Seven ways to get inspired as a fundraiser

I’m sure you have those periods when you are seeking a bit of inspiration.

Here are seven ways I have found has helped get myself ‘in the zone’ over the years.

My first visit to projects with Oxfam. On the border with Somalia and Kenya I showed pictures of students collecting for Rag. Amazed the gathering crowd said “Look parents in Britain are sending their children out into the streets to help raise money for us. We must use his money wisely!”.

Number one: #1 Go see the projects – the work you do. Not always easy, especially if you work for an outfit that operates overseas. But there is nothing like it. Sometimes the person holding that back is yourself. Look out for the opportunity, seek it and ask for it. You will come away with your own stories and unforgettable memories. I often returned humbled from the people I had met but always totally inspired. It will make you a better fundraiser.

If you can’t get to a project soon then simply #2 Speak to someone who has a story to tell from their own visit. Get them to tell you the details (the side anecdotes that are often omitted from a “case study’) and most importantly how they felt. Getting them to speak it helps (when people write it they tend to strip out the details). Also notice how you feel. Then their story becomes your story as you can say “I was told this story the other day … and this is how I felt …“. For an example of how you can use this check out this post.

Then you have the other side: #3 Go see a supporter. There is something you will always gain from meeting someone who is interested in your cause. So whenever the opportunity arises to meet a supporter seize it. I always made it a rule that if an opportunity came to meet a supporter I took it no matter what other stuff I had in my growing to do list. I often had that feeling that I needed to be back at my desk. Yet it was always worth it. Don’t forget as a supporter they believe in what your cause believes in – so they might actually help you get some clarity on why your charity exists.

This extends to meeting prospects too. I recall when I worked for FARM-Africa how during an agricultural show I was introduced to a farmer by another supporter who worked for Barclays Bank. Our short conversation changed our fundraising strategy! In chatting to him he shared how this was the worse time ever he could recall in his families history for farming. “So I suppose you don’t take too kindly from charities like FARM-Africa asking you for donations?” I quizzed. His reply changed my thinking. “If you don’t ask me I won’t definitely won’t give” was his response. It was a great insight. I used that anecdote to help persuade the board that we should ask British farmers to help their counterparts in Africa – something they weren’t keen to do at the time. It gave us the beach head of donors that we could build on because despite the difficulties they faced they could empathise with their counterparts in Africa.

If you can’t see a supporter simply #4 Call a donor to say thanks shortly after they have given. Do it once a week. Ask them why they support your cause? It’s such simple question to ask. And be sure to listen – you’ll get some insights. And they’ll be touched you took the trouble to call and listen to them. You can always leave a phone message if they aren’t in. I had a donor who wrote to me after I left a voicemail to say of all the charities she had given to she had never had a call of thanks. If you can’t make a call during the week send a personal note written by you with a thank you. It doesn’t have to be for a large donation. It could be to a supporter who has given for many years, or a fundraiser that stands out. I found I got thank yous for my thank you. You’ll feel good and they’ll feel great (for some more tips on thank yous check out this blog).

This one is easy. #5 Open the postal donations. It always amazes me when I slit open an envelope and find a donation from the act of giving. A cheque for £50 and in return we will send a thank you. That’s an extraordinary exchange don’t you think? What would you do if someone gave you fifty quid on the street? Yet somehow its easy to dismiss such gifts if they are just a total on a spreadsheet. Occasionally you get some wonderful letters with donations too which just get lost in the “white stuff”. Read them and share the best with the rest of the organisation. Which leads nicely onto my next tip.

When people give online simply #6 Ask people why they are supporting you by providing a free text box. It needs a little bit of effort but you’ll reap the benefit (see this blog post ). You can circulate the responses around your team and trustees for a bit of weekly inspiration – including you. And I suspect the act of asking helps remind the donor too and gives them a better experience for it.

And finally, perhaps the most powerful thing of all #7 Find your charity’s purpose. To set this in motion simply ask the question – what’s our purpose?“. It’s not an easy one to answer – but it begins with asking the question. Knowing that sense of purpose is perhaps the single most important thing that can get you out of bed each day. Every fundraiser has the right to ask the question up the line. It’s WHY you do what you do, not WHAT you do.  It should be emotional. You should get a feeling from sharing it. If you were to ask 10 different people in your organisation they should say the same sort of thing.  If you are not sure what it is then you probably don’t have it nailed. Make it your mission – that will give you a sense of purpose until you find it!

Your supporters will get so much out of meeting your staff. And your staff will get so much out of meeting your supporters. Make it happen.

Do your own bit of inspiration to help others. Encourage other staff to visit projects, tell a story of the project you went to, the donor you met, the story you were told about, the comment from a letter you read, or a donor you spoke to.  Arrange for others to meet supporters.  When we had two staff over from ActionAid Sierra Leone at the last minute I arranged for them to meet a real supporter. We met for a coffee and sandwich. They fed back it was the highlight of their visit – and as you can see from the smiles the donor loved it too. Get staff together to share their stories. Organise a thankathon when you achieve a milestone you wish to share with donors – a great reason to call and say thanks (in my next blog I’l share a extraordinary story as a result of SolarAid’s “Thanks a million” thankathon in 2014). And keep asking that question until you pin down your organisations purpose.

These small acts will help get you, and others, inspired each week. And that can only be a good thing for you and your donors.

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