Making the most of fundraising from home

Howard Lake | 7 April 2020 | Blogs

Fundraising is all about relationships, engaging with all sorts of people. With the coronavirus social interaction has changed drastically, but what does this mean for fundraising and the relationships it thrives on? How can senior fundraisers adapt to support their team, supporters and collaborators?

Looking after your team and collaborators

At this time your fundraising team will be under much more stress than usual. There’ll be the impact on their mental wellbeing if friends and family are directly affected by the virus.
Good fundraising teams will also have a strong awareness of their beneficiaries. In many cases these are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and perhaps more susceptible to the virus. The Relationship Manager at Catholic mission charity Missio knows this all too well ‘we serve 1,100 mission dioceses in developing countries, and for those communities, this pandemic will cause far worse, unimaginable suffering, given the widespread poverty, lack of sanitation and weak public services in those countries.’ Whilst it is vital that fundraising teams have good awareness of their beneficiaries, managers will need to be aware that their plight will potentially add to the stress of their teams.
Previously this stress was mitigated by sharing with staff how the charity was helping beneficiaries. And of course, there was good old-fashioned office banter and chats which helped reduce all sorts of stress and built team cohesion. This is now missing. And with no end to the virus in sight, a new way of supporting staff and collaborators needs to be put into place. A structured way of meeting virtually as teams and for one to one conversation is vital. More than ever, even if there’s not much reason to meet or talk, managers need to ensure it happens, if there isn’t to be miscommunication and people feeling they are out of
the loop. Some staff will live on their own and work will remain an important social network, as this has changed with homeworking, good managers need to be aware of their role they play in their team’s wellbeing.
Staff may also be worried about job security at this time, as certain funding streams may be in question. Even so managers will need to remind their team of the principles outlined in Section 1 of the Code of Fundraising Practice, to ensure supporters don’t face undue pressure at a time when supporters themselves may be more anxious.
In recent years fundraising teams will have increasingly used audio and video conferencing, in my time at Stella Maris seafarers’ charity we used Skype across time zones for staff fundraising for seafarers’ centres around the world. Now it’s vital to step back and see if we are really using these tools effectively. Harvey Duthie CEO of the University of Limerick Foundation recommends a variety of online courses to consider and improve various skills for homeworking.

Looking after your supporters

As well as staff relationships, relations with supporters will now change. Good fundraising always focussed on the long term, involving supporters as part of the mission, part of the charity family. Now is the time to be more aware of the anxiety, loneliness and stress some supporters may be facing. And as one would with family members, now is the time to check in on them. Again, at Missio they have sent a letter and are ‘telephoning them for a little chat to see how they are faring, aware that some of them live on their own.’
In my own work at The Jesuits, I’m taking time to reach out to supporters with a considered personalised email with no ask, just thanking them and assuring them of our thoughts and prayers, always conscious of the consents to contact them that we’ve been given in this post GDPR age. For more on thanking supporters well see How to create a culture of thanking in your charity fundraising team.

5 tips for great fundraising with a home-based team

1. Check the IT won’t break!

Even if it’s working fine now, a failure with a dispersed team will be more disruptive than usual. So, ensure its being backed up remotely and staff aren’t saving work to home PC’s both for security and GDPR. Check with your IT support what provision there is for a system failure.

2. Get organised

Review your fundraising plan and make sure it takes account of the changed situation for staff and supporters, you may need to update it and ensure the team is aware of the changes. And of course, if you’ve not got a plan, write one! Individual staff plans will be more important than ever, for themselves and fundraising managers.

3. Get personal!

Diarise time to phone or video conference staff, keeping the formal and informal conversation going will maintain good will and team cohesion. Make time to phone or email supporters and other funders, both to thank them but also to let them know you’re thinking of them.

4. Keep up to date

With fewer office interruptions now is the time to schedule a little daily CPD; look at UK fundraising or other fundraising resources online. Most fundraising databases have free online training or user groups to upskill you and your team. It also a chance to review contracts and service agreements to make sure they working hard for you.

5. Switch off

The temptation to keep working past your normal hours can be greater when you’re home working. So, make sure you do something completely different to switch off; do some exercise, read a book to your children, or perhaps if you’ve been inspired by Howard Lake on LinkedIn, play a piano tune:

John Green (@johngreenn) has worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 20 years. After 17 years he recently left seafarers’ charity Stella Maris as their Director of Development. He is currently fundraising manager at The Jesuits and has a Masters in Voluntary Administration from South Bank University. In 2012 he founded the networking forum ‘Catholics in Fundraising’ and has been a trustee at various charities including Field Lane, Aberdeen Seafarers’ Centre and has served on the grant making body of The Plater Trust. He also plays the trombone.

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