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Voice of Experience: asking for money and boosting productivity

voice of experience panel - 24.03.15

ask someone for money they will give you advice, but ask someone for advice and they will give you money” (Christine Harris, Fundraising Director of Access Sport)

The latest in the I Am Group ‘Voice of Experience’ series saw our panel of experts share their wisdom on asking supporters and corporate partners for money. We were also treated to an engaging audience debate on the daily dilemmas faced by small charities before breaking out the wine for an hour of networking and reflection.

Sitting on the panel were: Christine Harris, Fundraising Director for Access Sport; John Appleton, Partnerships Executive for Tearfund and former CSR Lead for Cisco; and Jo Christophi, Head of Fundraising for the British Lung Foundation.

Before the event, we asked Christine, John, and Jo to answer two questions in their presentations:

  1. What is the most important thing you have learned in your fundraising career?
  2. What is your top tip for getting more done without working long hours?

The panel’s answers to the first question focused on the importance of making major donors feel valued and prioritising their commitment to the cause over the contents of their bank account. Christine told us that if you “ask someone for money they will give you advice, but ask someone for advice and they will give you money”, while John and Jo talked about the value of the personal touch and making donors feel like heroes rather than cash cows.

All three of our experts were in broad agreement on the keys to increased productivity, citing the Pareto principle, better known as the 80/20 rule, and advising fundraisers to start their day with their biggest tasks and reply to their emails afterwards.

However, it was the subsequent Q&A that proved most fruitful with the audience pressing the panel to elaborate on how to identify potential donors, how to ask for money, and how to balance competing priorities with minimal resources. They weren’t afraid to challenge the experts either when they disagreed with them on key issues such as whether to self-identify as a fundraiser and how long to wait before asking a recent donor to give even more.

We even witnessed something of a breakthrough as John drew on his experience to encourage one fundraiser, frustrated by their excessive workload, to ask their most dedicated donors to pay for a team to help her grow the charity.

After a series of informal interviews with our guests last night, it became clear that there are many small and growing charities in the UK in need of the expert guidance on offer last night. So, keep an eye on our upcoming events at www.iamenterprises.co.uk for the next installment of ‘Voice of Experience’ at the I Am Group.

By Tony Koutsoumbos, Fundraising specialist for the I Am Group

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