1. Create your story
Both fundraising directors said a fundraiser should “create their own story”.
Farthing said thatit was important for a fundraiser to be able to articulate why their cause was important to them personally. He said that, for him, his children are why he works for the NSPCC, because his promised to them is to “help look after children that need help”.
He said that when he started at the charity he asked himself the question “why am I here?”. He said everyone has to find their own story for why they do what they do, so when someone asks the question, you can answer with your own personal reason.
Hunter said he learnt the same lesson when he joined Oxfam about ten months ago. He said he had already felt like he was Oxfam to the core, and that he had a standing order to Oxfam that was actually older than some of the people in the fundraising team. Hunter said that his story is that he has been an Oxfam campaigner even in university, so he felt like he was “coming home” when he started to work for the charity.
Tim Hunter said it is important to be in a situation where celebration is something that happens regularly and loudly across the organisation. Hunter said that on joining Oxfam he found a bell which he would ring (with a fork as it was missing the clapper) whenever there was the opportunity.
He said, for example, that at Oxfam they recently rang the bell for hitting their target for new donor recruitment in February, which is not something it had done recently. He also said that they recently rang the bell having received £3.1m as the single largest individual contribution in Oxfam’s history.
Farthing agreed that celebration is a really important part of what fundraisers do. He said that it is crucial to take the time out to celebrate and referenced the Paddington trail, which raised £1m net, as NSPCC’s reason to celebrate. He said that celebration brought the organisation together and got it celebrating fundraising for the first time in a long time. He said it is very important to enjoy even the small things and that it is surprising how different people feel once they start celebrating.
3. Be a leader
Hunter said charities are very good at consulting and discussing ideas but not so good at making decisions, and that a fundraising director had to take a lead.
Farthing said that this is particularly apparent when there is a product that had been around for a while that you think you should stop doing, and that someone just needs to decide to stop it.
Farthing said fundraisers need to keep in mind that making decisions and even being directive is the right thing to do. He said that this can be particularly important when you come into a situation where there has been a lot of challenge and difficulty. He said it is important to be prepared to make difficult decisions at the right time, and over time you can look back and see that it was the right thing to do and that you have moved forward as a result.
Hunter said that at Oxfam they have made some tough decisions, including downsizing in some areas, to deal with issues that have been apparent for some time but that no one was prepared to do anything about. He also said it was important to consider where your charity’s beneficiaries sit on an issue that needs to be changed.
4. Find a focus
The pair also said fundraisers need to learn is that they need to find a focus, because you “cannot do everything”.
Hunter said you need to decide what your “organisational hedgehog” is – something that you can be really passionate about and be better at than anything else. He said hedgehogs were uniquely well adapted at looking after themselves – their spikes were their “evolutionary niche” – and that fundraisers needed to do the same thing.
Farthing said that it is very important in a successful charity for you to have the right people around you. He said when he arrived at the NSPCC only one of the leadership team had been there for more than six months and only three were on permanent contracts. He said that it had the wrong structure so his focus became on getting great people and building functions that make sense. He emphasised that his focus was to get other people focused.
The pair’s final lesson was that fundraisers need to be resilient. Farthing said that the characteristic of resilience is much underrated, but working in fundraising is sometimes tough – sometimes things do go wrong.
He said that this is about keeping a fixed point on the horizon and knowing where you need to be, despite the setbacks that you may encounter.
Hunter said that for him, resilience is about the network which is around you. He said it is important to have somewhere where you can take the issues and challenges you have, because as a leader can’t take them to work. You need to have someone that you can take these problems to, he said.
Source: Civil Society Fundraising