Rowing the Atlantic is a metaphor for the journey….

Rowing the Atlantic is a metaphor for the journey I undertook when I started as a fundraiser. I wasn’t exactly sure of the challenge I was undertaking, had no obvious signposts and no- one I could call on if I got into difficulties.
After committing most of the mistakes in the fundraising manual, I developed a way of operating that reduced the wasted effort, focussed on the important issues and so arrived at the potential gift opportunities quicker.

I decided to put what I had learned into a quick to read book. Hopefully it will mean you can avoid some of the mistakes I made. Fundraising: the Essentials for Success  revealed in under I hour is published on Amazon and takes you through all the stages of campaign concept to completion.

It is a distillation of over 25 years experience of frontline fundraising in which I helped to raise over £50 million for my clients. It’s a digest of what makes a fundraising campaign work – the essential mechanics and dynamics of successful money-raising.

The book is written for busy people involved in fundraising who may not have had much previous experience of the process- e.g. Campaign boards, Trustees and senior managers. AND it’s also useful for the Fundraiser as a tool to keep the campaign board focussed on the essentials of the particular phase of the campaign you are involved in.

Rowing the Atlantic is a metaphor for the journey which I am recounting  in a series of blogs on some of the interesting situations, good, bad and laughable that I have experienced; an opportunity to examine what works and what definitely doesn’t when asking for money.

Learn from my mistakes and those of others. It’s the least painful way of gaining experience and reaching your goal.

The first time I was actively involved in a fundraising campaign, I didn’t recognise it as such at that time.

On the first day I joined Birds Eye, the frozen food company, I was told to go to Tesco in Brighton where John Ridgway was signing copies of his book about his epic row across the Atlantic with Chay Blyth in 1966, a feat thought near- impossible then. His appearance in this unlikely venue was linked to a promotional created by Bird’s Eye called “Help launch a lifeboat”. My job was to encourage the public to buy fish fingers. You bought fish fingers, cut coupons with various values from the packs and sent them to Birds Eye. The public loved the idea. Fish Finger sales soared, enough coupons flowed in to purchase a new lifeboat in record time and it was so successful that the campaign was repeated a couple of years later.

At the time I wasn’t too impressed. Fully kitted out in yellow sou’wester, oilskin trousers, hat and boots on a boiling hot day in Brighton. All I wanted to do was lie down in the freezer. By the end of the day there was enough sweaty water in my boots to float that lifeboat.

But I learnt a vital lesson that I never forgot and which has remained the basis of every campaign I have been involved in. Successful fundraising relies on a vehicle that fires the imagination of the donors. They need to be engaged, feel a real connection with the cause and believe they can help to deliver something that makes a difference. Fundraising is Marketing. Your cause is actually a product, competing with all the other fundraising products out there in the market. It needs to stand out because it shows new ways to tackle old problems, because it engages the imagination, because it talks of new possibilities, because it is convincing, because it delivers good value. Because for some or all of those reasons it makes people want to give.

There are approximately 165,000 charities in the UK and over 1.5 million non- profits in the USA. That is the scale of the challenge that every charity is up against – How to stand out and be noticed!  Fundraising: the Essentials for Success-revealed in under 1 hour will help you do that

Future blogs will highlight some of the ways to tackle these challenges.