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Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid – Part 4

Following on from last week’s e-bulletin top tips here are two more tips to help you in your funding journey.

6. Failing to Acknowledge Previous Support
Applying for a grant without acknowledging that a trust has made a donation previously – whether it’s multi-year funding for a major project or a cheque for £500 – will make you seem disorganised, ungrateful, or possibly both. This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen plenty of charities get it wrong.

Try this instead: Before re-applying to a funder, check whether they’ve supported you previously, how much they gave and when, and make sure you’ve thanked them and reported on how any grant was spent. Be sure to acknowledge their previous support in your application and thank them again, even if you’ve done it already.

Whatever your budget, you’ll need strong record-keeping to be able to do this, whether that’s on a database or a well-maintained spreadsheet (often referred to as a fundraising strategy or fundraising log). This is the bedrock of a good trusts programme.

If you’re re-applying to a funder and realise you haven’t communicated well with them, I’d recommend holding off on your application for a few months so you can smooth things over first.

7. Resorting to Technical Jargon
The longer you spend working close to a cause, the harder it can become to explain what you do in plain English. Over time, we can all lose perspective about whether certain words and phrases are meaningful for an uninformed reader.

So it can be easy to slip into using jargon and more technical language by accident. But, for some fundraisers, it can also be a deliberate tactic. You may feel this gives you added credibility as an ‘expert’, but it often removes any warmth and emotion from your applications.

Try this instead: No matter how faceless or professional a funder may seem, remember there will always be an individual person reading and processing your application. You need to speak to that person.

Review your application sentence by sentence and ask yourself if there’s anything you’re able to explain in more basic and ‘human’ terms. If so, consider using those words instead. Allowing sometime between drafting and reviewing an application helps to give you perspective on what to change. You can also ask a friend or colleague who doesn’t know the context well if it makes sense to them.

Source: Lime Green Consulting

We Need More Collaboration in Charities

Dawn Austwick reflects on the Duke of Cambridge’s message about collaboration and shares some examples of the benefits of charities collaborating more.

I was fortunate enough to be at the Charity Commission’s AGM on Tuesday and to hear in person HRH The Duke of Cambridge’s address. Prince William said “charities nurture, repair, build and sustain our society. Without charities, society would be an empty shell”. What a profound definition of the role charities and community groups play in our country. I was moved and motivated in equal measure.

Collaboration was at the heart of the Prince’s speech as he urged the sector to collectively consider how best charitable objectives and mission can be delivered.

When I look at the projects that the Big Lottery Fund supports, the ones that are best at bringing people together and developing strong relationships and a sense of belonging in communities, are those that put co-operation at the core of their purpose.

HomeShare project
HomeShare, a project that matches young people with older people who have a spare room, is bridging some of the fissures we see in UK society. It is approaching a number of challenges – the affordable housing crisis, loneliness, alienation between young and old.

HomeShare brings together younger folk in need of a home but with limited cash with older people in need of a bit of support but with some spare space. You may heard it featured on the Today programme recently.

The young people on the project provide some of their time and energy helping around the house, chatting over a cup of tea, or watching TV together with their host. Both benefit from companionship, new connections, and cheaper accommodation.

The project is built on the back of a strong collaboration; it is jointly funded by the Lloyds Bank Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund, and developed by Shared Lives Plus, Age UK, The Foyer Federation and Social Care Institute for Excellence. Like the people involved with HomeShare, each of the organisations contributes their own skills and assets, relying on each other’s strengths to deliver a more impactful programme.

To read the full Civil Society article click here.

Charities Need to Engage Their Supporters With a Two-Way Conversation

Giftcoin, the blockchain start-up that brings transparency and trust to charities, today revealed findings from the latest independent YouGov study into charitable giving.

The findings confirmed that three quarters of millennials would like a two-way conversation with the charities they support. It also revealed that supporters would like to donate to specific causes or campaigns within a charity and found they would also like to be notified when their donations are spent.

The UK is a charitable nation, with 81% of consumers giving an average of £67 to charity in the previous 12 months. However, the study shows that consumers would like a closer connection to their donation.

The study revealed that 69% of adults would like to donate to specific causes or campaigns within a charity, rising to 75% of millennials. This corroborates recent research by the Charities Commission which suggests young people are making informed choices about who or what they give to.

Additionally, the survey confirms that donors now expect more in return, with 52% of adults and 70% of millennials reporting they would like to receive a notification when their donations are spent. The benefit for the charity is that these notifications could be shared on social media, helping to spread the charity’s work amongst friends and family. Over a third of millennials said they would share these notifications amongst their network.

Giftcoin’s co-founder Alex Howard said: “It’s no longer the case that consumers are happy to give money into one big shared pot, they now expect to have a say in how their donation is spent.

“Charities need to start a two-way conversation with their supporters. In this connected world, people expect openness and transparency to make the experience of giving more rewarding. In return, charities can expect their supporters to become advocates for the charity and through social media, they can share their experiences with their network.

“At a time when everybody is tightening their belts, charities need to adapt to consumers’ desires and changing habits to succeed.”

The findings also confirmed that donors believe overheads are absorbing almost half (45%) of their donation, with significant portions going on salaries, office rent and advertising. The survey revealed that if charities were more transparent, they could significantly increase their inbound donations. Given the option of more transparency from charities about where donations are spent, the average reported consumer increase in giving was 49%, while one in six would double their donation or more.

Source: Charity Digital News

Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid – Part 3

Following on from last week’s e-bulletin top tips here are two more tips to help you in your funding journey.

4. Ignoring The Guidelines
Funders often take the time to provide a wealth of useful information in their written guidelines and on their websites, yet too many fundraisers don’t use this to their advantage.

Skipping the guidelines is a bit like going on a treasure hunt without reading the clues. You’re very likely to waste your time on an application that doesn’t make the grade, and you might even damage your future application prospects by frustrating the funder too.

Try this instead: Before starting work on an application, take stock of how much information the funder has published. Some just provide basic guidelines about the length and format of your application. Others have a detailed Frequently Asked Question’s page, examples of projects they’ve previously funded, and even in-depth advice about answering specific questions.

Whether there’s a single paragraph of information or a comprehensive website, make sure you read it in full before you start writing. You should also refer back to the guidelines as you proceed, making sure you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of their criteria as you answer the questions.

5. Missing the all-important deadline
Not all trusts and foundations set specific deadlines – but when they do, they mean them. While a day late may not seem much to you, it makes a bad impression and offers a good reason to throw out your application.

Try this instead: Research deadlines meticulously in advance and work backwards to set key dates and milestones for the different stages of your application: gathering the raw information to go in it, producing a first draft, reviewing with colleagues and getting it signed off. All of these stages take time, especially when colleagues are busy, so build in an extra margin just in case!

Of course, avoiding a last-minute rush is easier said than done. But it’s vital if you want to avoid wasting effort on an application that never gets read. You can make things easier for yourself by prioritising your time and skipping applications that you don’t have time to do properly, or where there’s only a tiny chance of success.

Source: Lime Green Consulting

Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid – Part 2

Following on from last week’s e-bulletin top tips here are two more tips to help you in your funding journey.

2. Making Basic Mistakes
Getting the funder’s name wrong, misspelling a trustee’s name, assuming that someone is a ‘Mr’ when you could have easily checked and found they’re a ‘Mrs’. The administrator is probably looking for an easy way of quickly reducing their pile of applications, and you’ve just provided it.

Try this instead: Check all the basic details, check them again, and check a third time to be sure. Ideally, use the funder’s website rather than your own database or spreadsheet, in case your records are out of date.

If you’ve spent a whole day drafting applications, your eyes have probably lost all ability to spot mistakes. It’s a great idea to do any final checks the next day, with a fresh head. You could also create a simple checklist to always run through before pressing print or sealing that envelope.

3. Getting Your Budget Wrong
Catastrophic budget mistakes are surprisingly easy to make, but hard for a funder to forgive.

This can happen when multiple people are involved with working on the figures but don’t document their workings, or when you change one figure in a column at the last moment and haven’t set the total to auto-calculate. Suddenly your numbers can be way out, which is a big red flag for a funder being asked to trust your charity with thousands of pounds.

Try this instead: Triple check your numbers, because they’re arguably even more important than what you write.

If several people are involved with creating the budget, make sure they leave a ‘paper trail’ of their workings, and ideally put in formulae rather than just numbers. Create a budget calculator tool in Excel that automatically calculates totals – this may take some time at first, but will make things much easier in the long run.

Source: Lime Green Consulting

Digital: The Urgent Priority for Charities

We are witnessing a powerful new movement that is gaining velocity as we enter 2018. You only need to pitch up at a #techforgood meetup or Netsquared gathering anywhere across the country and you’ll find groups of charities exploring the use of digital technology to drive social change. Indeed, latest research shows that more than two-thirds of charity leaders see the potential of digital to deliver their organisational strategy more effectively.

We are at the start of a remarkable time. Digital technology – the most potent, potentially democratic tool for social innovation that we have ever had – is beginning to be used in earnest by many charities and social enterprises to transform their organisations and services. But, with more than 100,000 still lacking basic digital skills, we urgently need to accelerate the scale and pace of these changes if we are to develop a responsive, collaborative and digitally enabled sector that meets the needs of those it seeks to serve.

We’ve heard about the potential of digital for years, so why is this so important and urgent now? There are four primary reasons:

Consumer Expectations
Firstly, those who rely on charitable services increasingly expect digital-first solutions. With the vast majority of people now online for many hours a day, there is a serious risk of the charitable sector becoming disconnected with its beneficiaries if it fails to embrace digital. As Simon Hopkins, CEO of Turn2Us explains in the Charity Digital Toolkit, “It’s essential that we understand the possibilities [digital] presents for the simple reason that it’s increasingly the preferred choice for most people in how they go about their daily life.”

Advent of AI
Secondly, and related to this, the rise of digital is fundamentally disrupting existing practices. Artificial intelligence is already changing the nature of many jobs and it won’t be long before machines will be deployed in many more decisions relating to key social issues such as welfare, criminal justice and immigration. As charity leaders, it is vital that we understand the changes triggered by digital technology and actively tailor these developments in order to protect the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised in our society.

To read the full Charity Digital News Article click here.

15 Ways to Boost Your Charity’s Cyber Security

One of the defining technology-related talking points of 2017 has been security. And with reason – earlier this year Government research found that nearly half of all UK organisations suffered a cyber breach or attack in the past 12 months, while attacks are continuing to become more sophisticated and widespread – the global WannaCry ransomware attack that caused chaos at the NHS just one example.

The fact is that all organisations – including charities – are at risk of attack. In fact, charities are a prime target for attacks as they hold or process extensive databases of personal information and payment details.

With that in mind, what can charities do to protect themselves from fraud? Here’s our list, in no particular order, of top tips:

1. Security starts with processes and policies
Draw up clear processes for everyone in your charity to follow.

2. Use a firewall to secure your internet connection
You should protect your internet connection with a firewall. This effectively creates a ‘buffer zone’ between your IT network and other, external networks. In the simplest case, this means between your computer (or computers) and ‘the internet’. Within this buffer zone, incoming traffic can be analysed to find out whether or not it should be allowed onto your network.

3. Anti-virus software is an absolute must
We hear all the time that too many charities aren’t using the most-up-to-date version, or their licenses have expired. Now’s the time to check – before it’s too late – if you have a good quality anti-virus software suite that’s fully updated. Charities can get donated licences of the latest, best antivirus through tt-exchange, so there’s really no excuse here.

4. Keep your devices and software up to date
No matter which phones, tablets, laptops or computers your organisation is using, it’s important they are kept up to date at all times. This is true for both operating systems and installed apps or software. Manufacturers and developers release regular updates which not only add new features, but also fix any security vulnerabilities that have been discovered. Operating systems, software, devices and apps should all be set to ‘automatically update’ wherever this is an option.

If you’re a Windows user, then again, tt-exchange can help – there are donations of Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise available to charities as donations here.

5. Update obsolete IT
All IT has a limited lifespan. When new updates cease to appear for your hardware or software, you should consider a modern replacement.

To read the full Charity Digital Article click here.

New Survey Reveals Charities’ Top 10 Risks

A new survey has revealed what charities think are the biggest risks facing their sector heading into 2018.

The research, conducted by specialist insurer Ecclesiastical, found that while the continued pressure on funding is top of the list (84%), the impact of potential government changes is second on the list of risks (72%). This is perhaps unsurprising given that 2017 saw the introduction of the Fundraising Regulator, further funding cuts and tax changes such as the rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) increasing to 12%.

Ecclesiastical ¬has been working with the Charity Finance Group since January 2017 to raise awareness of the impact of continuing IPT increases on charities. The insurer urged the Chancellor to consider making charities exempt ahead of the Budget in November.

The poll also revealed that new regulation is a growing concern, with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being introduced in May 2018 fourth on the list at 65%, just behind reputational risk at 66%. The impact of Brexit weighed in at number 10 – a concern for 44% of charities.

Top 10 risks (charities who said they were concerned or very concerned):
1. Funding 84%
2. Impact of Government changes 72%
3. Reputational risk 66%
4. GDPR/data protection 65%
5. Cyber/internet crime 63%
6. Grant providers 62%
7. Employer liability 53%
8. Exposure to social media 51%
9. Increased focus on governance 45%
10. Impact of Brexit 44%

David Britton, charity director at Ecclesiastical, said: “This is a time of transformation with charities becoming ever more innovative in their fundraising and exploring new models and ways to engage. This, coupled with new regulation and increasing threats such as cyber-crime, means that charities are facing and taking more risks than ever before.

“New Philanthropy Capital’s (NPC) recent ‘State of the Sector’ research, which was supported by Ecclesiastical, revealed that more than half of charities said they are taking more risks than three years ago.

“The important thing to remember is that good risk management and governance coupled with the right level of professional expertise can help charities to embrace new opportunities and mitigate the financial risks they are dealing with in a difficult and ever-changing economic climate.”

Source: Charity Digital News.

Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid – Part 1

Exacerbated by the huge squeeze on statutory funding, trusts and foundations are more oversubscribed than ever. Sadly, that’s only likely to increase after Brexit, as funders make less money on their investments – which is often what sustains their annual giving – and charities look elsewhere after becoming cut off from European funding.

The rise of online funder databases and freelance trust fundraisers has made it easier for charities to churn out more applications, but often with a focus on quantity not quality.

Consequently, success rates are on the decline. One funder said that by late January, they’ve often received far more applications than they could ever dream of funding in a whole year.

With so many letters arriving on your desk, just imagine how picky you can be about what makes the cut.

There’s no guaranteed method for writing a successful application – and you should probably be suspicious of anyone who tells you there is. However, there are some sure-fire ways of making sure your application gets thrown out at the first stage.

1. Taking A Punt with A ‘Circular Appeal’
Don’t get me wrong, I can see the temptation. We’ve heard that we might get a 10% success rate from cold applications, and we’ve already written a decent general appeal. So if we send out 20 more requests for £10,000, that should mean two successes and another £20,000 in the bank. Easy, right?

Except it doesn’t work. Most funders hate receiving a ‘circular appeal’ with nothing personalised beyond the name and address, and they can see them coming a mile off. In this competitive climate, tailoring your application is a must.

You might enjoy a brief sense of anticipation and satisfaction that you’ve ‘covered a lot of ground’, but you probably won’t bring in any cash. Worse still, you could find yourself blacklisted by a few funders.

Try this instead: Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t box clever and re-use content where appropriate. Strong template applications are the bedrock of a good trusts and foundations programme.

However, you must take the time to research and understand a funder’s interests and priorities, show you’ve done your research by tailoring what you write, then crown it with a personalised cover letter.

People often claim trusts fundraising is a numbers game – that’s rarely true, and ten high quality applications will do much better than a hundred mediocre ones.

Source: Lime Green Consulting

By Failing to Grow, Charities Are Failing Beneficiaries

 Charities too rarely try to take their interventions to scale, says David Ainsworth, and it presents a problem for the sector.

One of the most serious issues facing our sector is its failure to successfully replicate good ideas. When charities do find a way to help people, they often don’t share it.

When a charity develops a great intervention which really helps its beneficiaries, it’s able to do things better than other charities. Outcomes in the areas where it works are better than outcomes in the areas where it doesn’t.

Yet too often, that’s where it stops. The charity remains local, delivering small-scale services, with no appetite to expand, and relatively little appetite to ensure that other charities have learned what it knows. Even when scale is an active tool for success – when local authority commissioners would prefer to deal with a bigger charity – the sector fights to stay small.

This is of course a problem. Charities exist to deliver public benefit and social impact. I would suggest there ought to be a moral duty on a charity to try to deliver as much benefit as it can. Failing to grow fails to maximise impact.

I don’t suggest that growth is easy, or that scale is without problems, of course. It’s hard to remain close to your beneficiaries if you’re focused on growth. It can be easy to lose track of what you’re about. And it requires a lot of effort and a lot of risk. Some charities, such as 4Children and the Lifeline Project, have come badly unstuck because they focused on growth.

But this isn’t an excuse to give up. If helping people is the mission of your organisation, and helping as many people as you can means you have to do something a bit uncomfortable, so be it.

The evidence is that this isn’t happening. Research by NPC in 2014, for example, found “a general lack of will to seriously pursue scale” coupled with “a number of systemic and attitudinal barriers to scaling”.

What are the barriers to growth?
One problem, of course, is money. You need cash to grow, and it’s often hard for charities to just keep the wheels on the wagon, let alone think about growth. There’s a lack of appetite from funders, for sure, who seem to actively prefer backing smaller organisations, and won’t give grants to back expansion.

There’s also the technical problem of investment. While growing a commercial enterprise is easy enough with loan and equity finance, these avenues are difficult for charities, and have only recently been available at all.

So yes, lack of money is an issue. But another problem is lack of ambition. Charity workers, unlike business owners, don’t get anything out of growth, so there is less motivation to take on the work.

Trustees boards may also be an issue. Boards may be risk averse, and slow to sign off on exciting plans to grow your impact. Even if they are commercially skilled individuals, with a history of growing companies, some may have a tendency to park those instincts at the door.

To read the full Civil Society article click here.

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