Friday, 20 July 2018

Fundraisers - we are human after all

As I sat in the National Gallery looking at the fantastic art - impressed by the skill and trying to decide which Van Gogh I preferred, I then caught sight of a self portrait of a young artist.  He wasn't known to me (but I am in no way an art connoisseur), but as I looked at this young man who had been a pupil of a great master of the 18th century, I realised my mind was thinking about this person, their life, their motivation, how they may have felt being tutored by someone of brilliance and I realised that this was much more interesting and personal than me admiring the mere work on show.

As fundraisers, stories are our most valuable asset - we all know that. Obviously there is much more to fundraising than that but the stories we tell are what helps ensure what we do has a human face (or animal) and that in turns drives emotional connection and action.

Unfortunately, we are in a period where we are often judged on the techniques we employ to do our job - rather than the importance of what we do and the impact it makes. More so, when people have strong views on those techniques or indeed when they are wilfully misunderstood - but my point is that I think we need to tell our own stories a bit more.

There are clearly signatories on our communications and people at the heart of what we do, but the reality is we don't share our stories as fundraisers; of how we got here, why we are doing what we do, or why we are working for the charities we do. We don't necessarily put forward a human face of fundraising - that it is people ultimately working hard to build engagement with supporters and prospective supporters - not lots of machine's churning out letters.

On the odd occasion that we do, we tell those stories in the bubble of the charity world, not to our donors and supporter, the people who to my mind would benefit from knowing a bit more about the people working behind the scenes. My reason for this is because ultimately if our supporters understand why we do what we do and believe in it and see the impact of that, they may well start seeing us as people wanting to make a better world for people and animals, rather than sales people or amoral people that would do anything to get some money out of them.

So the next time you send a newsletter or letter for example, maybe test including a picture of a fundraiser involved in creating it, with a little blurb about why they do what they do, why they care.. why they are at the organisation. Allow your organisation to tell its fundraisers' stories or at least try it.

My short story ... and it doesn't have to be long

I grew up with a mum who was passionate about animal rights, and I remember the charity letters she received and the petitions she signed all through my childhood. My mum was a proud charity supporter. Later, I remember being moved to tears and anger by Ceausescu's orphans and still, to this day I can recall the horror and despair in the news footage.  Those are the things I remember most that motivated me to want to make a difference in some small way.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.