Fundraiser of the Week: Rick Lay of Sue Ryder

The head of public fundraising at the hospice and neurological care charity talks about digital fundraising, charity shops and grant applications

Rick Lay
Rick Lay

Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?

I think the donors have changed. People now want to feel more engaged with the organisation and the causes they support, rather than just donate and forget. People want to know how and where their money is being used, so charities are more accountable than ever before.

Fundraising is becoming far more professional, which is good. A lot more is being invested in more sophisticated stewardship and retention programmes.  For acquisition, charities are incorporating advocacy messages in communications and offering more regular giving products.

Direct mail and face-to-face are still the major routes to engage with donors, but we are putting more investment and resources into digital and new media, especially now digital analytics and learning have improved so much.

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

At Sue Ryder our main income stream is retail. We are lucky to have more than 450 shops on the high streets across the UK, as well as new-goods, online and eBay shops.

A charity shop's primary purpose is to raise money. Alongside that, they bring huge value to the local community, support countless volunteers and can boost the local high street. They also give us a great opportunity to engage with people, tell them about our work and try new fundraising products. Recently we started selling lucky dip tickets to our own weekly lottery from charity shops thanks to new specially designed technology. This new way to play the Sue Ryder lottery is a vital way of raising money.  Not only will it help to raise a significant amount of money, but it will also reward people.

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

The desire to support charities and get involved in a worthwhile cause is human nature. However, charities have recently been fighting some negative media that has fuelled a declining trust in charities. So the biggest challenge facing charities is regaining the trust of supporters.

We need to make sure that we combat these negative stories about charities by being clear about what the real story is. Negative news can damage a brand’s reputation, but by working together charities can tackle these stories, explaining clearly what they are spending donors’ money on and how it is helping. This can also be a great opportunity to spread positivity and encourage people to talk about the charity’s work.

If we are all transparent about what we are doing, the trust will come back. People are becoming savvy to the fact they can research a charity and identify its authenticity, which I think is a good thing.

What advice would you give to organisations applying for grants?

I think many organisations try to impress by using jargon or too many words. I think it really helps to make sure you have a very clear, short explanation that outlines how your organisation makes a difference.

I also think it’s important to make it as easy as possible for the person who is doing the first cull of applications. As they are looking through the applications they are probably looking for answers to the "who, what, why, where and when" questions. Having these in the application will make it jump out and grab the reader’s attention.

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