Arriving at work it was just like any other day, checking my emails, setting up my team for the day and looking at my day ahead but that was all about to change.
I had worked at the bank for all my adult life. I was in my thirteenth year of service. I had developed and grown so much during my time there working my way up to management level.
Little did I know that day this was all about to change. This was the day I was told that my role was no longer required; I was going to be made redundant.
After the initial shock and upset my thoughts quickly raced to what was I going to do. The easy option would have been to apply for another role within the bank but during my time there I had found a real passion for fundraising. I felt it was time for a brave change; a chance to do something I really enjoyed.
I had always loved getting involved in the charity events. During the last five years, alongside my manager role, I was the “charity champion” – making all thing’s charity happen across my department and the building. I loved building relationships with local charities and delivering a calendar of events based on what colleagues wanted to do. I took great satisfaction in seeing the event come to life. I loved even more seeing what we had raised for that charity and how much it would help them be there for more people.
So, I didn’t take the easy option, instead I followed my heart and my dreams. Don’t they say fortune favours the brave? Well it certainly did for me. I secured a role as a Community Fundraiser for The Haven Wolverhampton and nothing has ever felt so right.
Now my days are never like any other day; they are quite the opposite but for all the right reasons. When I arrive home from work and my partner asks me how my day has been, he gets a very different reply. A conversation that sticks in my mind is this one…
“It was good” I replied “I have committed to eating some insects to raise money, created a certificate and letter to say thank you to some lovely donors, painted some props for an event, helped promote a few events we have coming up and then helped a lady who came to refuge yesterday with just the clothes she was standing in, I helped her find some clothes and toiletries from the donations we have received, how was yours?”
This is usually the reaction I get followed by a lot of questions.
No two days are ever the same. It is a fast paced ever changing environment, with so much to learn and so much to do. Yet it is so much fun along the way and, most importantly, so rewarding to know that the work I do is helping women and children who at their most vulnerable from the abuse they have suffered.
When I started my journey as a Community Fundraiser last year nothing could have prepared me for the roller-coaster ride I was about to embark on. I can honestly say I have loved every moment and I don’t want the ride to end!
So, I guess what I am trying to say is don’t just do what feel’s comfortable and familiar do what excites you, what you are passionate about and take every opportunity that you can.
“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.”
The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.
Social media is a great tool for a charity. It keeps donors in the loop while they sneak a quick Twitter break (generally around 11am – for a little light relief from the office). It offers a charity the chance to interact with their donors building a real connection. Internet usage is on the rise with 90% of people in the UK having used the internet in at least the previous 3 months and social media is the 4th most common activity offering a ready audience. Social media is therefore an amazing resource for building donor support – especially as it is largely free.
FAST, FREE, AND POPULAR – WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?
Nothing of course but social media is a very different skill to previous charity resources. Unlike direct mailing or phone advertising; social media is immediate. As soon as you press enter it is on your follower’s phone, laptop, or iPad. Every sentence, every space, every GIF transmitted to thousands of people in the time it takes to take a breath.
BUT THAT’S WHERE PROBLEMS CAN START
A post quickly typed can be misinterpreted. Anyone can make an accidental typo or spoonerism. The problem that charities and organisations can have is a complete failure to ensure that their posts are compatible with their aims.
These posts can imply a complete lack of awareness and a lack of understanding of an important issue, which can undermine an organisation’s claim to authority. Supporters can find them awkward, funny or, even worse; tone-deaf. These posts can happen accidentally at any time but once it goes online there is no return. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Certainly not when the genie has been screen-shotted and posted on all platforms invented.
LEARNING FROM THE POLICE
Last month a police service decided to ask for help finding a suspect, taking advantage of a wide and engaged community audience – an excellent example of modern policing. The crime in question was a sexual assault. An appalling crime and a truly traumatic event for the victim. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by the person who posted the tweet using the phrase that the victim was ‘unhurt’.
The insensitive tweet (now deleted) left many shocked at the lack of awareness for the aftermath that such an attack would leave a victim feeling. That a police force could tweet this, just as it has been revealed only 1.7% of rape or sexual assault cases are prosecuted, implied to many who saw the original post that the Police Service had little understanding of the seriousness of the crime. This is a worrying implication to any victim who may have been considering reporting a crime and may put them off, frightened of not being believed.
NSPCC’S TALK PANTS CAMPAIGN
It’s not just the police who can post a poorly considered social media campaign, NSPCC has recently been criticised by leading professionals in the field, survivors, and by donors for their ‘TalkPANTS’ campaign. What was intended was a fun awareness raiser for children to discuss consent.
Unfortunately, it came across as blaming victims for being unable to prevent their abuse especially with an inappropriate tagline of all ‘abuse is preventable, not inevitable’. It implied that children should ‘prevent’ abuse from their grown adult abusers which horrified followers.
Leading professionals like Jessica Eaton responded to the tweet in disgust pointing out that “abuse is prevented by adults” not children. It is not just professionals in shock. One of the tweets was from a long-term supporter who had run sponsored races for the NSPCC – clearly a committed donor. He is also horrified and wanted a public response to the criticism of the tweet. An ill-thought through marketing campaign has potentially lost a loyal donor forever.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A DIFFICULT ART TO MASTER
The ability to interact with events as they happen helps show a charity’s commitment to a cause and to its mission. It offers a charity to show its ‘natural voice’; granting an authenticity that donors appreciate. It is however essential that speed does not become more important than engagement, wider cultural awareness, and common sense. ”
It’s important to think not only what you want to say and how it is being said but also how a reader will interpret what you are saying before posting. Asking a colleague or even taking the time to get up and make a cuppa will save all sorts of distress and embarrassment. It may even save a donor relationship.
With social media just remember as my nan always says, “less haste and more speed”. Oh, and always add an emoji. 😊
Lucy Owen is a Community Fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. She can be found on Twitter using the handle @lucyowen95 and on LinkedIn here.
The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.
So, politics has gone mad. Injustices are multiplying. Poverty is on the rise and the funds to fight it are tighter than ever. And to cap it all, the reputation of the charity sector has taken some big knocks recently with a string of scandals. All this, and Boris too…
So, how should the serious, responsible charity respond to the challenge?
How about having a bit more fun? Yes, fun. And no, I’m not being flippant.
There’s a growing body of evidence that fun not only makes for happier, healthier employees (obvs!) – and more productive ones too, less likely to get stressed into sickness or look for another job (slightly less obvious) – but, and this is crucial, fun helps charities fulfil their mission even more effectively.
Within reason, the more fun you’re having, the more you’re able to help those causes and people you exist for.
That’s why some of the most effective charities in their field have embraced fun as a core organisational value – alongside more familiar ones such as respect, equality and accountability.
Sean McCallion, head of fundraising at The Back Up Trust, shared with me that he remembers arguing passionately for fun as a value in a heated staff debate some years ago. He won; it’s still there, and, says Sean, has become core to everything Back Up does to support those with life-altering spinal cord injury.
Sustainability NGO, Forum for the Future, was an early pioneer in adopting fun; it’s since changed it to ‘Playful’, but the message is the same – “Fun is good” – as Dr Seuss famously said.
SO WHY DOES FUN WORK?
Fun at work has a whole host of benefits which come together in a beautiful virtuous circle. Here are some:
Top of the list is that fun allows staff to have a laugh and let off steam. This is important for everyone, but even more so when the issues they may be working with are deeply upsetting or difficult. This doesn’t mean taking those issues lightly. Quite the opposite; by lifting staff spirits, it acts as a refresher, helping them tackle those challenges with renewed vigour and optimism. Staff with a smile are a lot more pleasant for clients and colleagues alike than ones with a frown.
When people are having fun, they experience less stress and tend to be happier with a greater sense of well being. Better for them, better for the outfit as a whole.
There’s strong evidence that happier people are more productive people, more engaged with work, more capable of simply getting stuff done. It’s obvious really. If work drains the life out of you, you’re not going to be doing a great job, are you?
Fun builds trust and encourages positive relationships between colleagues, vital for the successful collaboration and problem solving the sector needs.
Creativity and innovative thinking, so important for tackling the tough challenges we face right now, thrive in an atmosphere of play and fun, where people are allowed to experiment rather than be constrained by the idea that there are institutional right and wrong answers.
Having fun helps people to learn more effectively (just think about young children learning through play – it’s true for grown-ups too!)
What’s not to like?
FUN FOR ALL?
‘Fun’ as a core value isn’t right for all charities, I know. It can be seen as frivolous and trite. And most charity workers don’t exactly have fun in their job title. But bringing fun into work doesn’t have to be a big cringe. As a coach and trainer, I support leaders experimenting with new approaches to bring out the best in their staff, and I’ve found that bringing an element of fun into work can often be a surprisingly effective means of doing so.
Here’s how some are going about it:
First up, creating a culture where fun is acceptable, has got to come from the top. Leaders need to be on board. Staff will find their own fun (which is actually the best way to let it develop) but only if there is trust that they won’t be judged or made to feel silly or bad. And a leader who can relax and enjoy some fun – when appropriate – from time to time can do wonders in putting staff at ease.
That said, lowering the barriers to fun, such as tackling poor working conditions and staff conflict, is also key. As Louise Wright, CEO of Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis told me,
“Fun comes out when people are able to get on, when they’re not grappling with silly issues such as office politics, and there is a fair and equitable workplace which allows them to be empowered and facilitated. It’s my job to make sure that happens.”
Planned fun (sports day, bake-offs, ‘bring your dog to work day’) is good. Organic fun that bubbles up from happy, supported staff is even better. Warm chats with colleagues, spontaneous lunches out and birthday celebrations all add up to a ‘fun-positive’ culture.
Fun doesn’t want to feel overly scheduled or formal. You can’t force feed fun! And, please, don’t make anything obligatory. That really gives fun at work a bad name. I still remember Christmas lunches in my early working days at a big non-profit which were hosted by a team leader I couldn’t bear. I can tell you, that was extremely unfun. (Needless to say, I didn’t last long there!)
Make sure fun is inclusive. Gender, cultural and age-related differences mean that what constitutes fun can vary hugely. Lena Staafgard, Chief Operating Officer at Better Cotton Initiative, told me she’d love to start a spoof newsletter, which worked so successfully in her previous workplace, but fears it will fall flat at the more international organisation where the jokes won’t necessarily translate.
Make sure you bring fun into your learning. No boring blah, blah-ing in front of a PowerPoint. When I was invited to run management training at Aspire Charity recently, the brief was very much about making the learning fun so it would stick, but also to encourage participants to see that management itself could be fun. I didn’t go in there banging a drum shouting ‘let’s have fun!” (that would have put some people right off) but through the use of games, funny graphics, and a squeaky green frog, plus warm, honest conversation, we all had a very fun time.
Having said all that, fun really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Fun at work isn’t necessarily complicated or expensive. Look for the tiny things – taking it in turns to join in with #FridayFunDay on Twitter. Breaking for communal tea-time. Small informal celebrations for everyone’s birthday. You name it – small can be very beautiful when it comes to fun.
So, despite the doom and gloom. Despite, or maybe, because of Boris, I shall carry on encouraging fun in the sector and celebrating all that’s playful and light-hearted. I may get some flak for it, but I truly believe that however tough our tasks, however difficult the issues we face, there is always time, and very good reason, to have fun.
Want to play?
At The Royal Star and Garter Homes, fun is highly valued inside its three Homes for veterans and their partners. Caley Eldred, Director of Supporter Engagement, loves that when she goes into one of the Homes she gets to express her fun side.
“Fun makes us who we are. If you aren’t prepared to go into one of our Homes and jump about in a tropical shirt or do the conga then working here is probably not for you. It’s not just in the Homes, where fun is part of the service, that staff have fun.” – Caley Eldred
Encouraged by leadership with a strong understanding of how to nurture a happy, engaged team, there’s lots going on at head office too, both organised and spontaneous, from cake sales to sports days.
“We try to make a positive, fun environment. We do a job that’s centred on difficult things and challenging issues, but we do what we can to always make that pleasant.” – Caley Eldred
Katie Duckworth is a coach, trainer, speaker and writer helping leaders with purpose and their teams to change the world and have fun at the same time. She is the founder of informal networking and support group #LeadersWhoBrunch.
Almost 20 years ago I was a passionate volunteer for a charity that had made a huge difference in my life. My voluntary work turned into revenue for this organization, so they offered to start paying me on a part-time basis to do more. As an at-home mother of two, a little bit of extra money was very welcome. That was my first fundraising job.
My work began reaping some serious returns. The charity shifted from operating at a deficit to a surplus. So I just kept doing my thing.
WHAT WAS I DOING EXACTLY?
Sitting in my first home office, with my baby at my breast, I was forging connections between people who shared my passion for the cause and wanted to have an impact in their communities. Those connections advanced the mission AND as a side bonus… raised money. That was it!
Later, we decided to send out a letter asking for donations. So how did I do that? Honestly, I had no idea. Back in 1999 Google was only one year old and Yahoo left a lot to be desired. I popped my baby in a sling and went to my local library. The librarian helped me order a book by a man named Mal Warwick called: “How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters.” Three weeks later that book arrived, and I learned that this “thing” that I was doing…was actually a THING! I was a “professional” fundraiser.
AN ACCIDENTAL CAREER
Many people my age are “Accidental Fundraisers”. We fell into this work through our passion and learnt from each other as we went along. I describe my education like twisting a rope as I climb the mountain. Fast forward twenty years, my children are starting their own lives and I am an international speaker, certified fundraising executive and a trusted consultant. For better or worse, I am very much a “professional”.
SUITED UP ROBOTS?
Unlike other professions, fundraising is constantly under scrutiny; we always have to prove ourselves. What it really takes to raise money is grossly misunderstood. We have to combat this perception every day and honestly, we can’t afford to mess it up. But, does that mean that we need to behave like suited up robots? I think not.
Recently, I was in a meeting with an influencer, who I hope will help my client with a very ambitious capital campaign. He is a prominent leader in his community, on the boards of several large organizations and knows literally everyone. His response to our request was:
“For goodness sake, whatever you do don’t stick me in a room and make me look at spreadsheets! I can’t stand that!”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that was exactly what I was hoping we would do together. What the heck? How did I get from making authentic connections between people who are passionate about a cause to sitting down with spreadsheets boring people to death? I must have been taught that’s what it meant to be “professional”.
ARE WE BECOMING LESS HUMAN?
I am worried that in our sprint to “professionalize” ourselves we may alienate our communities. I’m worried that we have lost authenticity at the core of what we do and who we are. We must then ask the question:
“In our quest to become more professional we are becoming less human?”
Fundraising isn’t a transactional business – like banking or insurance – it is a passion-driven sector. We open our hearts to donors, share our experiences, connect people with shared passions. The best way to make this connection is to be authentic, candid and human.
Posing this question about being “too professional” in no way suggests that we need to become less legitimate. I am deeply grateful to all of the educators I have had the privilege of learning from during my career. Organizations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), The Resource Alliance, and Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) work to try and ensure that we all operate with a high degree of accountability.
Those of us who are members of these organizations have made a commitment to conduct business within an ethical framework. Associations whose mandate it is to advance our sector by advocating for good government policies and greater awareness do us all a great service.
CONVERSATIONS NOT SPREADSHEETS
We need to remember how our sector started. All around the world, groups of passionate people came together to ask how they could address a need in their community. At its very core, that is still what our donors, volunteers and our organizations want. Sometimes that may mean leaving the spreadsheets at home and simply having a meaningful conversation.
Fundraisers are connectors; we are the folks that build bridges and create alliances. This can happen on a nature walk, cooking food, building a playground, or handing out sandwiches. So be sure to engage in the work of your organization beyond spreadsheets and keep connecting your donors, volunteers and board members to your mission. Make their work meaningful.
Continuing to do our work authentically with an open, loving and joyful heart is what I think it means to be a “professional” fundraiser. I’d love to know what it means to you.
Kimberley Mackenzie is an award winning fundraiser, Certified Fundraising Executive and AFP International Master Trainer. She works as a consultant with a variety of organizations to advance a culture of philanthropy and create transformative results that raise more money for their missions. A sought after thought leader, facilitator, speaker and trainer Kimberley has been in the fundraising trenches since 2001 and was a driving force in the early days of SOFII.org. Kimberley has also served as Editor for Hilborn Canada’s eNEWS – a weekly publication send to over 14,000 fundraising professionals every week – was a member of the Advisory Panel for the Rogare Think Tank at Plymouth University and an executive member of the Planned Giving Council of Simcoe County.
How many people run in the UK? Whether as a means of stress relief, to get fit or as part of a running club; the numbers are in their millions. Especially with the warmer weather on the way and the London Marathon sprinkling inspiration across the nation. Furthermore, with thanks to campaigns such as “This Girl Can”, a record number of women are now putting on their trainers and heading for the outdoors. This is great news; not only for the nations physical health but exercise is also known to reduce stress and anxiety and so could have a positive impact on mental health too.
REACTIONS ARE DISTURBING
However, disturbingly, I recently came across the #JogOn campaign released by Avon and Somerset Police Force urging women to only run in pairs or groups to help prevent sexual abuse and threatening behaviour from men. This goes hand in hand with other statements from police forces advising women to not wear headphones whilst out walking or running, again, to avoid becoming the prey of sexual predators lurking in society.
FUELLING A VICTIM BLAMING CULTURE
Now whilst this may be seen by many as simple advice to try and tackle a growing issue, for me it is fuelling a victim blaming culture that puts the responsibility on women to change very normal behaviours and avoids the real problem.
Jessica Eaton, a campaigner against sexual violence commented saying,
“Headphones don’t rape women, nor do skirts, or dark streets, or clubs, or alcohol, or parties, or sleepovers, or school uniforms. Name the perpetrators. Name the problem. We can’t help if we can’t even name it.”
And I could not agree more.
IT IS CATEGORICALLY WRONG
How many reports of sexual assault do we see where the article will comment on what a woman was wearing or where she was walking alone when an attack took place. Why does this matter? Wording like this adds to a belief that ‘she was asking for it,’ and this is categorically wrong. It is not illegal to walk alone, wear headphones, or wear a short skirt. However, it IS illegal to physically assault, harass or rape someone.
WE NEED TO REJECT THE NOTION
As a society we need to stop putting the onus on women to change their behaviour – behaviours that we all exhibit and should be free to, without having to worry whether we may or may not get attacked. Instead we need to turn our attention to the crimes taking place on a daily basis and reject any notion of this being acceptable behaviour.
LET’S STOP PRETENDING
Unfortunately, we do live in a scary world and so there is a level of personal care and safety that everyone should undertake; this I understand. However, if we stand any sort of chance to tackling the breadth of these crimes, we need to see a major shift in focus and stop turning a blind eye to what is truly going on.
Let’s stop suggesting changes women need to make to prevent attacks happening to them and shift our attention to putting firmer laws and punishments into place to stop attacks happening in the first place; fundamentally, this is much closer to the core of the problem and the only thing that will ever make violent individuals accountable for their actions.
Jade Secker is the senior community fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. You can connect with Jade Secker on LinkedIn here. The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.
The Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention is the largest fundraising conference in Europe and the biggest outside the US, regularly attracting over 2,500 attendees. It’s been a dream of mine to speak there for many years. But for a long time, I thought I didn’t have anything to say. Turns out I was wrong.
AM I REALLY GOOD ENOUGH?
I have had lots of experience of public speaking. From media interviews to golf days to black tie galas, I have no fear of getting up in front of people and talking. But I’ve always had a bit of impostor syndrome about speaking somewhere as prestigious as the National Convention, thinking I didn’t have a big enough project to speak about or didn’t have that undefinable “guru” factor. In addition to that, the charity I work for is quite small and new compared to some of the organisations represented at the National Convention. Target Ovarian Cancer was founded eleven years ago and we turnover just over £2.5million a year.
But we are an organisation with huge ambitions – our vision is to double ovarian cancer survival by 2050.
INSPIRED BY WOMEN WITH CANCER
Last year I had the privilege of working on Target Ovarian Cancer’s first-ever integrated campaign. “It’s time to TAKE OVAR” centred on women with ovarian cancer, researchers and GPs – making them more visible and giving them space to have their voices heard. Every image and came quote came from someone the charity has a direct relationship with. It helped me to see the importance of women taking up space, asserting themselves, being heard, and ultimately using their voice to help change the future for others. It was the obvious choice for us to present on…especially as it achieved such great results.
IT WAS A GAME-CHANGER
The campaign has been a game-changer for Target Ovarian Cancer, bringing in thousands of engaged new supporters. GDPR came in halfway through the campaign and since then we’ve more than doubled the number of people we can contact. The campaign has unlocked hundreds of thousands in pro bono support, and we’ve seen a 30 per cent increase in our digital reach.
SHAKING OFF IMPOSTOR SYNDROME
So, this year I really felt I had a reason to take over the stage – I’m really proud of the “TAKE OVAR” campaign and everything it’s doing to change the future for women with ovarian cancer. But really I should have felt that all along. That’s part of what impostor syndrome does. Shaking it off means becoming more self-assured, more confident in your assertions and in the work you’re doing. I want to encourage all women and non-binary people who may be thinking, as I did, that they have nothing to share. You do. Here are some of my tales of preparing for this speech to help you stage your own “TAKE OVAR”.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
My colleague, Alexandra Holden, co-presented with me. We supported each other through the whole process. Having another woman and incredible charity leader alongside me gave me the boost I needed.
PREPARATION IS KEY
We spent days preparing the slides, organising our thinking and practising our delivery. Preparation is key – it will help keep your nerves under control. People notice if you haven’t practised, and it made me feel more confident too. We were lucky to be offered some speaker training with the Tony Elischer Foundation, and followed that up by practising in front of members of our teams to get their feedback.
KEEPING NERVES UNDER CONTROL
I barely slept the night before and on the day struggled to concentrate before our session. We had 45 minutes to present and answer questions, so our script was prepped and ready to go in large font so we could refer to it easily. We also made sure to visit the room before our session – things felt more comfortable once we knew the lay of the land.
WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE ON STAGE
All the things you think you’ll be conscious of, you’re really not, when you get going. Although we had the notes in front of us I hardly read them. This gave me time to focus on my breathing, body language and intonation. I tried to stand tall with my shoulders back and I caught the eyes of people as I was speaking. Having practised, I knew it didn’t matter if I lost my place in the notes, because I knew by heart where I would be on the page. Everyone in the room looked interested and there were faces I recognised, which definitely helped.
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE
After we had done a final Q&A session, plenty of people came over for a chat, which was a huge boost. We’ve been asked to speak again by other organisations and we had the most amazing feedback on social media. But my favourite moment was the enthusiastic Convention Volunteer who came to say ours was by far the best presentation they had seen.
BREATHE IT ALL IN
The chance to celebrate and share successes, learning and knowledge whilst practising your presentation skills is important for our core motivation and personal development. When I looked at all the tweets of photos of our presentation I felt proud of what we had achieved, and that all the energy that went into the TAKE OVAR campaign is now having a ripple effect, inspiring other fundraisers to raise more for the causes they’re passionate about. It’s also given us a new network of contacts, leading to new conversations and new inspiration.
Speaking in public is a time to grow your personal brand, talk about something you know and love, and share what motivates you with your peers. Remember everyone in the room will be willing you on. It’s your time to stand up, TAKE OVAR and be heard.
Susan Booth is the director of development at Target Ovarian Cancer. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
The recent Game of Thrones petition to have a disappointing ending re-written by “competent writers” is a beautiful, if frivolous, example of how our relationship with the things we consume has changed. We feel we have not only a personal stake, but a right to challenge and question. And we have the means to do it…
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how supporters would react if, as a sector, we were totally transparent about where our money comes from – particularly when it comes to major donors and corporate partnerships. Whilst there is some research and guidance out there, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach to ethics across fundraising and I fear this could cause problems down the road.
In a world where trust in charities continues to decline, ethical consumption is on the rise, and our fundraising thought leaders are stressing the need to move away from transactional fundraising products to values-led supporter engagement, I don’t think we can leave this out of our conversations about the future of fundraising.
The fact that our approach to ethical fundraising across the sector is inconsistent has been acknowledged time and time again. At best, we have a list of industries we won’t work with and a screening process to mitigate against any reputational risk. At worst, we have nothing in place at all and rely on the judgement and, often, politics of individual members of staff.
In my experience, I have found that there tend to be two camps of fundraisers when it comes to this issue: those that believe we shouldn’t take funds which could compromise our mission and our responsibility to wider societal good (assuming we have one) and those who believe that what matters most is that we do good for our beneficiaries* with that money regardless of where it comes from or how we get it (‘robbing the rich to feed the poor’). There is, of course, nuance in all of this and pragmatically, I think charities should probably position themselves somewhere on a spectrum between the two. That said, if you were to ask me what I truly believe, I struggle to swallow the latter.
Firstly, I think taking money from an industry or individual which undermines your mission – whether that’s through the work they do or the behaviours they demonstrate – does as much, if not more, of a disservice to your beneficiaries in the long-term than taking the money in the first place. For example, at Bloody Good Period, large period product companies are desperate to partner with us and we could make a healthy sum accepting their offers. But these companies play a huge role in perpetuating the stigma and shame which contributes to menstrual inequity – the very social issue we are trying to solve – in the first place. By taking their money, we enable them to continue doing that and make them look good in the process. So, we don’t. And we’re doing alright.
Secondly, I would like to see us questioning how our decisions about how and where we source our funds from are linked to things like climate crisis, gender inequality, and racism. We are increasingly being asked and asking others not to separate themselves from these issues as individuals; should we not be asking the same of our organisations?
Finally, there’s the question of poverty porn – a subject which I could write a whole separate blog about. Time and time again I am told “yeah, but it works”. And I know that’s what the research tells us. But what it ‘works’ at is bringing in cash and the starting point for that is a focus on growth rather than what’s best for our beneficiaries. Much like my first point, my fundamental belief is that the long-term damage of using tactics like this far outweighs the short-term good we can achieve as organisations. Again, at Bloody Good we refuse to use images or stories from the people we work with in our communications or fundraising…
All of the above is my personal opinion. What I would love to know is how charity supporters feel. Do they care if we respond to natural disasters over here but take money from extractive industries over there? Or if we campaign for women’s rights but take money from a reported sexual harasser? I don’t know and I think we might be a little bit afraid to ask them…
*I have used the word beneficiaries throughout for ease of understanding but I’d like to categorically document that I hate it. At Bloody Good Period we refer to “the people we work with” instead.
The reason we started Goals Gone Wild was as provocative as the title. As the famous feminist writer Roxanne Gay once wrote, “If you and your friends are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do it too.” So that’s exactly what we did.
The group started socially. We were four women who without close ties who came together to teach a fundraising course. What started out as regular meetings to discuss course instruction slowly evolved into an informal networking group. What we came to realize is that we were at varying stages of professional development and had ambitions to grow in our careers. We wondered if other women in our sector felt the same way we did, and if so, how were they planning the next stages of their career advancement? It became an opportunity to lift one-another up and to see more women leading organizations in the non-profit sector in our region.
The model is simple. You spend some time considering the questions of fit and what’s important personally before you set your next three career goals. One that you could achieve right now, one that is slightly out of reach right now and a final goal that would be where you see yourself in 5-10 years. With those three goals in mind, you set out to build a plan that would position you for those changes. You consider the current gaps in your education, experience and relationships to decide what opportunities you need to embrace to be successful. The three-stage process is done independently with check-ins with your group to raise new ideas and solutions.
The process itself is simple and the goal is to push it out beyond our current community by helping other small groups embrace the Goals Gone Wild approach to career planning. We’ve learned along the path that there is some magic that you work to create. If you’re ready to give it a try you need the following:
a small group of four (4) to six (6) like-minded women with distinct networks.
to create an atmosphere of trust and compassion.
to make a commitment to move through the process and support each other in a timely method.
We want this model – or any model – that moves women upward on the career ladder in fundraising and non-profit. It’s important that we see gender equality at the most senior levels of our profession, on our boards, as the speakers at our conferences and the lead consultants in our industry. It’s time.
As stated by feminist G.D. Anderson: “feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” Help lift each other up and give each other a voice.
Are you interested in learning more about the Goals Gone Wild model? Reach out and we will help you set up a similar network in your community!
Authors and Goals Gone Wild Founders:
In January 2019, Liz LeClair wrote an op-ed for CBC News about the MeToo crisis in the non-profit sector. Liz brings more than 15 years of experience to her role as the Senior Development Officer at Dalhousie University. She has had the privilege of working and living coast-to-coast in Canada. She has worked with a variety of non-profits, helping to build strong fundraising programs and extensive experience in managing and leading teams, the development of strategic plans, and a genuine passion for raising funds for important causes in her community.
Sarah was hired on the spot for the fundraising department at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. Her previous fundraising experience being door to door cookie sales for Girl Guides. Since then she has studied the fundraising greats and earned a CFRE, became the ASNS Director of Philanthropy, spoken at the AFP Congress in Toronto and currently sits on the Association of Fundraising Professionals Canada Foundation for Philanthropy Board.
She is the founder of the Giving Tuesday Canada Civic Movement, Nova Scotia Gives More, just celebrated her ninth year at ASNS and, she continues to this day to sell Girl Guide cookies.
Marni Tuttle is invested in non-profit success. She believes philanthropy makes the impossible possible. Marni is a strategic fundraising professional skilled at partnering philanthropists and visionary ideas to make our world a better place. She has what a volunteer once described as 20-year ‘gold-plated’ fundraising resume with leadership roles in education, health care and environmental philanthropy. She has built a career around progressive roles in annual giving, community engagement, major gift, campaign strategy, planned giving, prospect management and now focuses on helping charities grow. Marni is currently the Director of External Relations for the Nova Scotia SPCA.
Lisa is the Regional Executive Director for the Atlantic Region of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Based in Dartmouth, she and her team work with eight remarkable volunteer chapters and partners across the Region. Her career has led her from corporate sales and sales training to a career in the charitable sector, including roles at Xerox and Dalhousie University Faculties of Dentistry and Health Professions external relations team. She is also one of three Dale Carnegie Business Coaches in Nova Scotia. Lisa graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce. In addition to board roles with Big Brothers Big Sisters and AFP NS, she has been an active volunteer for many years working with various events and organizations in the Halifax area including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Halifax Relay for Life as well as a facilitator for the Fundamentals of Fundraising.
I was recently contacted by the CEO of a small charity. Like so many other small charities, her organisation has been struggling financially – they have not been awarded grants they were expecting and contracts have been cut over time. To address these issues, she requested an extraordinary board meeting.
After the meeting she felt even more concerned than when she went into it. Her Board had interrogated her, rather than helped her find solutions. She stopped feeling part of a team and started feeling like a naughty school girl who needed to be reprimanded. I have heard similar stories so many times from other small charity CEOs.
This week, the same woman was kind enough to share the follow up letter that she wrote to her Board. I have changed a few of the details in order to anonymise the charity (and the CEO) but the bulk of the original letter is included below.
Her words articulate so well things that I know many of us have experienced at a Board meeting. I hope you find the letter therapeutic in the way that I did – it made me feel that I was not alone. It also left me with questions – Why does this happen? How can we change this? I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts…
First, I want to say thank you. I approached all of you individually and asked you to join the board of this organisation, and without hesitation, you all agreed and that for me was very humbling. You all joined because you strongly believe in the work we are trying to do. It doesn’t matter whether it affects you directly or indirectly; you connect with the people we serve and you gave your time and expertise to want to make a change. For that I will forever be indebted to everyone single person on the board, past and present.
The journey of this charity has not been easy. It has been a struggle from day one and, with the support from the board, we have been able to weather the storm. We heard things, we have been called out on many things, some justifiable and others out of sheer pettiness, but we stayed focused on why we are here. As an organisation, we have operated on very small budget but have achieved things beyond our wildest dreams. We have capitalised on the passion of both the board and staff to drive a dream that sometimes is even scary for us, but we have also come out strong and determined.
This is why the event of this week shocked me. I came to the board meeting last week expecting us to find a solution to the financial challenge that we have. I call it a “challenge” because I see it as just another hurdle that we need to find a way of jumping over.
At last week’s Board meeting, what I needed was support, what I got was reproach.
There was no acknowledgement of the work the staff and I have put into the charity. There were no words of encouragement whatsoever about where the organisation is currently. There was no concrete plan from the board on how to solve the challenges that we are faced with.
What I heard were people trying to save themselves as fast as possible.
I have no objection to this, as I think it is important, but I felt I was being thrown under the bus.
For two weeks, my mental health has taken a deep toll. Leading up to this meeting, I was having severe panic attacks. But I kept working. I kept the staff working.
To be so unappreciated, was a big slap in the face. I have sacrificed good jobs for this organisation, because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else. I always have the interest of this charity at heart. I strongly believe in the principles upon which it was founded. I will always be passionate about this issue.
Yesterday I sent an email to you all from an expert. I was expecting a response from the board but not a single person replied.
As the CEO of this charity, I face lot of struggles every day. I wish that, once in a while, someone from the board would touch base to ask how we are doing and coping. This rarely happens – some of you have never done it.
This email is not sent to lay blame, far from it. I will never do that. I know none of you have to serve on this board; you do it because you care. The intention of this email is to say that last week’s board meeting should not have gone the way it did. It has achieved very little and put all of us under stress. We are left with a challenge and no solutions. I just feel it should have been better.
I have learnt a lot from this experience and from working with the organisation. I now think it would be better for someone else to take charge. Someone who can do the work even better than I am doing but without the deep, emotional connection that I have.
I will be writing to the board officially to tender my resignation letter.
Once again, thank you for your support, your love, your service and your passion.
I’m not going
to lie. When I first heard the news, I rolled my eyes. I have seen some really
positive things recently from the Institute of Fundraising (the IOF). I love
collective stuff and the manifesto.
I’m enthused by the increasing conversation in the sector about gender
imbalance in senior roles and the lack of ethnic diversity across the board.
I’ve been in the sector for a long time and have had many a conversation about
diversity and it feels like things might, just might, be starting to move from
conversation to action. And so yes, I did sigh and roll my eyes when I found
out that the one paid role whose focus is to look at diversity was filled by
yet another white male.
Now, for the
sake of context here are a few things I’d like you to know about me. I am a mixed-race
woman and was raised in the UK. I have fairly light skin and am married to a
white guy. I grew up in a very wealthy area, in a council flat. Neither of my
parents have any school qualifications, but my aunt did a PHD at Oxford and my
brother trained in contemporary dance. I have a four-year-old, white looking,
disabled daughter and my dad is bisexual. I’m mixed race, but I’m also mixed in
so many other ways having experienced a melting pot of cultures, classes and
races. So, I have lived experience of some of the protected characteristics
other than race. I know that diversity is not all about race and that true
inclusion is, and should be, much wider than that conversation*. But having
laid all that out I still can’t help but wonder about the message being sent
that what we need to drive the diversity agenda is another white male.
I don’t know the person in the role at all. From what little information I do have it looks like he’s super qualified. The IOF have said he was ‘the best candidate for the job’, which I’m sure is true (there’s a whole blog post in that statement alone; that’s for another day). But, did they try to recruit more diversely? How was the selection panel constituted? Where did they advertise? What qualifications were outlined? Basically: how hard did they try? The premise of the role is that these questions are important for our sector. If the areas in which we are particularly underrepresented at senior levels are disability, race and gender*, it is hardly surprising that this appointment has raised some questions about how hard the IOF are trying. Maybe this has all been discussed and thought about. I would say that now is the perfect time for the IOF to share some of that thinking and model what excellence looks like. And to share how they’re engaging with underrepresented communities. I know that a white man can certainly work in diversity and do an excellent job, but he just might have to try a little harder to overcome the optics and to prove himself. And to that I say: welcome to the club.
*I am also not the first to say that just because I am not white, it doesn’t make me an expert on diversity. But I do think the increasing awareness of the validity of lived experience is an important shift if we are to start including unrepresented communities in the narrative. Also, the reality remains that throughout my career I have been asked to provide opinions, thoughts, strategies and my non white face to represent the diversity angle, so I’m giving myself a pass to have an opinion here.
* The Equality Act covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnership, and pregnancy & maternity. The IOF Manifesto for Change doesn’t cover anything in relation to age, religion or belief, marriage & civil partnership or pregnancy & maternity. It addresses disability as follows: ‘The low overall employment rate for disabled people is a society-wide issue, but is one that we should be committed to address within the fundraising community. It covers sex in terms of wanting to ‘aim for a better gender balance between men and women in the fundraising community’ and also states that ‘Women make up 70% of the profession but this is not matched at senior level, and issues of gender discrimination remain’. With regards to gender reassignment and sexual orientation is states ‘In relation to LGBT+, we do not have definitive data, but there is an assumption that there are senior LGBT+ fundraisers, but the fact that they are LGBT+ may not be widely known’.