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  • Writer's pictureRichard Turner, PF International

The Energy of Fundraising


Right now, I’m sure many of us are struggling to maintain it. Yet one of the most important factors I’ve noticed when fundraising really flies is the energy that’s behind it.

That internal energy within an organisation and its staff, along with the focus that comes with it, is critical to Great Fundraising.

I’m sure you will have felt it at some point.

If you’ve chosen fundraising as a career and stuck at it. It’s when fundraising just flows. When we are prepared to push that bit further. It’s those periods we look back on with huge satisfaction, even if at the time it was hard work and felt like nose to the grindstone. 

Right now, organisations need their fundraisers to be at their best, so they are able to adapt and make quick decisions, which in turn helps fuel that internal energy even more. 

Energy in action

Let me share a story that illustrates this energy at work during this challenging time. 

The Irish Charity, Trōcaire, was faced with a huge problem when Covid-19 broke last Easter. Their Lent appeal, their biggest campaign of the year, needed a complete rethink. They had already sent a home collection box to tens of thousands of Irish homes. National lockdown meant households could hand their box to the schools and churches who collect them on Trōcaire's behalf. It could have devastated their income.

Then the fundraising team sprang into action.

  • They immediately rewrote all their communications to supporters and the Irish public.

  • They changed which media to use.

  • They reallocated their budget to help achieve the same objectives. 

Within days the campaign messaging was adapted advising supporters either to donate directly to Trōcaire instead of handing in their box or hold onto their box for now.

Next, they quickly switched their investment to other media, such as door drops, extra mailings, and lots of videos to share on social media. Instead of their planned door-to-door programme they switched to direct response television advertising.

With changing behaviours by the population, forced by lockdown, they were finding media that didn’t usually perform were getting them phenomenal results. 

As a result they received €4.5 million in direct donations sent in for the Lent Campaign – that’s double what they would usually receive.

Finally, they came up with innovative ways of obtaining the collecting boxes as the lockdown eased and, importantly, still enable supporters to be socially distant.

Some priests opened their homes to accept lent boxes, or even stood outside the post office. One even set up a drive-thru outside a church so people could drive up and hand back their box. Word was spread to congregations on social media or even via online mass. Trōcaire made sure this was all supported with regional press and a radio campaign.

During this time you could sense the energy about their entire Lent campaign despite the added challenges and obstacles that needed to be overcome. 

What kills great fundraising?

Conversely, it’s the lack of energy that saps fundraising.

Where internal blockages slows the momentum down and drains energy. Every decision you need to ask for permission. It kills Great Fundraising.

One of the startling conclusions from the research by Professor Adrian Sargent and Professor Jen Shang, was the biggest block to fundraising taking off was not external factors (can you think of one right now?!). It was internal conflict. 

How do you avoid this? It’s simple (although do not confuse simple with easy). You educate the non-fundraisers about what behaviours the fundraisers need from the rest of the organisation to be at their best. It doesn’t take much in the scheme of an overall fundraising strategy. But it needs advanced thinking along with investment of time and leadership.

And that’s exactly what Trōcaire had done.

When the crisis hit they were ready to respond. Gwen Dempsey, on reflecting on how they managed to adapt their fundraising campaign so quickly, had this to say;

“We’d built a lot of credibility up over recent years… we secured board investment to engage in all aspects of emotional storytelling… and in changing the way we work”.
Gwen Dempsey, Director of Fundraising and Marketing.

 It meant when faced with a crisis fundraising they could just crack on.

If that up-front investment has not been done you will find it harder to create that energy, which is key to fundraising success, when problems hit you square on. 

One thing we can be sure of there will be more uncertainty ahead.

So, my question for you is this:

"Are your fundraisers able to be nimble and adapt, move quickly and have that internal energy which will lead to the fundraising success you will undoubtedly need when the next problem strikes?"

If not, prepare the ground now, so they will be.

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