Guest Blog by Lisa Gagliani MBE MinstF
I have a simple view of life generally. I do not much care for overly complicated thought leadership. I have spent much of my time this past two years as a grant-maker with a twist. Whenever I have tried to guide prospective grantees on how to de-complicate their massive fundraising dilemma – and trust me, that’s what most small charity fundraiser’s life amounts to – I have resorted to the Ready, Steady, Cook analogy as first defense against a fundraising strategy that doesn’t actually make sense.
All too often, small charity fundraisers – who are frequently also the founders, chief cook & bottle washer – are given ‘helpful strategy advice’ by their trustees. Trustees sometimes have very little actual fundraising experience. Would you take legal advice from a trainee lawyer?
Trustees can be brilliant as connectors, constructive challengers and creative sounding boards. They have also usually been to lots of fundraising events – so their perspective is skewed to what they know. Heaven help us if they started advocating doing something that they didn’t know….
As a result, guess what comes out tops as the recipe for fundraising success? Yes, events & gala dinners!
Here’s my essential ingredients list for a successful recipe Gala Dinner Events – do not follow it if any of them are missing, not available in the stated quantity, or are of dubious origin:
- Trustee or close supporter with a suitable venue that they are willing to donate at the right time, in the right location, that is inspirational enough for battle hardened dinner guests to want to go to.
- A chef and hospitality team willing to knock up a meal for nothing, or at cost.
- A donated wine cellar.
- A cause, event or celebrity compere that 100-1000 people who have money to give will come to.
If – only if, you have all the above, should you embark on such a time consuming, high risk and unoriginal approach to funding your charity. Sorry, but that’s all we know what to do – or that’s what they expect, simply doesn’t cut the mustard.
So what do you ‘make’ instead of a Gala Dinner/ event of any sort?
Ahh, easy! look at the ingredients you DO have first and then decide on the recipe for fundraising success that will suit your charity.
Make a list
Make a list of all your Assets aka ‘ingredients’ – some of which may be a little hidden. Such as, your people – what are the talents and contacts of your staff, volunteers, supporters and trustees? Such as, your cause itself – what does it ‘lend’ itself to?
Then look to your beneficiaries – what could they bring to the ‘recipe’ itself? Is there an ‘end result’ in what you do? Could you rustle up some advocates perhaps? Advocates, in my analogy, are a bit like the amuse bouche that chefs in posh places send out ‘with their compliments’ to the waiting diners, so that they can spend more time preparing the starter and main course.
Ingredients I have ‘uncovered’ during my forays into helping charities see the strategic light, include:
- Trustees with great contacts in the media, but not having the right stories to feed them. This recipe involves using advocates and great images and stories to raise the profile of your charity, with a clear call to action to press a donate now button.
- Staff with spouses who work in corporate firm that has a matched-funding or charity of the year initiative.
- Volunteers that are brilliant and willing to run a social media campaign.
- Suppliers and Partners that are enthusiastic about community fundraising on your behalf.
- A charity with a great defining name, but who has allowed itself to become a meaningless acronym – thus rendering itself ‘invisible’ to potential funders and even to beneficiaries.
- Beneficiaries that are also willing to ‘put back’ in some way by leafleting or helping with creative tasks – they really ‘get’ what you do!
- Parents and carers of beneficiaries that are asked to do ridiculous amounts of stuff, when they haven’t been given the offer of alternative support such as ‘donate’ money instead of time – school PTA’s are particularly good at this – asking time-poor people to give time is mad, if they can give money instead.
So if you find yourself tasked with making a fundraising dish without a recipe and half the ingredients missing, look up, take a breath and forage a little deeper into the larder to make something half decent from what you do have. Of course, in some cases you need to purchase new ingredients – and that’s also perfectly fine, just as long as the task masters get what you mean by asking for help and acknowledge that there’s a cost involved in making that happen.
Watch the video from the last Charity Meetup where Lisa shared her Ready, Steady, Cook analogy with the group as part of the panel discussion about the future of fundraising.
About Lisa: Lisa is a marketing communications and service development specialist, and advisor for social good. Lisa has spent part of her career in brand management and the past 15 years in not-for-profit at chief executive level including running the Childhood Trust and the Bright Ideas Trust. Since 2009 she has been a non-exec director of a pioneering social enterprise community health provider of NHS services and other community services, including a primary school.