Fundraiser of the Week: Lily Elizabeth Davies of Chickenshed

This week we talk to Lily Elizabeth Davies, director of fundraising, marketing and commerce at Chickenshed, about the challenges of a diverse income stream

Lily Elizabeth Davies
Lily Elizabeth Davies

What is your charity’s main income stream? What are the positive aspects of that, and what are some of the challenges?

Chickenshed is lucky in the sense that it isn’t dependent on one revenue stream, and we’re taking proactive steps to spread our risk even wider. We earn half of our income, and the other half comes from fundraising – and we raise those funds from individuals, companies, our local community, foundations and events. 

The challenges can be moving targets, but we do what we can. Until recently we had been fairly reliant on special events which, in line with what others are seeing, are not the golden geese they once were – but my teams have met the challenge head-on. This year we upped the pace in certain areas to counter any attrition in others and remained steady (maybe even grown slightly) as a result.

What qualities do you believe are important in a good fundraiser?

Tenacity, humour, positivity, energy, great interpersonal skills and empathy. Good fundraising happens when humans talk to humans about humanity – if someone gets that, the rest can be taught.

How did you get into fundraising?

My first experience of fundraising was when I was 13 or 14: I rallied 25 friends from drama club to put on a cabaret performance at my local arts centre in aid of Acorns Children’s Hospice. I even bagged us a celebrity host! After that I was hooked.

A couple of decades later, after working in the corporate world for a while, I took my proposition development and commercial experience with me into a role at Marie Curie, where I helped to establish its first Innovation team. And I haven’t looked back since.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the sector in the year ahead?

Demonstrating impact and value for money against the backdrop of higher demand, less resource, decreased funding from statutory bodies and increased scrutiny. No pressure, eh?

What’s the best piece of fundraising advice you’ve ever been given?

That your donor doesn’t care about you. Or your cause. Or what you "do". They care about the people you help, the difference you make and the impact you have.

Brutal to hear, but it really is true. Our donors don’t care that Chickenshed runs BTEC, foundation degree and BA courses. They care that young people, who would not otherwise get an education, can achieve nationally recognised qualifications and go on to do amazing things in the world. It’s a shift in mindset, but one that pays you back ten-fold.

Do you tweet and why?

Yes. Charities don’t always have a lot of money to invest in training for their staff, so Twitter can be a great place to turn to for news, wisdom and inspiration. And it’s also good for silly gifs – bonus!

If you’re interested in pictures of cats, you can find me @tweetsfromlily (my views only, of course) and do say hello – I’m very friendly. And please do go to @CHICKENSHED_UK – we have really lovely videos and content.

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