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Personalisation is the Key to Fundraising Success

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by Sylvia Oates

Our Fundraising expert, Jo Cox-Brown, explores how making personal requests for donations could significantly increase income for your charity.

My inspiration for this blog came from a conversation with a charity Trustee, who said “We used to get government grants for all of our work but that has dried up, can you help us get some money?”. I asked him what other sources of income they had as a charity, and he replied that they had no sources of other income.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? 10 years ago I became the chief executive of a charity and found myself is this exact same predicament. Its only source of funding at the time was grants, and as the recession hit, grants started to dry up, and the environment became increasingly competitive.

It was a sink or swim moment. I can tell you that 8 years later when I left that charity, it was thriving, with diversified income streams.

A major charity once asked non-supporters what was their main reason for not giving. What do you think the answer was? That no one had individually asked them.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of the “chuggers” and over-asks from charities but the key is in the word “individually”. You must ask somebody who is an individual for money. That individual may be a personal donor, they may be the grant giver, the company director or head of CSR, they may be the holder of a budget. However, they all hold one key thing in common: that they are individual people. So therefore, your approach must be individually tailored.

Supermarkets and online stores such as Amazon spend a lot of time personalising their communications to customers. I think charities can learn a lot from this. So, my first top tip is if you are going to ask for money, get to know the individual and personalise your ask.

The power of the ask comes from relationship. I have direct experience of where this worked. I met the chief executive of a large drinks manufacturer at a conference. The charity I was running worked with young people who had drunk too much and made themselves vulnerable in the night time economy.

I didn’t initially ask him for money, instead I spent time getting to understand things from his perspective, and I invited him then to come and see things from mine. We initially met for a coffee and then I invited him out on the streets, and he came out one rainy night to work alongside us. He said he was shocked: that he had read about the issues, campaigners had challenged him about these issues, but no one had ever invited him to see them first hand.

He asked what he could do to help. At that stage I explained clearly that we needed funding and what the funding could achieve. The next day he committed to three years of funding. Throughout that three-year period, I kept him informed of our progress, invited him to come and see the difference his funding made, and three years funding turned into six years. You will see here that I made and built a relationship, and that I kept that relationship and built on it until he retired.

With that in mind if you want to be successful in fundraising you need to be aware of the fundraising hierarchy of success so that you can blend the way you ask for money.

  1. The personal approach
  2. Face to face ask
  3. Digital campaign
  4. Personal letter
  5. Giving a presentation
  6. Email or Phone call
  7. Sending a cold appeal

My final thought for today: when you are designing your fundraising strategy, make sure that you include a diversified approach to raising funds to maximise your potential for success. This means making use of several of the different tools in this hierarchy, and using them innovatively, to fully increase the impact of the message.

If you would like support in putting an effective fundraising strategy together that will achieve your fundraising aims, Silverlock can help unlock your potential to thrive. Contact us today.

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