Sanja Djeric-Kane’s diary notes from the Fundraising conference – 1st in the series of 5

Sanja Djeric-Kane, KVA, Funding, Outcomes and Evaluation Officer, blogs about her key learnings from the FSI Fundraising Conference that are most relevant for Kingston charities.

This year’s conference celebrated the FSI’s 10th anniversary with the opening speech by Pauline Broomhead CBE, the Founding CEO of the FSI.

She pointed out that it has been a very difficult year for charities, a year with even keener focus by the press, however, fundraisers successfully demonstrated the impact of small charities in our communities thereby engaging people to support them. She invited fundraisers to be even more innovative and energised in getting a bigger slice of the giving cake which is not growing. She also mentioned that lots of small charities are looking at their mission and monetarising it, reiterating the importance of that process.

Cyber Security Plenary Session by National Cyber Security Centre

If you still haven’t done it (we drew your attention to it in the last year’s blog) have a look at the Cyber Security: Small Charity Guide on their website. It is free to print out and use.

New guidance: Response and Recovery Guide for small businesses (relevant to small charities)

And e-learning top tips for staff on how to stay safe on line

Maximising Stewardship

The theme of looking after your donors in the year in which donations to charities is in decline was mentioned in several contexts throughout the conference.

We are all extremely busy and it is ever so easy to use that as an excuse for failing to engage with the donors in a meaningful way, or in extreme cases, at all. Dana Segal, who chaired the session reminded us of the 3Rs for planning this engagement:

Receiving – make it easy and accessible

Recognising – make them part of the process of getting and spending the money

Reporting – let them know of the effects of their donations.

Some excellent ideas were shared by the speakers:

  • Sam Butler from Tibet Relief Fund spoke about his team organising ‘thank you days’ during which they phoned the donors, talked to them and (with their permission) recorded the conversations and then listened to them later to hear why people enjoyed giving to their charity and getting rid of the policy of not sending thank you notes for donations below £50.

He also reiterated the importance of being authentic in thanking – don’t use third party agency to do the thanking.

  • Tracey West from WordForest told us that if you are an international fundraiser, story telling is everything. She used personalised videos directed at more committed donors.

The one she shared with us showed Tracey in Kenya standing amongst 70, 000 pots of freshly planted tiny trees holding one of them and addressing a particular donor saying ‘this one is yours’ and sticking a label with the donors name on it.

  • Sandie Mattioli from Cockpit Arts talked about how intensive engagement with only 6 donors produced great result for their award winning social enterprise and the only UK’s creative business incubator for crafts people. Sandie’s tips were make it manageable ( 6-10 donors); send them emails about all the key milestones of the project, invite them to all of your events, send them reports after 6 and 12 months, acknowledge their ideas and have a specific follow up telling them what they did for the project and how they changed the game together with you. This obviously worked for Cockpit Arts as 3 of their donors stayed on with the organisation after the end of the project.
  • Lucy Newton who works for Arts Emergency told us how their charity has a considerable body of 1300 monthly givers. One of the ways they engage with them is by sending them thank you packs. The givers then thank them on twitter which further increases their twitter follow-up.
  • Some other suggestions: get the users to tell their story and thank the donor, but don’t forget your duty of care towards them and don’t exploit them for your financial benefit.
  • Lessons learnt: handwrite a letter; the whole team should be involved in stewardship; be brave, use a video to tell the story

Challenges and solutions of writing a fundraising strategy.

The FSI’s Amber Shotton spoke about this, reminding us: ‘Fundraisers are our greatest asset. It is through the fundraising that our charities do amazing things. Love and support your fundraisers!’

Challenge – Buy in (external and internal)

Solution – Naval Gazing (how are we doing things; do we need to improve our skills; what is our fundraising thinking like; what are our processes like; what are our quick wins; what do we do about engaging with donors

Solution – competitor analysing – look at their accounts and find trends in donations (If they can do it, so can you); look at their website and analyse their fundraising ideas and use them to galvanise your own community fundraisers

Challenge – Fear from thinking of alternative ways of raising money – Let’s talk to corporates; Let’s do crowdfunding.

Solutions: be ‘SMART’ – set targets and objectives to reduce the unknown.

Challenge: Unrealistic Expectations

Solution: Ensure you know what needs to be in place if you want to achieve the new target: increased hours; more people involved; fundraising committee; special fundraising meeting with the CEO every 6 months

Challenge: We’ve got the strategy now, but it’s not working

Solution: Use your strategy. Look at it every month and check how you are doing. Have a spreadsheet with target and revisit regularly. It is really isn’t working (e.g. corporate fundraising), move to a new approach.

Up next in the series is advise from a fundraising consultancy about tips on putting together a funding application - the do's and dont's.