In Part III, we share with you some key fundraising tips, wisdom acquired in over two decades of both working with clients and fundraising on the front line ourselves.
In April, I gave a series of fundraising talks in Mexico. Whilst there, I learned the wonderful term ‘working dead’, those employees found at every level of an organisation who fall into something of a long-term stupor within their roles. I refer to them as ‘zombies’ in my book Fundraising and Zombies: A Guide to Charity Management, but the ‘working dead’ works just fine, too!
Later this year, I’ll be pulling these tips together in order to create a comprehensive outline of the principles on which our profession is built, along with practical advice from a multitude of practitioners.
We give with our hearts, yet feel compelled to justify it to our heads.
This is a fundamental principle underlying our fundraising technique. If you can move a donor emotionally, you can encourage them financially. Nevertheless, they will still need evidence of the impact your organisation is having. That way, they can justify their donation. There are many ways your charity can achieve this, one of which is to create emotive narratives about how your organisation has changed lives. Bring the life of the beneficiary unexpectedly close to the donor — make it real. Satisfy the instinct we all share for a clear and sound reason to make a donation. This reasoning can then be passed on.
Leadership is not about telling the team what to do.
No-one would deny that management is about getting the job done — but leadership is an entirely separate beast. A leader shows their organisation what direction they are going in, explains how the charity is going make this journey — and what the journey really means. People follow leaders, they emulate their leaders. Believe in what you do, act with integrity and behave with professionalism and your team will follow! Don’t shy away from difficult decisions. Don’t be cynical. Look after yourself. Don’t let obstacles detract from how you inspire others.
Fundraising is everyone’s responsibility.
Fundraising doesn’t have to be a ‘necessary evil’, despite what some might say! Fundraising is the bedrock of any non-profit that aspires to be sustainable and that wishes to scale up the support it provides to its beneficiaries. We all must play a part, no matter where we work in the organisation. Trustees might give professional advice, open up their contacts, show leadership. A CEO might ensure proper resourcing for fundraising. In fact, any staff member can go beyond the responsibilities of their job description — in any number of ways. Ensure everyone in your organisation is fully informed about fundraising. Take the time to discuss how every individual can be useful — making sure every staff member feels valued is key. And, just as importantly, make sure you communicate — especially with those who may be sceptical about where the charity is going. Understand and address their concerns with respect and professionalism.
Deal with the working dead!
It’s common for individuals who have worked at the same charity for a long time to lose sight of their original motivation for joining the organisation. This might lead to them doing their job to a low standard, which can in turn lead to everyone else in their team feeling unmotivated. Don’t pander to zombies. You could lose the respect of your team — and they might lose pride in what they do.
It can be difficult to deal with individuals who seem set in their apathetic ways, but getting them motivated can do your organisation the world of good. It might be worth considering getting these individuals retrained, because, unless you can reinvigorate them with some passion, they might have to go. You may seek the backing of your boss if you intend to do this: whilst sacking individuals who are not performing is key to any organisation, many charities are still reluctant to do so.
Newshounds beat schedulers
At Amnesty International, we were able to make full-page advertisements financially viable because we pitched them against TV news items that depicted human rights violations. Viewers would see an atrocity, then that very same day be able to assuage some of the damage. We also linked our door-to-door, direct marketing and numerous other techniques to that event — and as close in time as possible. At present, TV remains the primary news medium, even though it is splintering across platforms. Of course, you need to be aware of what is happening in all media. Make friends with communications — but don’t wait for them to inform you of when news has broken!
Run with scissors!
If you’re not making mistakes occasionally, you’re probably not running fast enough with those metaphorical scissors! The world is evolving constantly. Your fundraising will fall by the wayside if you don’t continually adapt your techniques as fast as the environment is transforming.
If you want to be a successful fundraiser, you need to be adventurous. Take risks on dangerous new ideas. If your instincts serve you well, you will find success.
Back at the ranch
I just met with a number of NGOs in Mexico City, who are taking advantage of the impressive growth in the country’s economy to fundraise locally (even though this growth has been somewhat imposed on them, as Mexico is now considerably more developed as a country and therefore ineligible for the same number of international grants as it was previously). Mexico’s recently elected government is left-wing and intends to help the poorer echelons of society — but this same government is registering very few organisations. This means they cannot receive donations and therefore can’t fundraise (at least not legally). I sincerely hope the new government chooses to learn from the past and supports the poor, instead of taking over and making those same mistakes all over again.
As I wrote this, my heart was with the French people as Notre Dame burns, but I feel encouraged by the massive donations that have been so rapidly pledged — even before a fundraising campaign was started. Thanks to the extensive news coverage of a truly national tragedy, the story of Notre Dame has been assured to not end here.
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