Category Archives: Fundraising

Unlock your fundraising potential

We’ve published a new whitepaper – Unlock your fundraising potential.

Our thinking behind the paper is about our experience and how things have moved on.

“Worldwide, an estimated 13,000 non-profits use Raiser’s Edge – a database that has been around for more than 30 years.  It’s no surprise that it’s widely been seen as ‘the’ tool for fundraisers. Purple Vision has supported clients who use RE for more than a third of the entire lifespan of the product. Over that time, we’ve learned a few things.  In this paper, we share some of our thoughts and insights to help you with the next steps that you are likely to take as you consider your options with this tool. 

There will be a next step, because at the grand old age of 30, Blackbaud upgraded Raiser’s Edge to Raiser’s Edge NXT.  On the face of it, for many it will feel like a natural progression.  But we’re urging charities to look beyond an auto-pilot upgrade, and consider their options.  Of course, you may still choose to use your tried and tested favourite, but for others, this is a chance to take a fresh look at the options available”.

Get your copy of the paper

  • Unlock your potential -read as a PDF
  • Unlock your fundraising potential – read as a flipbook

    Making the right choice for your charity 

  • For the first time, as charities look at their fundraising infrastructure, there are a selection of real and viable alternatives available to what was once the only really serious option for fundraisers.We share just one of these options as a potential alternative to review and consider – Causeview. We’ve described it as RE but on the Salesforce platform.  Its an interesting comparison and we’d like to  show you what we mean.

    But of course, we’re realistic.  For some charities, Raiser’s Edge is just where they need to be.

    What’s key is to think and decide which is the right way to go for your organisation.  So our paper explains the points at which you might need to consider a change and what some of those drivers and decision points may need to be for your charity.

    See for yourself

    We’re hosting a series of breakfast briefings to showcase Causeview – join us at one of these to see the tool for yourself and see how it compares to what you have now.

    Join us at 09.00 on any of the three dates below – just click the link on the date to register.

    We’ll be holding these events in our offices – Purple Vision are based in Kennington Park, just opposite Oval tube station in London.  They’re fairly informal affairs over coffee and croissants with a chance to ask questions too.

And while we’re talking about Causeview, of course we know there are other tools on the market too. We’re happy to talk to you about these, too – we pride ourselves on being independent and on your side.  For us that means doing the right thing for you – not shoehorning your needs into a box.

Get in touch

If you have questions about this paper or would like to know more about Causeview, give us a ring on 0845 458 0250 or email [email protected]

Internal barriers to fundraising success – the battle within

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. This is the fourth and final in the current series of blogs.

The battle within – internal barriers to fundraising success

In 15 years working as a fundraiser in charities large and small, the greatest challenges on most occasions were not

  • the economy
  • donor apathy,
  • difficulty finding and retaining good staff
  • having an emotive cause to tell donors about.

The most common –  and energy sapping  – challenge is gaining and retaining the co-operation of colleagues in other departments, senior management and trustees.

Don’t complain – get buy-in

Without emotional buy-in and practical commitment to fundraising from colleagues and volunteers, the fundraisers will always be working with one hand tied behind their backs.

The hurdles can take many shapes. They might include a lack of understanding or disinterest in donor’s needs, to low levels of co-operation when trying to get ‘raw material’ for your case for support. The most difficult to overcome is a wobbly or non-existent business plan, leaving you with no foundation for your case to donor ‘investors’.

I am not here to give fundraisers licence to complain to colleagues.

Ultimately you must work with what you can get. But fundraisers must express their professional needs (the tools you require to get the job done), firmly and constructively.

Time dedicated to creating an environment that is more friendly to fundraising, is time very well spent.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for this strife and some possible solutions.

  1. A misunderstanding of what fundraising truly is

Like a lot of fundraisers, I used to see myself as Robin Hood. Taking from the rich and giving to the needy. This is entirely wrong.

A fundraiser’s skill is in what they can GIVE to a donor, not what cash they can take.

Non-fundraising colleagues may see fundraising in a Dickensian vein – fundraiser as Oliver Twist with a begging bowl.

This view is even more damaging, as it describes a one-way process in which the person asking is totally lacking in power.  Who wants to be a beggar?

Too many charity staff view fundraising as a necessary evil, like having to call the plumber in to unblock a toilet!  No, no, no!

Fundraising it is at the very heart of this thing we call ‘charity’. It’s about making a precious connection between those with a need (beneficiary) and those with the means to meet that need (the donor).

It’s a fundraiser’s responsibly to promote this healthier and more accurate picture. There is no quick fix, but a fun and engaging fundraising induction process, for all staff and volunteers is a great place to start.

  1. Lack of professional respect

Within the voluntary sector, there are two kinds of professionals.

Those that work directly with services users / carrying out charitable purposes (social worker, scientist, teacher etc) and those who do a job in support of that first group (accountant, fundraiser, IT worker etc).

Almost without exception, the first category are looked on as ‘heroes’ within the charity (no problem with that!).

However, ‘support staff’ are too often taken for granted, or in the worst case, seen as a terrible ‘drain’ on income. This is nonsense. Of course overhead must be justifiable, but each half depends on the other to get results. Like two blades in a pair of scissors or two wings on a plane.

Fundraisers should lead the way in advocating for mutual respect across the departments, seeking to influence senior management and trustee behaviour in this area.  Creating ‘buddy’ links between teams can be an effective way to build respect and co-operation.

  1. Lack of commitment at senior level

If the first two factors exist, chances are that this third factor is in play too. It may be the cause or symptom. Either way, if your chair of trustees and CEO do not have much time or interest in the fundraising function, it will struggle to perform.  I say ‘function’ rather than fundraising. All CEOs and trustees are interesting in fundraising performance. Fewer, however, want to get involved in the process.

But involvement is essential. This is because fundraising is very much a team sport. To mix metaphors, there are certain ‘roles’ that have to be played by non-fundraising people. For example, a wealthy donor is going to want to meet the organ-grinder (not the monkey). There are few things more painful, for a fundraiser, that sitting alongside a bored CEO, across the table from a keen major donor prospect.

Then there is the budget round. Enthusiasm for and commitment to fundraising (in the good times and bad times) is essential to get the long-range investment needed to grow income, on a sustainable basis.To use a biblical phase, one should not “muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain”. Or to put it another way, its illogical and wrong to send the team that raise most (or all) of the money to the back of the queue, when resources are being distributed.

In terms of solutions, for those leaders that are not naturally enamoured by the prospect of going out into the world to ask for financial support, my advice is to appeal to issues closer to their heart. Make the connection between fundraising’s success and their pet interest.

 

As a consultant, I’ve worked with dozens of charities, varying hugely in size and cause, but one constant remains – those charities in which fundraising is valued as a professional skill-set and colleagues are well informed and co-operative, succeed.

Learn to love fundraising and it becomes the charity’s heartbeat.

Some recommended further reading:

  • ‘Relationshift’ Revolutionary Fundraising’ by by Michael BassoffSteve Chandler (Robert Reed Publishers) 2010. Simply the best book for debunking damaging fundraising myths.
  • ‘The Porcupine Principle’ by Jonathan Farnhill (pub. DCS) – Equally insightful and entertaining. Clearly explains fundraising’s role in the big picture.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non-profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Trustees with pom-poms

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. This is the third blog in his series. 

Trustees with pom-poms: How to bring out the best in your ‘overlords’

The last article I read on trustees was a bit like a Spotter’s Guide to Rare Birds.

There were descriptions of the pecking ‘Critic’, the deafening ‘Know-it-all’, the shy ‘Quorate’ (just-making-up-the-numbers) and the ‘looking-backer’ with a memory like an elephant. You get the idea. Lots of fun, but not that helpful really.

Perhaps becoming a trustee myself, a few years ago, changed my point of view.  Suddenly, I became a lot more tolerant and understanding of my own trustees when I was doing my day job.  I now had the advantage of knowing what if feels like having to make life-changing decisions with scant information. Or to be more honest – having scan-read an excellent report by the CEO moments earlier in the car park.

The mode trustees operate in can and should flex from meeting to meeting and moment to moment, based on need.

For example, they may need to play the role of

  • Border Guard – enforcing boundaries
  • Ambassador – pressing the flesh at the gala dinner
  • Inspector – holding the Executive to account.

But the default position, in my view, should be

  • Cheerleader – close your eyes for just a minute and imagine your trustees with pom-poms in hand, going rah-rah-rah on the touchline.  Nice idea, isn’t it?  I am not saying trustees should give the CEO and staff an easy ride and praise them unceasingly. But their highest calling should be to encourage and support.

How do you bring these qualities to the fore in your Board?

What’s the driver?

My key advice is to understand what really matters to them, what motivates them to give up all this time for your cause.

Just like ‘normal people’, trustees have an iceberg quality to them – most of what there is to know is way below the surface. People become trustees for a very wide range of reasons. Getting to know your trustees outside of formal meetings is an essential way to unpack some of that. I don’t mean spending hours in the pub (although there’s nothing wrong with that).  It could be spending time with them, visiting a project. I’ve found in the past that long drives present a great time to talk honestly – in part, because there’s less need for eye contact and it feels less like an interview or confrontation.

Knowing what your trustees really care about helps you to frame your communications with them – written and verbal.  There is little point focusing on an area that means nothing to them – finding shared interests offers them a way to become your supporter.

Managing Expectations

Clearly defining what is expected of trustees also goes a long way to avoiding bad habits developing.  The Charity Commission have some excellent resources on the subject.  Beyond the legal obligations, the battle ground then becomes what sits under the ‘executive’ responsibilities and what sits under ‘governance’.

Sometimes it is black and white, but more often there are shades of grey and collaboration is essential.

NB – I have a useful diagram about that and will send your a copy if you ask nicely.

Read body language and react

This is a really useful bit of advice I have been benefiting from for years.

It’s a tell-tale bit of body language that lets you know someone is flexing their authority – Resting Hands Behind the Head with Elbow Jutting Out.  I call it the ‘Cormorant’ (Google for a picture). It’s usually interpreted as a sign of superiority or big-headedness, but it’s not quite as simple as that. It is certainly more common from middle-aged male chairs than any other category of person I’ve ever met or worked with.  In any case, when spotted, I wouldn’t quite say that you should disregard everything the person then goes on to say, but it certainly should set off alarm bells. If the chair and the CEO start doing it at the same time, it’s best to duck for cover!  And perhaps suggest a quiet drink so you can start the process of assessing interests and areas of activity that will have them waving pom-poms for you rather than causing major issues.

In short, poor relations between the CEO, Executive Team and the Trustees can be the quickest way to ruin an otherwise fantastic organisation – we can all think about organisations where this may be the case – either through direct experience or confidential conversations with charity-based colleagues.

Don’t let things fester.

Get expert support to help build a culture of cooperation and cohesion and have your ‘overlords’ waving pom-poms and supporting you every step of the way.

Some recommended further reading:

For a copy of Phillip’s grey areas diagram (described above) please email [email protected] referencing this blog.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non-profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.