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Turn your trustees into fundraisers – event review

Paul Marvell, Guest Speaker

Turning your trustees into fundraisers was the theme of our recent networking event where Paul Marvell, Head of Fundraising Strategy at the British Red Cross, and Chair of Child Hope generously shared his tips and knowledge. Browns over in Covent Garden was full of delegates representing large, medium and small charities as well as fundraisers, CEOs and trustees all eager to learn and share.

To set the scene, Paul talked about the Etherington review of fundraising and the new code of conduct and the implications this will have for charities and fundraisers generally. You can find out more about this on NCVO’s website at https://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2015/09/23/regulating-fundraising-for-the-future.


So what are 5 top tips for turning your trustees into fundraisers?

1. Take recruitment of fundraisers seriously

It’s essential to get your trustees buy-in when recruiting new fundraising staff, that way the message from the very beginning is that the board understands and takes fundraising very seriously. It’s also extremely useful to recruit fundraisers onto your board. It was reassuring to know that there were several fundraisers in the room who were also trustees of other charities. There were, however, a few who felt they lacked fundraising experience to bring to the board. Don’t be put off! Generally feedback from smaller charities is that they would welcome professional fundraising support with open arms (and it’s also a great way of developing your leadership skills and developing your career prospects for a future promotion).


2. Schedule fundraising as a discussion at all trustee meetings

Always have fundraising on the agenda! It’s good practice to always have fundraising on the agenda, and performance and budgets should always be examined in detail at trustee meetings and any issues raised appropriately. It’s also important to remind trustees what fundraising helps achieve. Storytelling techniques and impact reports can be invaluable in getting your message across both within and outside of the organisation.


3. Ask them for money!

Astonishingly, one of the main reasons trustees may not give to their charity is that they haven’t been asked! Anecdotally, when trustees were asked why they didn’t give, many stated that they were waiting to be asked! Trustees may not necessarily be able to give major gifts, their gift only needs to be at an appropriate level such as a regular small gift. As well as asking your trustees to make personal donations, you could also ask them to (pay to) attend events; to volunteer at events; to involve their friends, family and business contacts in fundraising. Whether a trustee is able to donate a regular gift of £5 a month or a major gift, giving demonstrates leadership and sets an example – after all if you give yourself it’s much easier to ask others to do likewise!


4. Network map with trustees and train them to ask for money

A really useful tip that makes the best use of online and face-to-face networking is to ask your trustees to plot who they know on paper who might be useful to your charity. Your trustees will probably have contacts they do not even think could support your charity so you’ll need to guide them. You can then create a strategy to approach these potential donors. You should also consider training your trustees in how to ask for money so that they are comfortable and confident in making an ask. Either get your fundraising team to run some training or consider using an external consultant*.


5. Plan strategically

Make fundraising an integral part of your strategic and annual planning! Dedicate time on away days to think about how you are going to fundraise and set realistic timelines. How many times have we heard of the fundraising team trying to meet unrealistic fundraising targets in the last financial quarter, as a knee jerk reaction to the the Finance Director’s assertion that ‘we need to fill the budget short fall’. You should also consider having a dedicated fundraising sub-committee to keep the focus and profile of fundraising high amongst the board.


The evening was brought to a close by a thoroughly enjoyable networking reception, where delegates stayed on to continue the discussion and to make new connections. The general buzz in the room and informal feedback suggested that getting the foundations in place and staying focussed is critical. You may be lucky and have a quick win but the chances are that to have a successful and sustainable fundraising strategy you need to create a plan and focus.


*Bright Spot Fundraising and Solid Management offer fundraising training.




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