Create a culture of giving

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There is nothing worse than walking into an organisation as their newly appointed fundraiser and realising that EVERYONE thinks your job is a nuisance! People don’t understand why you can’t get on with it over in your fundraising corner and they don’t see why they need to provide you with information about current projects or outcomes. When there is no culture of giving, there is poor fundraising and often low-morale.

By all means, you can try and get on with it flying solo as much as you can, and you may even get a few small wins that might catch some brief attention, but if you do not create a culture of giving and an understanding of why fundraising is important you are going to struggle.

Step 1. Everyone in your organisation should be funding aware.

Everyone should know what the current fundraising projects are and they should all understand the need behind raising funds for these things. (For example, if you have a service helpline and it doesn’t have enough funding for the year, all staff should know that unless funding is secured the helpline will close and beneficiaries will lose out.)  By asking for positive outcome stories and for stats on numbers of calls, you are not being a pest; you are ensuring you have a really strong case for support and improving the potential outcome of your fundraising efforts. Make sure staff know this and understand why you are asking them for things and your life should be a little easier!

Step 2. Get other members of staff on board

Getting other members of staff on board can be a struggle and if there is real resistance to fundraising, training is key. Sometimes staff are simply unaware of the financial need for fundraising and the reality if funding is not secured. Many staff working in non-profits care very deeply about the cause and would hate to see it suffer. Therefore, educating staff on how fundraising can make a difference, advising them on your aims for the coming year and what you expect from them in advance will make a big difference. Busy staff don’t like to be bombarded by unexpected work but if they know in advance and understand why you need it and what you hope to achieve, they are likely to be much warmer to you and your fundraising efforts.

Step 3. Keep them updated!

Keeping everyone in the loop on how things are going and praising those who’ve been helpful in achieving certain outcomes will keep people interested and energised. Feeling like part of the solution for an organisation that needs funding will really help staff take ownership and even be proactive around the things you are hoping to do. After a while, they might start coming to you with great stories they’ve heard or reports on how your organisation is making a difference. Feeling valued and appreciated will really encourage other staff to want to help you! Keeping staff updated can be really simple – it doesn’t have to be complicated! An email to all staff every few weeks with information and an update is enough and then a 10 minute cake break all together to report something really fantastic!

Following these three steps will help you create a culture of giving and funding awareness in your organisation, bringing people on board to your aims and overall benefitting your cause!

Have you had any experience in creating a culture of giving? Or is your organisation already great at this? Have you got any other tips on creating a culture of giving? I’d love to hear from you so please do comment and share!

When people say charity employees should work for free

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I was recently getting to know someone when the conversation lead to what I do as a job. He seemed very interested my work as a fundraiser and was asking lots of questions about our mission; all was well… Until he said ‘I don’t understand though, shouldn’t people in charities work for free?’

Damn – another one bites the dust!

Why is it that this assumption is still being made? Why do charities still have to justify paying for talent and skills to bring their missions to fruition? Yes, there are a small number of very large charities that pay six-figure salaries to their chief executives, however the trend is that salaries of that scale are only given when the charities have an annual revenue of more than £25m! Not exactly standard in the sector when you consider that approximately 25% of charities have a turnover of less than £100,000 per year!

If you are talented, driven and benefitting your cause with the work that you do, why shouldn’t you be paid a fair and appropriate salary for your contribution? And if a charity is offering a low salary for a job that requires expertise and extensive knowledge, they run the risk of hiring under qualified, inexperienced staff, which will ultimately harm the organisation and prevent it from achieving its’ goal. The salaries need to match the role.

If your organisation is transparent in their spending and income and salaries are clearly demonstrated for donors to see and scrutinise, then it is in the donors’ hands to decide if the charity is spending money appropriately in an effort to fulfil their mission. Being a fundraiser does not mean working for no salary, but it does mean working as hard as possible to ensure your organisation is getting the best value for their investment in your skills, knowledge and experience.

Building trust with supporters is essential in ensuring their continued interest and contribution. If a charity is up front with their information, and is spending in a responsible way to ensure their mission is carried why shouldn’t they pay their hard-working staff?

Have you ever been questioned about paying staff at your organisation? Do you agree that pay should match the skills required for any job, even if it is in the non-profit sector? How would you answer someone questioning charity pay? I’d love to hear from you and get your experiences!

How close is too close? Keeping it professional with donors

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Fundraisers often create relationships with donors, which can be quite personal and while this can be great from a fundraising perspective (knowing your donors’ interests, what projects they might be likely to fund and their connection to the organisation), it sometimes begs the question ‘How close is too close?’

It is perfectly acceptable to take a potential donor to lunch and ask them about how they became involved in the organisation and what they would like to see your organisation achieve. It is also professional to follow this meeting up with a hand-written thank you note to show your gratitude for them giving up their precious time. But, when does this relationship become too close? And how should we as fundraisers handle it when lines become blurred?

These are questions I had to face as a very young fundraiser in my first role. I had made a great connection with a donor, who was interested in our work, wanted to be further involved and was attending events regularly. It began professionally enough, with emails asking how projects were going and phone calls to confirm details of meetings. However, at one particular drinks reception, this particular donor pushed the level of our professional relationship to an uncomfortable level. Throughout the evening he consistently tried to hug me, put his arms around me and say things to other attendees like ‘Isn’t she great? Hasn’t her work done well?’ whilst firmly keeping hold of me.

As someone who is not keen on physical contact, this entire evening made me very uncomfortable, to the point where I even mouthed to a senior member of staff to ‘help me’. But, as a young, relatively inexperienced fundraiser, I had no idea how to handle this donor. After all, he was making significant contributions to our work and giving a great deal of financial support. If I had asked him to remove his hands from me, would I have ruined the relationship and perhaps triggered his withdrawal of support? Was it my job to smile and go along with it to ensure his support continued? I didn’t know!

Following the event, I spoke with my line manager and expressed how I had felt during the evening and she kindly reassured me that it would have been perfectly acceptable for me to clearly ask him not to touch me. She also assured me that if his contributions to our work had ceased as a result of my actions, I would not have been held accountable and that my integrity and security were more valuable than any donation of any size. Going forward, she took over all contact with this donor and my contact with him came to an end. I attended some training and felt much more confident in being able to maintain my professionalism with supporters in the future.

But, as a fundraiser there can be such enormous pressure to keep the donor happy, that we forget that our own security and comfort should not be put at risk. I truly feel that training surrounding appropriate relationships with donors and clear guidelines on how to assert yourself should be provided, especially to young, less experienced fundraisers before they find themselves in this kind of scenario. After all, no donation should ever be at the expense of fundraisers integrity.

Have you ever felt pressure to behave a certain way to ensure a donation is received? Do you provide training around issues like this? Do you think organisations should take more responsibility ensure their staff’s safety and comfort? Let me know your thoughts and comments!