Fundraiser of the Week: Robin Plowman of Spinal Research

The mass-participation events fundraiser at the medical research charity talks to Third Sector about crowdfunding, camaraderie and his dream race

Robin Plowman
Robin Plowman

What is the best thing about your role?

I really enjoy getting to know my runners and fundraisers and going on the journey with them, from initial sign-up to them completing their dream race. I actually ran the London Marathon this year, so being part of the team from the runner side while also supporting them was something very special. The camaraderie was amazing! In fact, the runners enjoyed their whole experience so much that one set up a crowdfunding page to send me to the Tokyo Marathon, my dream race, and it has raised £750 already. I’m so humbled by what they’ve done and their incredibly supportive messages.

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

In many ways key elements have stayed the same, but it is evolving to meet the needs of fundraising today. The rise in the use of online fundraising platforms since I first used a JustGiving page back in 2004 is astonishing and has increased the amount donated to charities many times over. The increased use of crowdfunding pages by millennials as their preferred fundraising method further evolves the way people will raise money. Smartphones have also made donating online much easier and much more accessible.

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

An old colleague told me once that the best way to help a supporter understand what they can do to fundraise is this: list three of your key skills and three interests you have. Now look at these and you'll find a skill and interest that combine well and, voila, you have your perfect personal fundraising activity.

What particular fundraising challenges do small charities face?

As a small charity the main issue affecting our fundraising is a lack of awareness from the public around the medical research we fund, so support can be much harder to find. We try lots of things to raise our profile, from being out in public more, working collaboratively and utilising social media. I also find that time to do everything we want to do can affect fundraising levels because we have one person to an area. A lot of my time is taken up by doing basic administration, budgets, strategies and everything in between. But that’s also why I love the job – it’s so varied.

Do you tweet and why?

I do tweet, both personally and as Spinal Research. I originally signed up personally because I didn't want to get left behind by a new technology, but I've realised over time that Twitter is an amazing marketing and awareness-raising tool. It’s also a brilliant way to build relationships with supporters and potential supporters alike. We found that using Twitter, with innovative messages and images, to encourage people to vote for us and our supporters at the 2019 Running Awards was hugely beneficial. Spinal Research won bronze as best Small Charity, and two of our supporters won gold and bronze in the Personal Blog category.

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