The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

My Sunday Experience – Back to fundraising basics

on October 5, 2015

How many of us are in jobs that people easily understand?

When asked as a small child “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, Voluntary Sector Fundraiser wasn’t really an option. But I am very pleased to say that it very much is so now. Though it may not be at the forefront of ambition for most small people. Engineer, Princess, Racing Car Driver, Elephant are all popular and valid career choices in this household.

I entered on a career path in Fundraising because it seemed like a very good thing to do. To actually be doing something good. Over the years whenever I was asked what did I do for a living and I answered with ‘I work for charity’, it was always met with positiveness but not always with comprehension. Whenever people think of charity, they imagine the good work that is actually done and quite rightly so. But not often did the thought that the money required to fund the good work needs to come from and be managed from somewhere.

  

People give to good causes all the time for many reasons be it personal experience, to make a difference or to end a problem. Just think of the all reasons why you give to a good cause. And regardless of whether the charity or NGO you give to is a small start up or a well known, well established organisation, as a donor, you should feel confident that your money is being spent in the best way possible to support the work that charity was set up to do. All charities fulfill an existing and real need, unlike some commercial products that are created to fulfill a perceived need.

It may seem like an odd job to many to be a Fundraiser when people tend to think of charity in the traditional sense. At the same time you want your money to be directed where need is greatest, that it will make the difference you intend it too and that it is all responsibly accounted for by the charity in question. Such management and governance can’t always be managed by volunteers and neither can the services provided to fulfill the need be carried out on a voluntarily basis. People need to be employed by the charities you support in order to ensure that your donations are professionally managed and work is done. It’s as simple as that.

There have also been occasions where the response to what I do has been met with “I have some things I was thinking of taking to the charity shop, can I give them to you?”. Yes you can but I will probably take them to a different charity shop than the one you had in mind so it’s best you do it yourself.

  

So what exactly do I do working for charity all these years in Fundraising? In it’s simplest form, I raise money to support the work of the charity I’m working for.  Philanthropic giving has evolved over the years and there are many ways to give. You have your monthly direct debits, corporate donations, Charity of the Year partnerships, cause related marketing (where you buy a product and a percentage is donated to a cause), charitable trusts and foundations set up with funds specifically to benefit a particular cause, single individuals making significant contributions, venture philanthropy, crowdfunding platforms, instant donations by text and many an innovative or traditional method.

The sector has grown and developed since I started out some 16 years ago. I’ve noticed it even more so with having taken six years away from it too.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is that fundraising is difficult. It really is. There is no such thing as an easy cause to raise money for. Definitely not. There may be some causes that the general public have more of an awareness about but I wouldn’t say it is any easier to fundraise for it because for every need there is no finite solution. Consider all the good causes you support. Think about what would end that problem. Over the years I have worked for five different charities and NGOs. All doing amazing work. A lot of my friends work for different charities and NGOs. All doing amazing work. It is our job not only to raise the money so that this amazing work can continue, it is also about communicating back to you what this amazing work is. And you would be inspired by each and every story that we could tell you. It is also about explaining that this charity or NGO has a very clear purpose and idea of what they intend to do with the money you have donated. Money that you yourself have worked hard to earn and so clearly it is to be spent with just as much care.

Every donor has a right to ask questions about how their donation will be spent and every fundraiser will be pleased for the opportunity to tell you about the amazing work that is being done. This work that is only achievable through the generosity of people who have been wiling to give. Why don’t you ask the good causes you support to tell you about what they are up to? Every time I get to talk about the projects I’ve asked funding for it has always made me feel that much more inspired by what I do. To share this information and knowledge with someone else who is equally as interested makes me really enjoy my job.

In my day to day fundraising role that is what I get to do. What I try to do. To connect people who want to give but don’t quite know how to make the greatest impact with their donation; to make the biggest difference. I tell them about the problems that need fixing and how that problem could be fixed if there was the money to do so. I also ensure they know how things progress afterwards as well so they have a full understanding of what has been achieved that otherwise couldn’t.

Today’s Sunday Experience took me back to fundraising basics however. Working with a team of volunteers collecting for Flag Day. That whole act of asking someone to give to a good cause. A great cause. To put yourself out there and ask “Can you support us by making a donation into my can?” No sophisticated marketing campaign. No gimmicks. No gradual build up. Just a very simple ask.

  

It is not an easy job as I found out. There is you and a lot of people. Just standing with my can and looking around at all the people in my line of vision if they all could donate $1, my can would be full within half an hour. But giving to good causes doesn’t always work like that. And that is ok. This is not about how and when I think you should give. I’m more thinking about the myriad of Volunteers who do put themselves out there for many a charity and NGO doing their own fundraising and volunteering on Flag days with their tin cans. They do it because they truly believe in supporting that cause. They give up whole days to do this. To ask the public if they can support this or that cause and know that nine out of ten will ignore them but they keep at it. I know this because a Volunteer said as much. That you have to be prepared to ask at least 20 people in order to get one who will. These kind of odds is not so different to all kinds of fundraising.

I always try and give when I’m approached by someone with a can collecting for this or that charity. I’m not so keen on collections that seem to go into an envelope. When the volunteer approaches you with a smile and a polite, unobtrusive manner but you are on your way someplace else, I try and remember the fact they have spent many hours doing this in their own time. That they have probably had to steel themselves a little to make the approach. That some change or small notes would give them a little boost before asking the next person to give. Who may not. Who may not even acknowledge they’ve said something.

A big well done and Thank You to all those Volunteers who do this invaluable job. I’ve tried a bit of it today and appreciate all over again just how tough it can be. Without Volunteers, many a charity couldn’t do all they do. Volunteers are an invaluable resource and today has been a privilege working alongside some of them.
  

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