Can you learn from a Newbie?

Will my intern ever understand what I’m trying to say? The newbie has only ever volunteered before, don’t ask them. You’ve been doing this 6 months what would you know? In a couple of years I can see you being good at this job.

All of these things I have heard in the background as I started my career in fundraising a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I have volunteered for non-profits since I was six (first being a school fair selling old toys for sick children) and I was very active in the Students’ Union and the RAG teams at college. But two years has passed since I left an entry level graduate position in one of London’s leading investment banks to come on board for a couple of charities and I have started looking back on what I’ve learned over the time I’ve been raising money for the good causes – “What have I learned?” I was reminded constantly that I wasn’t very experienced, that I didn’t know the industry.

But, can you learn from a newbie? What would a person on the outside say when they see how fundraising works? I’ve decided to put together some of the key, almost cardinal, rules of fundraising I have learned – and maybe some veterans have forgotten:

The powerful simplicity of a thank you:

I can’t sing this more. A thank you to a donor, supporter or volunteer is first, if not most important, aspect of fundraising. I was once told while I was helping out a fundraising team that “Don’t bother thanking everyone, wastes time, move onto the next donor” – I didn’t even have words to respond. It’s no secret that we feel good when giving – we also feel happier when that giving is acknowledged. It’s our jobs to make them realise their potential as a supporter and what their impact can do for the cause. They are also our daily bread – a thank you is the least we can do.

It’s not about you, it’s about them:

Working to help a good cause is great. But, some tend to forget that it’s not about you. It’s the donors and supporters that are doing the awesome stuff – you’re merely the tool they wish to use to accomplish their goals. Communications like “We’re doing great work. You can donate here:” can be seen as nothing but a vanity exercise. Donors need to feel that the action of giving means they are a part of the team and that they are the ones combating the cause. Organisations and fundraisers should be more donor centric; Donors are not your cheerleaders – you’re theirs.

Make the personal connection:

Nothing is worse than receiving communications with “Dear Supporter” on it and it usually finds its wait straight to my recycling bin. It can be argued that it takes more time, and that means money, to add that personal touch – but it’s worth it. If you take the time to get to know your supporters, make them feel included and that they matter, you’ll see them flourish with potential and gratitude. Fundraisers should be there to inspire and not treat donors like an ATM.

While I’ve worked on many campaigns and projects over the last few years these seem to be the 3 pieces of advice I take with me and work every time. Regardless of deadlines, mistakes made or impossible targets, a fundraiser must never lose sight of what’s important and that’s the cause. And the cause is nothing without the donor.


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