Happy Template Anniversary – by Richard Sved

LinkedIn-template.pngLast month I celebrated an anniversary.

Nothing romantic, mind.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was an anniversary until LinkedIn told me so. I was celebrating two years as Trustee of the wonderful Child’s i Foundation.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the charity I’m a Trustee of is great, and I also think being a trustee is a very important thing to do, so I don’t particularly mind sharing that news, even if the notion of having a two year trusteeship anniversary is a little odd.

No, what got me was that the first I knew about my special day was the dozen or so practically identical messages I received from connections congratulating me on it. After the first few came in, I took a screengrab – though I’ve anonymised the senders to protect the guilty parties!

What happens is that LinkedIn notifies my connections of the anniversary, and then provides a template to send me a message. Now I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I reckon the template reads “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”

So, about a dozen people pressed the button, and thought no more of it. Would they have wondered whether I might have received other identical messages? Is getting this far actually more thoughtless than doing nothing, in effect?

Because to me it has all the sincerity of the automated apology I sometimes hear on station tannoys. I don’t want to be apologised to by a computer, and I don’t want to be congratulated by template. And I don’t want to sound cold, but I actually don’t think they were really wondering if I was “doing well” because if they were genuinely thinking of me, they would surely have personalised the message a bit.

Now for a moment, consider this. How many templated thank you letters have your charities sent over the years? And do you think the recipient was able to tell, just as I could tell when my inbox was stuffed with LinkedIn missives?

You bet they can.

We need to move away from the “Dear Insert-Your-Name-here” culture. Our supporters need to know we’re writing just to them. Let’s properly tailor our communication, and in particular our thank yous, to each individual recipient.

Because if we don’t, you can be sure that we won’t be celebrating many anniversaries of their support.

Co-published with 3rd Sector Mission Control

Richard can also be found on twitter here!

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What buying my first home taught me about fundraising

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Those of you who follow me on twitter may have noticed I had a fairly quiet twitter presence over the weekend. This is because last Friday I became a home owner! To me, this was a huge life goal and I could not be more thrilled. With that in mind, it has been a long and educational journey and fundraising geek that I am, I have a few lessons from buying my first home that I think can be applied to fundraising. So here we go…

It takes time

Buying a home, like fundraising, does not happen quickly. Buying a great home takes time and so does great fundraising. Accept that nothing happens overnight. There will be doubtful times where you’re unsure if things will turn out as you hoped. Stick to your plan and the results will come in time.

It takes investment

Being a first time buyer in London means that the odds were against me to get on the property ladder. Saving for a deposit is something that took me years. I invested time and energy into a clear savings plan and I stuck to it, knowing that it would take 4 years to reach my goal. Investing in the future of a charity is like this. Set up a clear plan of action and stick to it. Invest where you need to to see real development and growth and be patient for the return.

It doesn’t always work first time

Ups and downs were just part of life during the year I spent viewing properties. Four times I had an offer accepted and then got ‘gazzumped’. I heard the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ more during this time in my life than ever before. In the same way, I have had massive fundraising lows; Expected income not being met, events underperforming, trying and failing to come up with exciting and engaging fundraising. Not everything happens first time. Stay focussed. You WILL get there.

You have to chase people

Man, the amount I paid those solicitors during this process you expect great service. Unfortunately, I had to constantly chase them up for updates, information and generally just urge them along to get anything done. This is similar in fundraising. We have to chase people. It is no good just sending out one appeal letter and thinking that everything else will follow. You have to follow up, you have to ask again, you have to have a constant drip of information around fundraising and slowly but surely you will start to see the results of your work all come together to get the result you want and need.

It feels like someone is always doing it better

Like many, I am on a variety of social media platforms and being in a group of similar aged friends, many of us are also on the journey to becoming home-owners. For a long time it felt like everyone else was ahead of me on their journey. Everyone else seemed to get there faster and better. I constantly had to tell myself not to pay attention to what other people were doing and that I was reaching my own individual goals. It’s the same in fundraising. There are so many different organisations and just because one charity is having huge success in their legacy giving doesn’t mean your legacy appeal is ‘worse’ than theirs. It is a different message. It is a different organisation. It’s a different timeline and you are on different journeys. What works for some may be terrible for others. Keep your eyes on your own fundraising, your own goals and your own outcomes. By all means learn from others and seek advice but don’t obsess about their results versus yours.

It is worth it

The feeling of achievement I got when I walked through my new front door for the first time was comparable to no other. I would 100% go through everything again to get this result. It was fantastic. Equally, when you are a fundraiser and everything comes together; your plan, your execution, your results and your outcome, there is a sense of pride that comes with it, pride at your part in making the world a better place. While you have been learning along the way, you have become a better fundraiser and more experienced and you have genuinely impacted your organisation in a tangible way and that is why I am a fundraiser.

 

What I learnt about gratitude from a stranger!

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A recent bus journey with a stranger taught me a lot about gratitude. I was journeying home from central London on the bus and a very elderly lady got on. She seemed confused, was talking to herself and peering around. At first I thought she was looking for a seat but after offering she simply said ‘no thank you, I am trying to work out where I am’.

After exchanging a few words I sat down with her and tried to work out where she wanted to go – it turns out she had been given wrong instructions early in the afternoon and had been lost since! I assured her she was going in the right direction, knowing that her destination was a few stops away, and chatted with her until it was time for me to get off.

She has lived in London all of her life, she had been out for coffee that morning and she couldn’t recognise the way home as there has been so much development in her local area in recent months. Once she had relaxed after being assured she was heading home, she lit up! No longer confused she was both engaging and hilarious company! I was sorry to leave. When it was time to get off, she said ‘thank you for being the first person to be truly kind to me today’.

With that one sentence, she made me feel like I had really impacted her life and made her day better. She didn’t need to be elaborate with her gratitude. She didn’t use fifty words when fifteen said what she felt. She did however, stay in my thoughts for days afterwards. She had me wishing I had exchanged phone numbers with her. She has me hoping I see her again on the bus one day. And lastly, she has reminded me to continue to be open to helping others at every opportunity.

Sometimes, gratitude to donors who make small but wonderful changes in the world doesn’t need to be a big display or announcement. Sometimes, a simple ‘thank you for doing what you do’ is enough!

Have you ever been surprised by a gesture of thanks? Let me know in the comments!