Were these ideas and examples helpful? Would like lots more?
Lynda refers to various strategies she learned from the Major Gifts Mastery Programme and other Bright Spot resources including the Members Club. If you’re curious to find out about how these would help you too, there is a whole resource library of powerful training films and downloads in the Bright Spot Members Club.
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In this noisy, distracting world, charities are finding it harder than ever to attract and hold donors’ attention long enough to have proper conversation. So what can relationship fundraisers do to build strong, inspiring relationships with the people who care about our causes?
In this episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast, Rob Woods interviews Lynda Harwood-Compton of Animals Asia, a creative, dynamic fundraiser who is willing to try new things to build great relationships with major and mid-level supporters.
In her first year as a major donor fundraiser, she smashed through her budget target, raising an extra £305,000, (over 40% more) for her cause. In this interview she talks through some of the tactics she feels have helped achieve these results.
Takeaways and Key Ideas
- REALLY CARE. Lynda’s first key principle is the importance of caring about and properly getting to know her high value supporters. She shows an interest in them as a person, separate from the giving they might bring (eg she remembers their birthdays and finds out how their holidays have gone, sends notes about these elements etc) so that the relationship is warm and personal rather than transactional.
- BUSINESS CARD. Lynda changed her business card to include a picture of a favourite bear she’s met that has been rescued by the charity. When she meets someone and shares her business card, its easy and natural to also tell real concrete stories about the animals that are helped. You may not be able to change your business card, but even if you can’t, what prop could you take with you to make it easier to share real stories when you meet supporters?
- MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIP ONGOINGLY. Lynda is always happy to keep communicating positively, eg with updates, whether or not a supporter is still giving. She gives an example of a £100,000 gift someone enjoyed making, even after they had appeared to stop giving earlier that year.
- ORGANISED / GRAVITAS. When she takes supporters on a trip to visit the charities’ work, she works hard to be very organised and give clear communication about what they can expect at each stage, before and during the trip. This clarity and level of organisation helps people relax and know they are in safe hands.
- INFORMAL COMMUNICATION. She uses texts and WhatsApp groups for informal communication as well as to organise meet up talks to inform and inspire supporters with front line staff, eg with one of the animal welfare directors who is based in the UK.
- WEBINARS TO INSPIRE. She has started organising webinars as a way to add further stewardship to her major and mid-level donors.
- PROMOTION – With two emails and two reminders she filled the webinar – nearly all her donors signed up. And she sent two reminders nearer the start date.
- GROUND RULES – she made it clear what structure they could expect – ie 90 minutes in total: An initial presentation from her colleague bringing to life the difference the animal sanctuary is making in Vietnam; followed by a chance for donors to ask questions.
- FOLLOW UP. When questions were not answered in the webinar, Lynda makes sure she follows up. The first webinar got such enthusiastic feedback from the supporters that Lynda has scheduled one per quarter for the next year.
- KNOW, CAPTURE AND TELL MORE REAL EXAMPLES. Lynda partly attributes her positive results from confidently and more proactively sharing real examples when she meets supporters. Its worked so well that she has shared specific tactics from this story-telling approach she learned on the Major Gifts Mastery Programme with her whole team.
‘First and foremost, it’s all about knowing your donor.’
Hey there, folks, this is Rob Woods and welcome to episode 13 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in charity fundraising, and who wants ideas and inspiration for how to enjoy their job, raise more money, and make a bigger difference.
On this episode, if you work in major gifts, or trusts, or mid-level donor fundraising, and you’d like some ideas to help you develop better relationships that will lead to increased income for your charity, then we’ve got just the episode for you, because today I’m talking to the brilliant Lynda Harwood-Compton, who is a major donor fundraiser at Animals Asia. Last year, Lynda took part in Bright Spots Major Gifts Mastery program, and so benefited from the training days, the coaching course, and access to all the online training and events as part of the Bright Spot Members Club.
I bumped into Lynda the other day at a conference, and she told me she was having an amazing year, and loving her job more than ever, not least because of the staggering results she’s been getting. Put simply, this is her first year in major donor fundraising, and she’s exceeded her target by 44%. That’s an extra £305,000 raised for her cause. And crucially, I was really interested to hear some of the shrewd distinctions and tactics she’s been using to generate those results.
In this episode, we cover a range of ideas Lynda feels have helped her create such warm relationships with her supporters, including how she uses webinars to inform and inspire high value donors, how she includes more real examples in all her conversations. Her willingness to make small changes … she even customized her business card, to make it easier to tell inspiring stories.
Let’s get started. Here I am, asking Lynda about her results.
So, my budget for this year was £585,000, and we’re just finishing up for Christmas, and I will be bringing in about £900,000 this year, which is amazing.
Explanation of the Members Club:
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Hi, Lynda Harwood, welcome to the interview.
Hello. How are you?
I’m really well, thank you. Huge congratulations (on those results), that really takes some doing. That wasn’t just one big gift, it wasn’t one piece of luck. I sense there’s a confidence, and a momentum about how you go about your job. You were kind enough the other day to say that some of those key things, were things you’ve practiced ever since the Mastery program.
In terms of the content, either you got from Charlie, the coach, or from me, in the training days, do you want to start with one of the key ideas that you feel you’ve got more successful at, that’s helped with those results?
I think, first and foremost, it’s all about knowing your donor, and I learned that from day one on the course. I don’t mean just from a fundraising perspective, to be able to match them to a specific project, I mean knowing them personally as well, and really appreciate and understand their world. It just brings that personable relationship, it’s not a transactional relationship. You’re able to connect with them, keep that relationship going.
It could be anything from having something in common, such as running, or a local football team. For me, I really made sure, this year, I know everything about my donors. I know their children, I know when their birthdays are, I’ll check up, if any of them have been on holiday, I’ll drop them a little note, see how their holidays have been. I think it’s also really about building that relationship, and making them feel valued, and valuable. So, if I have anything that I need some advice on, maybe we’re looking at setting up a new fundraising project, I will go to them for feedback, and just make sure that they know they’re really part of the Animals Asia family.
I suppose something else that I learned really early on was that people absolutely buy feelings and identity, and I think that’s something that we do so well at Animals Asia. We have this real family element. I remember one of the things you said to me was, “When you have your business cards, why don’t you get a picture of your favourite bear on it? It’s a good talking point, it makes it more personal to the donor, they’ve got a connection.” I did, I went away and did that. I picked my little favourite bear, who’s a bear called Aurora, and she’s on my business card. Again, whenever I hand out my business card, I introduce myself and Aurora as well. It really does bring that relationship.
I think one of the other things that makes me laugh is, because I came from that corporate fundraising world, I was very much very professional, and very much yours sincerely, and best wishes. When I joined Animals Asia, they encouraged me, they said, “This is a family, and we want you to sign off with bear hugs, bear hugs for our family.” At the start I thought, I’m not used to this, this isn’t what I’m used to at all. I kid you not, Rob, within a couple of days, bear hugs, it just felt so natural. That’s just the ethos of the charity. It feels weird, now, not to sign off, bear hugs.
Yes. Certainly, I’ve worked with several of your colleagues, and that’s key theme I’ve always got, that this family ethos comes through really strongly, and authentically in your culture. Surprise, surprise, that makes it easier for you to be more informal, and personal, in the way you communicate to your supporters. Surprise, surprise, those relationships do become more warm and natural.
I love that. In terms of … Is there a particular gift, or a particular supporter journey you can think of, as an example of you working more in this way?
Yeah. I think it leads on to something else that I learned at your training course, which was never underestimate lapsed donors, or actually, never underestimate a stewardship meeting, either.
The example I’d like to give is a donor who, before my time, probably about 2015, gave a very large gift and said, “That’s it, that’s my final gift to Animals Asia. Thank you very much.” Which is absolutely fine, but I kept the stewardship going. Any little information that was happening, I would send it her way, kept her in touch, even if was just simple things like newsletters, or a little bit of insider information. She got back in touch in the summer and said, “I’ve been reading what you’ve been doing, I actually now want to give one final, final gift this time.”
We spoke about it over the summer, discussed how much she wanted to give, why, where to. I’m very pleased to say that she ended up giving a £100,000 gift to us, which was just incredibly generous. So, never, ever underestimate lapsed donors.
That’s wonderful, and so generous. Congratulations. So we’ve covered two or three themes, so far. Is there another particular idea, or theme, or example that springs to mind from your last few months of success, that brings it to life?
Yes, one of the ones I wanted to mention was also about connecting frontline staff with our donors. It’s a little bit tricky for us, because our work is in Asia, and we’re obviously based in the UK, so I can’t often take people to the program sites. Well, after talking it through in the course, I did a few things to really bring our programs to life.
So, I set up WhatsApp groups with people, with donors and the frontline staff, I set up a webinar this year, with our Director of the Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, for our mid and major donors. That was incredible, it gave people the real inside scoop, they were able to speak face-to-face with the Director. They were also able to ask their questions, as well. It was used as more of a stewardship tool, rather than fundraising, but it was so successful. We’re going to run another four next year, one per quarter.
I also had my first VIP trip, this year. We took five donors to Vietnam and China, and was luckily able to go, as well, that was really bringing the donors face-to-face with our work.
That’s so exciting. At some level, just being able to connect people to the experience, to the work itself does its job, doesn’t it?
If you were to tell me a couple of things you specifically tried hard to do before that trip, or on that trip, to maximize the chances that those donors would have an exciting and inspiring time? What were your guiding principles as you put that trip together?
Yeah. I didn’t know any of the donors beforehand, so the first thing was it was important for me to get to know them. If I wasn’t able to meet them face-to-face, we had phone conversations, we had a little email group. I also thought it was important for the donors to get to know each other, as well, so I set up a group WhatsApp. We were communicating months beforehand, the trip was in April time. By, actually, this time last year, the WhatsApp group was setup, we had our email communications, everyone had trust in me because they knew exactly the itinerary. I mean if it’s one thing that I am, it’s organized, so they’re in good hands. Already, they felt safe and comfortable with me.
Just showing that influence, you spoke about influence a lot, and really showing that gravitas, and that you’re in control. This is an important trip, that we’re going to make it extra special for you, and I’ll be there for you, to trust that everything will go well.
The follow-up to that, as well, actually is that we still have our WhatsApp group. We met last week, actually. We normally meet once a quarter, now, so this is two quarters in, so we’ve met twice. We do a catch up, and also, luckily enough, we’ve got our Captive Animal Welfare Director based in the UK, so last week I organized for him to come down to meet us in London, as well, and give us insider of what’s going to be happening next year. We’ll continue that relationship now, even if they never donate to Animals Asia again, or they never attend a trip, we now have that special bond, as donors, and I’ll continue that.
Yes, fantastic. A couple of follow-up questions I’ve got. One of them is, I sense you’re making lots of use of WhatsApp. Does that mean you’ve got various different WhatsApp groups, for different bits of your Animals Asia workload, and you just manage to keep on top of each of those, as and when appropriate? Or, do you have any tips on how you manage to keep on top of all these different chunks of stewardship style communication?
Yes, I have different groups for WhatsApp, because I just think it makes it more personal, as well. Different people are funding different projects.
So, I would say that one thing with a lot of my donors is, they love text and WhatsApp communication, I’d say that’s maybe number one, then email, then face-to-face, and phone. To be honest, a WhatsApp message takes 15 seconds to put together, and it’s really easy to keep on top of, as well. The thing is, it’s not just me that’s managing the group. You’ve got the people over in Asia, who are so good at sending updates, and pictures, and videos. In a way, it starts to just run itself, it’s not me running it at all. It’s just a WhatsApp group where everyone’s contributing. I would really, highly recommend that for other Major Gifts Managers.
Thank you. Then, a follow-up, you mentioned earlier the webinar you’d set up. As an example, how many people did you get attending each of those webinars? Could you give us a couple of your tips or principles, as you’ve managed to put together these four webinars for the next year? Anything you’ve learned, or anything you’re trying to do to make all the effort that’s involved, especially for your colleague whose in service delivery, to make it really maximized, because people are showing up for the webinar? Rather than your colleague over there having to do the webinar, and only one person here attending.
Yes. For this webinar that we had in September, because it was the first one, I almost wanted to pilot it. It was a very small group, it was only about 30 people on it. We can have a maximum of 100.
What I did is I wanted to make it as easy as possible for Heidi, who’s in Vietnam. I just asked if she could prepare a presentation for 60 minutes, about a day in the life, or a week in the life of the Vietnam Rescue Centre, because that’s what people will really want to know. A lot of our donors, 95% of them, will never, never visit the sanctuary, and I know that insider information is so valuable for them.
So, setting up the webinar, we had the rules beforehand, so that everyone knew that they would be muted for the first hour, so that Heidi could speak and there would be no interruptions. You know, there’s nothing worse, on a webinar or a Skype call, where it’s back and forth. We had 60-minutes where everyone was muted, but there was a Q&A box, so as they had a question that popped up, we could type in their Q&A. I had my colleague managing that, at the same time.
Then, once Heidi had finished speaking, after an hour, we went through the questions. Five people had asked the same question, that was also the first question that was answered. We went, we had half an hour of going through the questions. I was very aware that this was during the day, this could have been people’s lunch times, we had 90-minutes and we had to finish in that time. If any questions were left unanswered, we didn’t have time, I took them away, we got an answer from Heidi, and then I relayed it back to the donor. Everyone was happy, it was a real success, it worked really well.
It’s so successful that you’ve got the go ahead to, quite deliberately, do lots more of these, and to make this a key part of the stewardship offering, to people supporting your charity. Congratulations on the success of it.
Two questions. One, I presume that you sensed, apart from being really interesting and inspiring, it was helping the supporters along, and care, and potentially want to be more generous? Then, my other question is, just really practically, was it relatively easy to get people signing up, or did you have to communicate quite regularly to get people signing up to the webinar?
I’d set up two emails, and then two reminders. It was due for mid-September, so mid, end of June I sent out the first email, with the registration link to explain to people to sign up. Then, about a month later, I sent out the second one, just as a reminder. I was aware that it was over summer holiday time, and people might not be checking emails quite as regularly.
I must admit, the first email had the best response, most people signed up straight away. Then, we had two reminders, so just to let them know a week beforehand that the webinar was going ahead, and then a day beforehand, to remember to do things like install Zoom, be ready to start at one PM, how long it would last for. Everyone was well informed about what would be happening.
Yes. I don’t know if it was possible to measure how interesting and valuable they found it, or whether there was any measurement of how that has affected giving levels since?
I was actually going to do a survey afterwards, to see what the reaction was, but to be honest, I didn’t have to. 90% of the people emailed me, personally, to just say, “thank you so much for doing this, it was so, so valuable for us.”
There wasn’t really a specific fundraising ask, so I can’t really measure that, at the moment, but that is something I’m looking to do in the future.
I love this specific tactic. I know there’re many listeners, even if they are just UK based, so there’s not a massive geographical reason to do this, but nevertheless you managed to get more people showing up for the webinar than we would necessarily get showing up for a project visit, whether in the UK or abroad, so I think it’s a fabulous tactic. Thank you for explaining it.
Then, if we were to move on to … You mentioned the other day that there were two or three other really interesting successes you’ve had, and I wonder if you could tell me about one or two more of those? And, indeed, one or two more of the key principles from the Major Gifts Mastery program, that you found have helped?
Sure. I think a big one for me is storytelling, and the influence that storytelling has. I must admit, I went away and I literally did a session about storytelling for all the UK staff at Animals Asia. You did a really great exercise about telling a story, and then you’ve got to get it into six bullet points, three bullet points, one bullet point.
You could see it in their face, when they were having to tell a story in one sentence, but the results were amazing. You think you can’t do it, and the stories, we’ve actually collected in a story bank now, that we’re going to add to. Storytelling really has been a big one for me.
A couple of examples of how it’s worked was we had a little bear that was rescued. It was, again, a super sad story. We’re not pulling on the heartstrings, it’s just telling the story how it is. I told his story to a mid-level donor, and she was just absolutely blown away by it. I used the techniques that you had shared, and again, she really just leaned in and wanted to help her.
It’s so interesting, isn’t it? If we’ve worked in a charity for a little while, we can forget and underestimate the power of knowing the specifics, which very often, we in the charity do know the specific examples. But, because we’ve heard it three times before, we’ve become a little … not quite appreciating just how strong, and fascinating, and powerful these concrete examples is. So, when we’re more proactive than we naturally might be, to share those, it’s 20 times more valuable than us talking about the mission statement or whatever. Congratulations for being so confident in sharing those real examples.
There’s so many great principles you’ve talked about so far, Lynda. That last one was storytelling, and sharing real examples. Is there anything else that you found interesting from the program, that you weren’t necessarily doing at that level, but now the program helped you to deliberately do more of something?
Yeah, there’s two other elements that really stuck out for me.
The first one is the Magic Formula, talking about the problem and impact. I won’t say too much about it, because people should go in the course to learn about it. But, I just remember you always give this analogy of think about the horse and the cart. So, the horse is the problem, and why we’re doing what we’re doing, and the cart was how do we solve it, and how do we show that … For me, Animals Asia are the best at solving this problem. I think before I attended your course, I had the horse and cart around the other way, so that was a real big moment for me. I still use that, to this day. Of course, you can incorporate your storytelling into it.
The last thing that really hit home for me was you spoke a lot about influence and breaking the seal when you’re going for meetings. I had an example of this, actually, a couple months ago where I was going into a couple of major donor meetings with the CEO. The relationship very much with the CEO, I don’t know these people at all, not even really had email conversations, or phone conversations with them. So, I knew I really had to show gravitas, and influence, and I wanted to take these relationships over.
You always said, if you were going into a meeting and you wanted to break the seal, to plan your point before you go in, and say it as soon as you get into the meeting, to show you’ve got presence, and really add gravitas and value. I did exactly that in the meeting, and it was so, so successful. I can now say that I absolutely hold those relationships now.
I think also, as well, really believing in yourself, as well. You’re the expert in the fundraising field here, and these relationships are going to be best suited with you. That was a real thumbs up for me, I was so pleased after that meeting, to really have those relationships. Some of them were actually lapsed, and I can now say that I’m stewarding them, and they’re no longer lapsed, they’ve now given, and hopefully will continue to give over the coming years.
Yes. Well, congratulations on managing to do that, Lynda, because it’s not easy because of our own psychological reasons, and little voice. Even if all of that is fine, the number of signals that we, as a fundraiser, can be sent by society, or by those within our charity, where we are in the pecking order, compared to some of these extremely important, and or high status, and or wealthy people, it’s not easy to go into the meeting feeling on an equal, and willing and able to be proactive, and own the space in that way. Of course, if we are to have a donor give to something they care about, at some level they do need to see us on a level, rather than look down on us.
Congratulations on managing to make it work. Thank you, Lynda. I know you’ve got, this time of year, as busy as ever, you’ve got other things to do. So, a huge thank you for giving up your time to share some of these examples and stories, and principles of what’s be working so well for you this year. I really appreciate your time.
Thank you so much.
We’ve just been listening to ideas and examples that Lynda Harwood-Compton has been using to generate a fabulous uplift in major donor, and mid-level donor income for her charity, Animals Asia. Apart from anything else, I found Lynda’s positive, creative approach to all her relationships, and how she pays attention to the small things, really inspiring. Not least because she’s proof that doing these manageable steps does make a big difference to your overall results.
If you’d like to see a summary of these ideas, do check out the episode notes on our Bright Spot Fundraising website. And if you’re curious to get access to the key fundraising strategies that Lynda benefited from, you can do that by joining the Bright Spot Members Club, which is a kind of Netflix for fundraisers. There are lots of training films and downloads, full of examples and guidance, as well as regular problem solving and coaching sessions by webinar. And, our special Bright Spot LIVE full day events, which happen in London. To find out more, go to our website brightspotfundraising.co.uk. Then, in the services section, click on Bright Spot Members Club.
If you found today’s episode helpful, please do leave us a review, and share with other fundraisers you know, so that these sessions can reach and help more and more charities, to make a bigger difference.
Finally, and most importantly, thank you so much for making time for your own professional development, by tuning in to listen to this podcast. I look forward to the next episode, when we’ll be sharing more ideas and Bright Spot stories, to help you raise more money, enjoy your job, and make a bigger difference.