At the recent Institute of Fundraising conference in Yorkshire I attended some great sessions that inspired us to be the new leaders in fundraising, challenged us us to think differently about how we build relationships with companies and encouraged us to love our donors more.

I also had the honour of running my own session with Sharon Jackson during which we shared our insights into how we doubled the voluntary income for an international charity called Find Your Feet (annual income was £750k). At the time, I was the Head of Fundraising and Sharon Jackson was their Chair, as well as being a very talented fundraiser in her own right.

I realised when preparing for the session that our insights are not revolutionary or new and are certainly not hard and fast rules – but instead they are a series of approaches we decided to take that together made a real impact on our fundraising income.

So, in case these might also work for you, here are our seven insights:

  1. Leaving the office as much as possible meant I found more opportunities – I took every opportunity going to meet with people and tell them about Find Your Feet. I became my trustees plus one for their work events and I met with other fundraisers and gave talks as much as possible. It meant I kissed a lot of frogs but it also meant I practiced my pitch so often that when I did meet the right person I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
  1. A community fundraising campaign delivered more value for us in the long-term than special events – as a charity we were not an obvious fit for community fundraising but we took a risk and we developed Curry for Change (curryforchange.org.uk). Admittedly it made a loss in its first year and was a lot of work – but by the third year it had enabled us to break though into social media, raise awareness, attract ambassadors and secure our first corporate partner.
  1. The size of grants we won increased when we involved donors more – to be competitive in the busy trust fundraising market we decided our strength was that we were small and personal. We picked specific donors and we brought them close to the charity by sharing our strategic plans, introducing them to new trustees, telling them about our achievements and also our mistakes, and sharing our ideas for new programmes before they were developed.
  1. I treated my board as if they were my first major donor contacts – despite very few of my board feeling like they were connected, I still treated each of them as if they were special. A one to one coffee with each board member enabled me to build trust, understand their interests and strengths and help them understand how they could use their influence to help us raise funds.
  1. We built confidence in the charity – the board and staff had become accustomed to seeing our size as a weakness it had created an atmosphere where we were almost apologetic in our approach to donors. We decided to change this and we held a series of session with everyone to tap back into what made them passionate about the charity and what made them proud. As a result we created key messages, changed the way to talk about what we did and increased the trustees confidence.
  1. Small events held the key for us – again we wanted to emphasise the personal nature of the charity and play to our strengths so we created a series of small intimate events, most of which were not direct fundraising events, but instead were lunches, small drinks receptions and one to one meetings to engage with small numbers of prospective donors in a meaningful way and to introduce new people to our networks.
  1. We made match-funding work for us – a long-standing donor who offered us the chance to secure a £20k donation if we could raise £20k in matching funds approached us. Our initial reaction was to panic and ask ‘how will we raise this amount in such a short space of time?’ but we took on the challenge, called everyone we knew and we were surprised by the response we got. Since then we have used the match-funding technique as a motivator to secure donations in other situations such as our Curry for Change campaign and at a pledge event to great success.


Give your major donor programme a health check now