Martin Edwards: I’m bemused that many fundraisers expect other people to do their talking

Not enough fundraising staff think about how to tell their charity’s story in their own way

Martin Edwards

Fundraising is, at heart, about communicating: conveying to current or future supporters why they should support the charity.

So it bemuses me that many fundraisers expect other people to do their talking for them.

Fundraising staff, especially in larger charities, expect to be fed service information, to the extent that too few think about how to tell their charity’s story in their own way.

I have also seen fundraisers rely too much on service users to give talks or presentations, which is an odd way for a fundraiser to make themselves indispensable.

When I was a fundraiser for a large charity, Save the Children, I made it my business to get hold of the best possible information about its wide range of programmes.

Some of it was readily available, like the library full of country reports, where I very rarely met another fundraiser.

I engineered opportunities for other information, taking homemade cakes into the offices of programme staff, which led to my being invited to amazing briefings where I was the only fundraiser present.

None of this was about being competitive – I would have loved it if information was flowing more easily – but programme staff often don’t realise that their day-to-day information is incredibly valuable to the charity’s fundraisers.

Just as with supporter cultivation, programme staff will very rarely come to you: as the fundraiser, you have to make things happen.

So treat your programme staff like supporters: go out and build relationships with them, go to the places where they meet, or ask for their time and take them out for coffee.

However many fundraisers there are in your charity, make yourself the best informed.

Then, when you have obtained that information, practice how to convey it with passion: the newest situation reports, striking facts, the latest need, and stories that bring it all to life.

Share it with your fundraising colleagues. Encourage them to be proactive, too. Make sure your programme colleagues know how helpful this information is.

You will not only be a more successful fundraiser, you will also shape how your organisation works.

Martin Edwards is chief executive of the children’s hospice Julia’s House

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