Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

Guest blogger Caroline Danks of LarkOwl talks foul-mouthed Christian rock bands and sleepouts…


In my first ever fundraising role, I was part of a team of four focused on trusts and statutory fundraising.  I loved it!  The research and writing elements felt like an easy segue from my degree coursework.  Phoning people felt like a big and scary (but do-able) challenge. My colleagues were generous in sharing their wisdom and my charity had invested in me and in my development.

At the same charity, there was also a corporate and major gifts team of four and an individual giving team, also of four. 

When looking back and comparing the personalities of those in each team, I think we all fitted the stereotypes relatively closely.

The trust fundraisers were quiet, studious and reserved.  We brought lots of money in, never shouted about it and occasionally went for a civilised lunch together of sausage, egg and chips at our favourite East End pub (so wild…).

The corporate team were a different breed.   They were warm, personable, fun and energetic (not that we weren’t but, you know…).   They were always the first to put the radio on and crank up the music (I can’t listen to Hey Ya by Outkast without thinking back to that magical time).

Their section of the office was colourful, there were always banners, balloons, mascots and t shirts hanging around.  Very different to the trust office with our neat files, well stocked pen pots and private ‘touch it and you die’ non-communal tea mugs.

They were always roping people into volunteer at evenings and weekends or take on ambitious running / sleepout challenges.

It was through them that I got out of my comfort zone and experienced some of the most enjoyable and memorable times representing my charity within my local community.

These included:

  • A gig by a Christian rock band in a nasty upstairs room at a ropey pub on the Walworth Road.  The lyrics comprising bad language like I’d NEVER heard in my LIFE.  Not very Christian…
  • A drinks reception at a large city bank.  I’d literally been in my job two weeks and knew NOTHING but there were free drinks!!!  Twenty-one year old Caroline was THERE.
  • The opening of a swanky new bar in West London.  The celeb host was lovely, her assistant was not and my boyfriend and best mate who tagged along ended up getting terrible food poisoning from the canapes!
  • The London Marathon.  Just wow.  Watching it is game-changing.  I ended up running it for the following three years.

Here were the best things that I learned from that corporate team and how those learnings influenced my trust fundraising practice.

1. Creativity in buckets

I was conscious early on about how much harder their work was compared with ours (and have become more so since having actually done corporate fundraising in subsequent roles). 

They couldn’t just write a letter and wait for the cheque.  They had to do presentations, meetings, organise team building activities etc.  The publicity and praise their donors were after was different to the requirements from trusts.  Alongside project visits, they were often found posing with giant cheques, writing content for our website and for the corporate supporters too.

They were building partnerships through multiple touchpoints.

Not just a one-off request for money with a yes / no response.

Because of this, they seemed to be more on more intimate terms with their donors.  Regular contact enabled them to build relationships in a way that we trust fundraisers never needed to.

Maybe charitable trusts don’t ask this of us but conversely, many will welcome it if we offer it.

Anything we can do to strengthen relationships in this competitive funding environment is a win.

2. Always on the phone

The corporate team ALWAYS seemed to be on the phone.  They were never off it.  And they chatted to their donors like they were friends.  They seemed to know each other really well.

This was one of many tools they used to build meaningful, long term partnerships.

I am a massive proponent of getting to know trusts over the phone before you write to them.  My top tips are:

  • Do your research.  Ask questions which demonstrate this.
  • Write a script before you start
  • Find a quiet room and stand up to make the call!

3. Usually absent

Whilst the trust fundraisers sat dutifully at our desks squirrelling away (bar the occasional visit to a project with a trust representative of course – we weren’t total hermits), the corporate team were ALWAYS out and about.

To a new fundraiser, I was suddenly aware that there were so many more steps to developing a corporate partnership than there were to securing a gift from a trust.

Additionally, individual donors journeys appeared very different. Clearly each corporate was being taken on their own, very bespoke journey and it was one which they had engineered and concocted alongside my colleagues.

If the team didn’t rock up in the mornings like the rest of us, then it was an indicator that they’d been working the night before or hosting an event at the weekend.

Pandemic or not, I reckon trust fundraisers could all probably get out a bit more if push came to shove.

Ideas to get you out of the office a bit more:

  • Go through your list of donors
  • Who is local to you?  Have you met them?
  • Phone them up to say thank you and invite them out for a coffee to show your gratitude and update them on the amazing difference their gift is making.

Thank you corporate colleagues!

THANK YOU corporate colleagues for showing me that there is SO much more to fundraising than researching like a boss and writing like a dream. 

You have inspired me to make my trust relationships into genuine partnerships and in doing so, have improved lives, protected special places and made my working day a hell of a lot more fun.

Caroline is an expert in trusts and foundations, major gifts and capital appeals and has raised millions for good causes and runs LarkOwl with her partner Tony which supports charities with income generation from fundraising and commercial sources.

She writes a weekly blog which she shares with over 2,000 fundraisers every week via LarkOwl’s Nest Egg newsletter.  Her writing has been featured in Fundraising Magazine.

For the past three years, LarkOwl have published research on the Return on Investment for different areas of fundraising.  Their recent report published in September 2021 can be downloaded for free from their website.

 

Want to learn more about corporate fundraising?

Join us at Corporate Partnerships Everywhere Conference 2023.

 

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

Guest blogger Caroline Danks of LarkOwl lifts the lid on cross-disciplinary learnings that can take corporate fundraising to the next level.

There are so many traits shared by fundraising across the board.

On the whole (barring a few notable exception who shall not be named) we are resilient, creative, warm, hard-working, committed, motivated and socially conscious.

I’ve observed over nearly 20 years in the sector that there are definitely some traits which are typical to one type of fundraiser over another.

Now, I don’t speak on behalf of ALL trust fundraisers and I certainly don’t want to make assumptions or generalisations about my friends in corporate fundraising (or have them throw rotten tomatoes at me anytime soon…).

And whilst I reckon that corporate fundraisers are AWESOME (you guys have a HARD job and my utmost respect), here are some suggestions for those of you who want to inject a little trust fundraiser magic into their work (if you’re not already doing these of course 😊).

1. Research and prepare

We trust fundraisers LOVE research.  Not just the obvious stuff in a funders’ accounts but also the wonderfully random information available widely on the interweb (Google – I’m looking at you).

Corporates require a more sophisticated ask than trusts.  You have a veritable spider web of options for reaching out and getting to know them better.  Much more so than the typical route taken by a trust fundraiser (research, phone, write application, get funding).

Next time you’re looking at a new supporter, go deeper than you normally would into your research and spend some time mapping out:

  • Company activities, geographic location, history, competitors
  • Find their why – what is the problem they’re trying to solve?
  • Who are their directors, shareholders, senior staff members?  Are they connected to anyone from your charity?
  • Who are the decision makers at the company?  What are their interests?  Which networking events do they go to?   Have they written articles on LinkedIn?  What are their opinions?
  • Do they work in partnership with anyone else? 

All of this information will help you to form better partnership proposals and have better conversations.

2. Outputs, outcomes, impact and speaking their language

Gifts from trusts often require more in-depth monitoring and reporting than those from corporates.   

Because so many trust fundraisers also have experience in grant fundraising, they are often really good at articulating and quantifying the difference a gift has made.

During a Bright Spot Members Club webinar I attended a while back, Tom Hall from UBS informed us that major donors (especially those who are self-made) expect their gifts to act as investments with measurable benefits. 

Leaders at the top of successful companies (and therefore the people that you’re seeking to work with) want this too because they are often the same people.

To better quantify the impact of your work:

  • Spend some time with your project staff and finance teams. 
  • Work out how the benefits and impact of a gift have translated in financial terms. 
  • Seek to demonstrate that the return on investment you’re delivering is the best value it can possible be.
  • Articulate it simply and clearly – get a colleague (a trusts and foundations colleague mayve?) to check your work.

3. Focus not on the activities but on the outcomes and the cost of delivering the work.

Rather than showing your prospective corporate supporter how they can ‘donate to a charity’, demonstrate how they can ‘solve a problem’ or ‘change the world’.

Be clear also on sustainability (loads of trusts are now asking this question). 

No one really wants to fund projects in perpetuity and charities are being encouraged more and more to seek forms on income generation to support their ongoing work.

4. Be specific and a bit geeky when it comes to target setting

Because grant making trusts often provide quite a predictable stream of income and one on which many charities tend to lean heavily, trust fundraisers are often quite specific about target setting.    

The potential for repeat gifts from trusts is also high when you deliver on their expectations (same with corporates – think long term here!)

Know from your research and your conversations with your colleagues at each company you’re working with:

  • What their typical giving is.  Is their COY partnership a set amount each year for example?
  • What has their charitable giving achieved in the past?  They might not know – get them to find out…
  • What have similar relationships with other corporates yielded for your charity in the past?
  • How warm are each of your relationships?  How close are you to making an ask and how long will it take for the cash to materialise (this depends on the method you’re using to fundraise)
  • ROI for corporate fundraising is low at the start but grows over time, £3 / £4 for every £1 spent is a good guide

Caroline is an expert in trusts and foundations, major gifts and capital appeals and has raised millions for good causes and runs LarkOwl with her partner Tony which supports charities with income generation from fundraising and commercial sources.

She writes a weekly blog which she shares with over 2,000 fundraisers every week via LarkOwl’s Nest Egg newsletter.  Her writing has been featured in Fundraising Magazine.

For the past three years, LarkOwl have published research on the Return on Investment for different areas of fundraising.  Their recent report published in September 2021 can be downloaded for free from their website.

 

Want to learn more about trusts or corporate fundraising?

Join us at our Grants Conference in December.

Check out Corporate Partnerships Everywhere Conference 2023 coming up in March, too.