’s example of bringing dogs to team meetings. What is our version of the dog in the office? How can we bring our causes to us, so we keep them ‘front and centre’?
8. Harness the power of email
We underuse email as a sector and spend too little time developing a strategy for its use, argued Rhiannan Sullivan. 107 trillion emails are sent per year. We should think of email as a ‘digital passport’ she argued.
9. Get your board to own fundraising decision making
Liz Tait offered excellent advice on how to get boards to invest in fundraising. She tended to go them with a range of scenarios and benchmarking against competitors to help them to feel invested in the ‘journey’. They have always gone with the most ambitious scenarios.
10. Take your time with fundraising recruitment
These words from Paul McKenzie resonated with me. It can be a slow and it can be a pain, but we need to get our recruitment of fundraisers right. We should only appoint if we’re excited by the people we choose, he argued.
11. A sense of humour in the workplace is important
Retaining a sense of humour can be really helpful, it was argued. Not in a David Brent “I’m an office comedian” way, but in helping teams to see their work or the issues they face in a different way, as well as helping to bond them.
12. Stairs are great for rehab!
This is our first year at the Barbican Centre, and it’s a nice new home for the Convention. I somehow managed to pick sessions that took me repeatedly up and down six flights of stairs. Five months on from knee surgery, this was fantastic exercise. Thanks, Institute of Fundraising!
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