Thursday, 8 December 2011

Become a freakishly good fundraiser

Thoughts from the Institute of Fundraising London Conference by Lesley Pinder.

What makes you a freakishly good fundraiser? This was the question posed by Rob Woods at the opening plenary of last month’s Institute of Fundraising London Conference.Isn't that what we all want to know? What makes the freakishly good fundraiser different? 

One reason for their great results, suggests Rob, is that not only do they believe in what they are doing but they are convinced that what they are doing is absolutely right.This really chimed with me. If you’re not convinced in what you are saying, then the person you’re saying it to won’t be convinced either. 

Whether writing a letter to a donor, convincing your boss to approve your fundraising plan or getting colleagues behind a campaign campaign - your heart and your head need to be in it. Not only do you need to feel what you are saying you need to KNOW it.

Rob’s suggestion was to write down the things that you believe to be true and then underneath them, write four or five pieces of evidence that ‘prop up’ this belief so that it becomes a conviction.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to rely on your own charity’s track record to back up your ideas - either you don’t have great data or you are starting a programme from scratch. And similarly for those fundraisers out there – like me- who are relatively new, you don’t always have years of experience to fall back on either.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. It means that you don’t get stuck in what has ‘ay bin’ (‘always been done’ for the non-scots out there) and can have a fresh approach. But, sometimes you can pull back from something you think will be brilliant and innovative because you haven’t got the conviction. 

When planning new activities, writing materials or coming up with new fundraising messages, it’s essential to have the expert opinions, examples of great practice and also the internal evidence to back them up so that you can move forward with confidence!

Thankfully, we are not alone!

We work in an industry where people are generous with their time, their knowledge and their expertise.  The IoF London conference sessions that I attended definitely showed this. Fundraisers celebrate successes  - Damian O’Broin shared his award winning door drop campaign for Women’s Aid for example – and we can also admit where things are hard or didn’t work - Craig Linton’s presentation on both successes and failings of a campaign was refreshingly honest. 

Most importantly, we also hold each other to account - Damian O’Broin’s and Mark Philip’s Mystery Shopping was a depressing account of how charity’s get supporter communications so very wrong.

This makes us SO lucky. And we should make the most of it.

I know sometimes conferences aren’t all that easy to get to – either financially or geographically – but there are a whole host of amazing resources out there that we can use to help build our convictions. 

Blogs like this one, or the Fundraising Detective fundraising blog round up, are great places to start and the Sofii website is invaluable. Most of the best fundraisers I know compulsively collect examples of great (and not so great) fundraising and marketing from other orgs and companies and I lost count of how many times speakers at IOF London talked about  brilliant books that have informed their fundraising.

And don’t even get me started about how twitter can make you a better fundraiser. I think that might have to wait for another blog!

Following Rob’s plenary, I have vowed to spend at least a couple of hours each week doing something that will build my knowledge and strengthen my experiences so that I can turn my beliefs in to convictions. Maybe one day I’ll become a freakishly good fundraiser too?

Thanks IOF London. You may have created a monster.

Lesley Pinder is Supporter Engagement Manager for Missing People.

On twitter: @Skipinder

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