Tuesday, 25 November 2014

To merge, or not merge. That is the question.

“Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel,” or so the song goes. If I’m honest, that’s how I initially felt when the merger between Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer was announced.

I’ve been here before, or so I thought.

Except this is different. Both internally and externally. When Merlin was taken over by Save the Children (over a year on, let’s be honest now), it felt very different. There was an undeniable (and understandable) positive spin throughout the process.

And while I’m still pleased that this means the Merlin legacy of health care can live on (as evidenced by the Save the Children EbolaTreatment centre in Sierra Leone), I can’t quite bring myself to be happy about what happened. 

But this merger between Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer? Well, it makes perfect sense. Two charities, with the same strategy, competing? No longer. And if that isn’t brilliant news for putting an end to breast cancer, well I don’t know what is.
Yes, there is uncertainty across the organisations for everyone. Will we have jobs? Who knows. Do I want to stick around and find out? You bet.
Being part of this well managed, well led, ‘absolutely makes sense’ merger is (almost – let’s not get carried away), a pleasure. It’s exciting, exhilarating and challenging – all in a good way.
And supporters? How did they feel? I can honestly say that there weren’t that many encouraging responses to the Merlin/Save the Children ‘merger.’
This time? Absolute understanding of why this is happening, delight that it is and lots of commitment to continue to support. It’s hard not to be swept along on that wave of positivity.

And me? Well, I have a wealth of learning from ‘the other one,’ that is proving invaluable. I re-read the post I wrote at the time and it’s still relevant. In fact, I’ve spent a few months reducing my circle of concern and increasing my circle of influence.

And being positive and optimistic? All over that one! It really is very exciting to be part of this great step forwards in breast cancer research.

Working across two organisations while we integrate and build our new charity won’t always be simple – but I’m determined to make it fun, focused and successful.

Let the hard work begin!

Danielle Atkinson

Monday, 1 September 2014

Why are so many ‘charity’ people being so bah humbug about the #icebucketchallenge?

Why are so many ‘charity’ people being so bah humbug about the #icebucketchallenge? And yet, with #nomakeupselfie people were full of excitement.

I’ve held off blogging about the challenge as I didn’t want to jump on that particular bandwagon. But now I’m just getting annoyed.

Articles like this one in Civil Society – Why I Didn’t Accept an Ice Bucket Challenge. This one seems to be to have an element of giving snobbery attached to it. It’s ok to give, so long as I keep it to myself.

Why? If people want to shout about the fact that they’re giving to charity – albeit because of a social craze – how can that possibly be a bad thing? 

We talk endlessIy in this sector about how to engage the younger generation of givers. And then this one happens and we get grumpy about it. I’m really not sure why. It’s fun, it’s inclusive. And even children can take part.

This challenge has raised £millions, made people laugh, engaged them with giving and with charity. And it’s user-generated – what’s not to love? Is it because ‘we’ didn’t think of it? 

To be honest, there are thousands of people giving monthly via direct debit, popping change in collection tins and donating to emergency appeals.

And, ignoring direct debit giving, how are the two latter ways of giving any different to taking part in the latest social media fundraising craze?

A wiser woman than me once described emergency fundraising as ‘fund catching’ – catching the mood of the time as people respond to horrific events. Put the mechanisms out there and people will respond.

Popping money in a collection tin – is there a less engaging, more cold way to give to charity? No engagement, no thought – and, arguably, no warm glow. The #icebucketchallenge is giving that glow (ironically) to thousands of people. 

Did I think I would do it? No. Did I want to? No. Did I do it? Yes. And actually, it made me feel good. I felt part of a something. I gave money to charity. And I was able to nominate people and make them think about why and who they should give to.

Take part and understand why those audiences who are doing it are enjoying it. Don’t we always say we should understand our audiences more? You might even suprise yourself by enjoying it.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that this user generated fundraising is going to replace more traditional methods of garnering support. But it’s happening more and more. And we need to embrace it, or be left behind.
So, please. Stop being grumpy. It’s very irritating.

Danielle Atkinson

And if you want to laugh at me, and other fundraisers taking part, here we are: https://storify.com/londonkirsty/fundraisers-do-the-icebucketchallenge

Friday, 22 August 2014

Why don't fundraisers become CEO's?

Reading about John Bines promotion from director of fundraising at EveryChild to chief executive in the latest issue of Third Sector made me think of a “conversation” (ie conducted in 140 characters or less) that I had recently with @AlexSwallow and @Pollysymondson about the apparently low numbers of fundraisers that move into being a CEO.

It is a topic that interests me for a few reasons; one that I had previously worked at a charity led by not only a former fundraiser but a woman to boot (there is an imbalance at CEO level, apparently, but less so that in the private sector).  

@LucyRothstein held a number of senior fundraising roles before moving from Development Manager at The Grasslands Trust to being its first Chief Executive – she has since moved on to the same role at The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, so it wasn’t by any means a one off!

Secondly, I had wondered myself whether it was something that was part of my own future aspirations; I had a partial answer to this a while ago when a work situation presented opportunities in this direction and I felt it wasn’t where I was headed. 

I put this down to me as an individual; I am a bad public speaker, going off on tangents every few minutes, and I often spill things down myself. I feel like a CEO should have more personal gravitas.

But this discussion, and several others I have had on the topic, make me wonder whether there was something about either the perception of fundraisers suitability for CEO roles, or whether fundraisers simply don’t want to move in this direction. 

I feel that it may be a combination of the two; according to Civil Society’s Director of Fundraising Survey 2011 25% of senior fundraisers have aspirations to become chief exec, but few make the move. I didn’t think even 25% seemed that high considering the survey questioned fundraising directors at the largest charities.

Fundraising seems like a perfect background for a CEO; we understand financial pressures, managing multiple projects and developing new ones, and acting as a bridge between funders and services. We have to know the work of our charity inside out, as we are the ones often facing the general public, and need to build their confidence in us.

When Chris Askew was promoted from director of fundraising at Breakthrough Breast Cancer to chief executive he said in an interview, “there might be a perception that the director of fundraising is too close to the fundraising side. 

Fundraising in many organisations is quite a large part of everything they do, so I can imagine that there might be a concern that someone coming from this part of the organisation’s operational side might have too much of a focus on the fundraising side of things.”

Or maybe we just love fundraising too much? @Pollysymondson commented in our discussion that you are less hands on with fundraising as a CEO, even if it is within your remit - whereas even at manager or director level within a fundraising team, your role is often very hands on in terms of actually “doing fundraising” because that is what you are good at, and what you enjoy.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of others on this topic!

Jemma Saunders

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Down with “donors”

I’ve had a couple of weeks to digest all that I heard and saw at IOF’s National Convention.  As I drink from my Proud Fundraiser mug, and reflect on the themes that jumped out at me, I find myself stuck on one thing. 

One thing that really annoyed me.


Yep, I spent 3 days getting annoyed by donors.  Or, rather, by the use of the word: “donors”.  

Fundamentally, for most charities, our supporters are at the heart of everything we do.  We simply couldn’t do our work without them.  Our donors, to my mind, are a subset of our supporters.   

Those thousands of people who raise millions of pounds running 26.2 miles for us at assorted marathons across the country are, in many cases, not donors.  They don’t donate to us.  They choose to support us in a different – and amazing! – way: by raising money from their friends.   

Would they call themselves a donor?  Our campaigners who lobby politicians and force the agenda in the houses of parliament, who challenge drug decisions, who call out corporates for their environmentally devastating behaviour – many of those people don’t donate directly.   

But they help us achieve our charitable objectives.

But, more than that, at a time when we’re talking so much more about how we resonate, how we engage, how we find our emotional heart, how we tell stories and inspire, how crucial it is to understand attitudes as well as analyse behaviour – when we’re doing all this, how can we justify using such a transactional word?  

I sincerely hope that no charity would address me as “Dear Donor” in a mailing – even if I had given them cash.  

Personally, I don’t think I want donors.  I would rather aspire to supporters; people who care about the cause, who are inspired to fundraise or to give or to petition or to do something, to make a difference in the way they can. 

I’m not saying it’s not about the money – please, I’m a fundraiser, my primary function is of course to raise money – but isn’t it about so much more than that?

Lisa Clavering

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

#iofnc, what's it all about?

Well, the IOF National Convention is upon us. Or #iofnc as it's more commonly known by the fundraising twitterati.

And isn't it exciting! Three whole days where we get to learn, debate, talk, network and make new friends (as well as catching up with old ones). It's at times like this that I'm very proud to be a fundraiser.

I have the privilege of being on the Convention Board, so I get to help shape the content and form of the sessions  - so this post is a plea for feedback as much as anything else.

Be like @JamesBarker82 who wanted to hear more about digital content - so he put his money where his mouth is and volunteered to speak. And 'What fundraisers can learn from rappers,' was a great, informative and interesting session. Don't believe me? Check out #iofnc...

Wondering why there always seems to be a proliferation of middle-aged men talking about direct mail? Don't want to hear from the 'old guard'? Do what Battersea did and - send some of their fundraising 'guru's' to talk about why direct mail is far from dead. Real fundraisers, talking about their real-life every day fundraising. How revolutionary. And the room was packed.

Heard so much about 'innovation' over the recent years that you feel like your ears might bleed? Get the team together and prove how it can be done, on a small budget. Just like Terrence Higgins Trust did on Monday afternoon.

I've got some ideas for next year, but would love to hear yours. PLEASE do let me/us know what you'd like to see/hear about.

Leave a comment, or find me @roxymartinique

Danielle Atkinson

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Looking ahead to IOF National Convention 2014

With 4 weeks to go until this year’s IOF National Convention, I asked some fellow fundraisers to join me in reflecting on their top memories and best bits from their previous convention experiences, to help us start looking forward to what we can expect this year.

The sessions
Let’s face it, you won’t come away from every session armed with a stash of insights you can directly apply to your work.  But with the right approach to choosing sessions and an open mind, there are absolute gemstones of useful info to be found.  

Danielle reflects on a session she saw at her very first convention, ’20 top tips to developing a successful career in fundraising’ by Alan Gosschalk.  I still have the notes and slides. And I share it with every member of my team. It really resonated with me and I listened and adopted things he talked about”.   

And both Danielle and I have strong memories of last year’s session on personal resilience run by Sarah Lane, with Toni Learey and Jane Bardsley.  It was a fantastically personal session which delivered a huge amount in terms of things to take away and think about – and, perhaps unusually, use in everyday life, not just the workplace.  There are over 130 sessions to choose from this year, and I can’t wait to see which sessions everyone ends up talking about! 

The career development opportunities
It’s always fantastic if you have time at Convention to attend something that’s outside of your specialism.  Sessions on personal development, lunchtime sessions – all of these offer a wealth of insight that can help you in your current role and to move on to your next.   

Sara attended a Guardian Jobs session about what Chief Execs are looking for in Directors of Fundraising.  Whilst this is still a little way off her next job level, some of the things said there gave me real insight into what the career ladder looks like, and the sorts of skills I should be looking to develop.” 

Whilst you may be perfectly happy in your current role right now, there’s no harm in looking at how you can grow and develop, and having one eye on how you might make that next step.   

The networking
Let’s face it, most of us cringe when we hear the word “networking”.  The contributor who told me she recalls hiding under a table with colleagues to avoid the networking will remain anonymous to protect the innocent! 

But if we call it instead “chatting to shedloads of likeminded individuals and making new friends in the sector” it doesn’t sound half as scary.   

Danielle says that she has gone “from hating it to loving it - it’s great to catch up with so many fundraising friends, and make new ones.”   

Convention is simply one of the best opportunities to do this, and to meet fundraising peers of all levels.  Over 2,500 fundraising professionals under one roof and willing to chat.  Definitely something to make the most of – you never know, you might meet your next boss too!

The awards
Last year a campaign that I had worked on was shortlisted for one of the awards and I was beyond delighted when our name was called out!  For me it was a fantastic moment and one that will stay with me.   

Danielle trumps that though – with Merlin she and her team won a stonking four awards in four years – “a highlight to have our work and results recognised by our peers.  

Awards night, though, is about so much more than winning (though, yes, the winning is AWESOME!) – it’s a brilliant celebration of successes from across the sector.  It’s so inspiring to hear about all the amazing work that makes the shortlists, and the ones recognising individual commitment to the sector in particular always draw standing ovations and usually tears too.  It’s a joyful night to be a part of. 

The volunteering opportunities
Those committed individuals who give up their time to ensure that Convention runs smoothly are absolutely fundamental to its success year on year.  It can be a great way for individuals who wouldn’t be able to go otherwise to attend.   

And the experience is overwhelmingly positive, by all accounts.  Lianne recalls the “great sense of achievement being involved in making something so huge happen” and Sara talks about “the amazing sense of teamwork and camaraderie I got from being a volunteer."  
The Convention Twittersphere
Twitter takes on a life of its own at Convention.  Though you can’t go to every session, rest assured SOMEONE will be tweeting nuggets.  In years when I have not been able to attend it’s been fantastic to get a sense of what’s going on.  Danielle’s a massive fan: “I love the twitter community, and at Convention time it really comes into its own.”

Great to hear about other people’s memories.  I’m starting to get really excited about what this year’s Convention will bring!  If you have any other standouts from your Convention experiences do drop me a line in the comments section below.

Lisa Clavering
Supporter Retention Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Thank you to: Danielle Atkinson, Head of Public Fundraising at Breast Cancer Campaign (@roxymartinique); Sara Thomas, Area Development Manager (North) at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (@lirazelf); Lianne Howard-Dace, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at RLSB (@LianneHD)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Becoming an IOF Trustee - third time lucky!

This is the third time in a row I have put myself forward to be a Trustee of the Institute of Fundraising (IOF). 

Third time lucky hopefully :-)

So why have I decided to stand again, despite being unsuccessful for the last two years? Here are a few reasons.

-         I really am passionate about fundraising and to its development through the IOF. Standing again proves my commitment to this. I’m not in it for the glory, or for having this on my CV. I want to shape the future of fundraising and the future of fundraisers.  I do believe in developing the profession of fundraising and ourselves as fundraisers. 

I     I want to be a new face on the Board and really feel I can offer the engagement and representation that fundraisers across the sector need, and demand. I am a fundraiser – I do it, day in and day out. 

-          As I said in my nomination, all too often I talk to fundraisers who are frustrated by a lack of representation of people like them. People like me. I agree. By putting myself forward as a Trustee at the IOF I can assure you that I will listen and champion ideas on how fundraising should, and could, be developed.

-          I am not afraid to challenge or debate, and will fight for what I believe. If you want someone who will stand up and stand behind what they say, then I will do that. If that means ruffling a few feathers on the way – then so be it. Anyone who knows me will know that I will always push the Institute to work hard to deliver what is best for us as fundraisers, in terms of policy, training and advocacy.

So just a few thoughts. If I’m not successful, I’ll probably stand again. This is important and is not something I take lightly.

Thank you

Danielle Atkinson
Head of Public Fundraising at Breast Cancer Campaign

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My personal picks for the 2014 National Convention

I blogged a while ago about what the National Convention means to me. In a nutshell, what can I learn that’s new. This year I’m focusing on the Personal Effectiveness and Bigger Picture streams, although I might stray :-)

So, what are the sessions I’m particularly looking forward to?

My first pick on day one – Monday 7 July – is Talking talent – the key to success.

Liz Tait and Sarah Lane presenting an interactive session on talent management. What’s not to love? I make no secret of my admiration for Liz, and Sarah co-ran what was, for me, the best session of the whole Convention in 2013.

Liz Tait has developed hugely successful – and motivated – teams over the years. The fundraising team at Battersea is one to be admired, watched and feared (in the best way possible). Sarah’s joint session last year on personal resilience was, simply, brilliant. Incredibly useful, personal, and full of take-aways I am still using.

If anything can stop me going to watch the Tour de France it’s this session.

And following on from this, how can I resist learning how to Become a Derren Brown of Fundraising.

I am truly intrigued by this session. Although I have visions of becoming a master manipulator of everyone I meet and taking over the whole fundraising world (*stifles an evil laugh here*), I really do want to know what this session is all about. It’s a wild card – but I’m bound to learn something. Which is why I’ll be queuing outside the room early to get a seat.

If I get invited to the National Awards on the Monday night (massive hint), I’ll have to choose Tuesday carefully. Something that won’t rock my inevitable sore head. (If I’m not, then I’ll be filled to the brim of fundraising beans).

Either way, I’m a bit torn for the 11am slot on day two. Two good sessions here pitted against each other. Number one is How PR can transform your results: Bestpractice case studies from the commercial world.

Hearing from outside the sector is always useful. We can be quite mired in a ‘them and us’ mindset, and even if the budgets involved are way beyond our reach this is no reason to ignore the case studies and the learnings.

The second session is an old favourite, Mr Bernard Ross. This session is about Emotional Intelligence in Fundraising: how to improve results by developing EI as a coreskill. Nobody does this sort of thing better than Bernard. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. We fundraisers are a passionate bunch and stating that emotionally intelligent individuals are more likely to succeed professionally and personally has to be a reason to go to this session.

I suspect it might come down to a coin-toss as to which I attend.

From 3pm I’ll be part of the Convention Career Advice Clinic. So do book in with me if you think I’ve anything to offer you (I promise I’ll try to be interesting, useful and maybe even a little bit inspiring).

Wednesday sees day three and the sadness that is the last day. What will I be going to? First stop is Eight Great Global Arts Fundraising Ideas. An area of fundraising historically underrepresented at the Convention. An area about which I, to my shame, know little about. And as it’s all about learning new things, this is where I’ll be headed at 3pm.

And to finish the Convention I’m going to a session that might infuriate me as much as inspire me: David vs Goliath. Having recently had a discussion with someone from a well-known large charity after they stated “there is nothing we can learn from small charities,” I’m hoping there will be time for questions and debate in this session. After all, that’s always a good way to end three days of fundraising immersion.

There are, of course, many many more fantastic sessions (I might even blog about these), but these are my personal ‘must-attend’ picks. I’ll be at others. I might even see some of you at them. Make sure you say hi!

Danielle Atkinson

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Some musings on the Daily Mirror front page

Today, this was the Daily Mirror front page.

It could be a press ad for a charity. It’s strong, emotive and unflinching

But, it turns out that this is a photo from 2009. What’s more, it’s a US child. Crying because an earthworm wriggled away.

Opinion is torn. Is the Daily Mirror wrong to do this? Use an image that isn’t true to the situation?

The first reactions I saw on twitter were horror that this was the situation for children in the UK. Then praise for the Daily Mirror on the power of the front page.

Then a couple of tweets about the photo and where it came from. Then a few more tweets about this. Then the tweets where people stated they didn’t care that the photo wasn’t real, because the situation was.

I immediately thought about the charity sector and fundraising. As I often do.

I’ve been privileged enough to work as a fundraiser in the international development sector for almost ten years. I’ve witnessed the constant turmoil about images, authenticity, truth – the list is endless. I’ve heard the phrase poverty porn. I’ve blogged about the phrase poverty porn.

And I can’t help but question the response had the Daily Mirror been a front page of a child, facing extreme poverty in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo? One of the poorest countries in the world, where children face horrors that I can’t even begin to think about.

And they used a photo of a child from a different country? A different year? A different situation? Somehow I think the reaction would be different.

And if an international development charity did this? I could almost write the headlines:

“International fat cat charities bamboozle public”

“Fury over lying photo”

“Spiralling web of lies at well-known organisations”

This is an interesting comment piece from The Guardian: "Perhaps it doesn't matter if the Daily Mirror's weeping child is a lie."
I have no answers, just questions and some musings. It made me think though. Never a bad thing.

Danielle Atkinson

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Be better, happier and more productive

I’ve had a few conversations with people recently, and the ‘blame’ word has popped up.

If there is one word that is guaranteed to get me riled, it’s this one. It has no place in the work environment. It creates tension, anger and breaks down relationships.

Take this scenario. You have a disgruntled supporter, they’ve been given incorrect information, and they’re getting more disgruntled. Someone is trying to sort this out and make them happy again. Then they ask ‘who can we blame for this?’ Not the supporter asking, the person trying to resolve the issue.

And I ask – really? You want to blame someone? Someone internally? So, you can feel better about a mistake you have made. The supporter doesn’t care. Just get on with sorting out the issue, making it better and making them happy.

I can guarantee you’ll feel better about the fact you’ve found a solution rather than creating a problem. You’ve achieved what you’re meant to do without the toxicity of blaming someone else. And the supporter will be happy too.

Then I remembered reading this – 18 things mentally strong people do:

It’s not always easy but apply this to your work life and you’ll be better, happier and more productive.

Go on, try it. Who else can you 'blame' but yourself if you don’t?

Danielle Atkinson