With many companies in trouble and just finding a way to stay afloat, and most people under more pressure than normal, it’s hard to know how to what fundraisers should do in terms of corporate fundraising at the moment, so we shared this session to help give you some ideas and reassurance about how you do your job.
Would you like more help?
If you’d like to watch the full film of this session, plus access to dozens of training films, (including five Ben and Rob have made together), and regular twice-weekly Coaching Calls. To find out more check out our online training and inspiration resource the Bright Spot Club.
In this Episode 21 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast I share an excerpt from a recent Group coaching session we ran for members of the Bright Spot Club. I run these sessions twice a week, so that we can help you find solutions to whatever problems are holding you back in your fundraising or charity leadership.
I was joined on the session by the always-inspiring Ben Swart.
Ben is the hugely experienced Head of New Business for Corporate fundraising at the NSPCC and is also an inspiring trainer for Bright Spot. If you’ve already taken part in our Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme, or even if you’ve simply listened to Episode 19 of this podcast, you’ll already know how helpful and confidence boosting his ideas can be.
We hope you find this episode helpful. If you’d like to get in touch or share it so other people can benefit, we’d be really grateful. We are both active on Linked In and our twitter names are @benswart and @woods_rob.
Here is a top line version of our discussions – but we recommend actually listening, as Ben’s real examples and energetic way of talking are what really brings the ideas to life.
Question from Julian
What do we say to companies or other supporters that may want to help, but who want to know what our new emergency strategy is, that they may be able to help with, through volunteering or some other strategic or pro bono help?
We know many of you are finding it especially hard to talk to supporters if you don’t yet have much detail about these changes in your charity’s strategy, especially at a time when things are changing so fast, and when so many of our frontline colleagues are busier than ever.
Find a way to be personally OK with not knowing your charity’s new or future strategy. We’re finding most people you talk to are in exactly the same boat, for their personal and professional lives, because things are changing so fast, and no-one has dealt with this situation before, so most people understand that we cannot predict.
Do try your utmost to get through and have even brief chats with colleagues in the service delivery side of the organisation. It does not need to be the director. Talk to anyone, including a volunteer. Ask them:
- What’s so hard for beneficiaries right now? (And what in particular about the current pandemic has made that hard?)
- What’s so hard for our charity to respond right now (including what’s not immediately obvious about that?
- Ask for real examples that bring this to life.
The most important thing is to actually talk (and keep talking) to the company / supporter.
If they are offering pro bono or strategic help, tell them about what is difficult for your beneficiaries right now, using what you’ve learned.
Ben talked about the difficulties faced by vulnerable children during lockdown – including to their physical health as well as their mental health; and for instance the new problems his charity has to solve in terms of finding more headsets and lap tops so that ChildLine volunteers can still answer the calls in spite of socially isolating / shielding themselves (as many are over 70 years old); and because sharing head-sets is a huge infection risk.
Use your equivalent of these ideas, and real examples to bring them to life to help your supporter associate to the impossibility of predicting exactly what the need will be in the short and medium term.
At the right time in the conversation, if appropriate, ask for financial help.
Schedule the next conversation. Like successful taxi drivers, always do your best to offer / book the next journey before the end of the first. So set up the next call with this supporter who has expressed an interest in helping.
Question from Tanushree
How do I progress a relationship with a supporter that was nearly at a point of agreeing a partnership with us before the pandemic began?
- SET UP AN INSPIRING VISIT ANYWAY – Invite them to a virtual project visit, ie on Zoom.
- Continue to show an interest in their situation right now.
- FROM THE FRONT LINE. Invite your service delivery colleague to the call (if they can spare any time at all right now, and when they hear that this is a serious potential partner, hopefully they will find a way. Ask them to explain what’s so hard for your beneficiaries and give (appropriately anonymised) examples rather than merely talking generically.
- During the meeting, ask if the company would still like to be part of helping to solve these problems.
- SCHEDULE THE NEXT CALL. Whenever possible, book in the next step, so you continue the conversation and the relationship builds.
Question from Michaela
Should we proceed with our previous new business strategy that we were developing to reach out to Dream 10 new companies?
PROBABLY NOT TOP PRIORITY. When you have a link (eg through a contact, friend or ambassador) to those new companies, perhaps. But otherwise, no. Effort to reach brand new companies is higher risk than spending your effort on highest potential areas, ie your existing supporters (companies, trusts and especially major donors).
BUT CAN WORK FOR NEW STRATEGIC PRO BONO ASKS – But if you can now identify a new pro bono need (eg to deliver your social media for you now, at a time when that is invaluable and when we know there are agencies that want to stay busy and help), then cold calling those agencies is working for some charities.
One small charity we know just secured pro bono funding worth £30,000 to help improve their website and manage their social media. Another that worked recently was a charity that secured pro bono help with its e-commerce at a time when it cannot operate its shops and needs to sell its goods online.
Ben and Rob acknowledge that making phone calls is an area you may find difficult – both of them used to feel this way – but have found that fundraisers who are managing to do this are receiving some gifts and partnerships, and a boost to their own morale. For help with this crucial skill – check out Episode 19 of the podcast – INSPIRE where Ben and Rob offer encouragement, examples and ideas to help feel more fire in your belly to succeed.
‘If you can make sure that you’re proactively seeking and getting those virtual coffee meetings booked in, that’s the best way to keep up your positive momentum.’
Hi, this is Rob Woods and welcome to episode 21 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in charity fundraising and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, really enjoy their job and make a bigger difference, even during the current pandemic.
Firstly, I hope that you’re safe and well and that you and your loved ones are doing okay in the face of the various challenges you’re having to deal with at the moment. And if you work as a corporate fundraiser or if corporate partnerships is one of the things you’re responsible for and you’re wondering how to solve the new problems being thrown at you by the coronavirus, I think you’re going to find today’s episode insightful and practical because I’m about to share with you an excerpt from a recent group coaching session we ran for members of the Bright Spot Members’ Club.
I run these sessions twice a week so that we can help fundraisers find solutions to whatever problems are holding them back in their fundraising. I’m often joined in these sessions by special guests who combine great fundraising skill with the ability to explain those skills in a way that gives you a boost. And last week we did a session with the always inspiring Ben Swart. Ben is the hugely experienced head of new business corporate fundraising at the NSPCC and if you’ve already taken part in our corporate partnerships mastery program or even if you’ve simply listened to episode 19 of this podcast, you’ll probably already know how helpful and confidence boosting his ideas can be. And by the way, thank you so much to everyone who’s already fed back to us that that episode helped you pick up the phone and have more confident conversations with your supporters at the moment. We’ve really loved hearing those stories.
But as I say, in the group coaching session we did last week, one of the questions we were asked was this, “What should you say to companies that want to know what your new emergency strategy is because they want to help, either through volunteering or some other strategic or pro bono help?” I know that many of you are finding especially hard to talk to supporters if you don’t yet have much detail about these changes in your charity strategy, especially at a time when things are changing so fast and when so many of your frontline colleagues are busier than ever. In a moment, you’ll hear Ben’s advice and his explanation for how he has approached this difficult issue in conversations with corporate partners on behalf of the NSPCC where the Childline service remains more important than ever.
This episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast is brought to you by the Bright Spot Members’ Club. As a practical alternative to one-off conferences and courses, his impact can fade all too quickly. The Members’ Club is an online resource that gives you ongoing access to a whole library of video training courses, monthly coaching webinars, and live training events. It’s all designed to help you learn, enjoy your job, and raise more money. To join the 300 fundraisers already in the club or just to find out more, go to brightspotfundraising.co.uk.
…Here’s one snapshot of a challenge for us, and I’m interested in what your version is, but a challenge for us is that we rely on these volunteers to answer children. They come into this one base in London. It’s exactly the same situation that you described. Nearly all of them are retired or older or would be seen as more vulnerable. And a huge chunk of them are in London, where this virus is more than anywhere else in the UK right now. And so what we’ve found is that they can’t come in. Even if they do come in the desks that they sent out and the headsets that they use can’t be used anymore because that’s a really good way to share a virus. So we now need to get more desks, more laptops, and more headsets, which means that they could be spread out across the building that other people aren’t in anymore. That meant that overnight in the space of 12 hours, we had to buy a thousand laptops and a thousand new headsets and that cost us nearly 200,000 pounds in 12 hours.
And in the first week of responding to this, we spent a quarter of a million pounds just trying to figure out what tomorrow we could do to make sure that a child who is desperate to get some support can still have someone answering them. And what I realized from that is that next week I don’t know what’s going to happen. That means that we might need to spend another quarter of a million pounds in 12 hours, but I know that it’s going to come.
And as long as I can speak to my services, then I can say to companies, “In all honesty, I wish that I could have got you to give me headsets quickly enough to be there in 12 hours, but unless you make plant Plantronics Marque 3.4 and can get them to me immediately, I can’t do this nice strategic pro-bono ask.” I actually right now, the best thing you can possibly do for me is if you were thinking of putting that time and energy somewhere then fundraising would be great place to start.
I have a horrible feeling next week we’re going to be spending another 150, or 200,000 pounds solving a problem that we didn’t even know was there, and this is money we haven’t planned to spend. We’re going to need at some point some help with that. So if you are asking me, I will come up with other things, I promise. But for now the main thing is helping me to just make sure we’re still here to do that. The second thing is I will come up with more things, I promise. Why don’t we have a Skype call, a FaceTime next week at this time to talk through where you are, what your situation is and who you’re giving to, what you’re interested in, what sort of support you’ve got, and then when I hear that I can match it to what we’re doing.
And what I’ve found really interesting is I have then taken the fact that next week I’ll have an hour’s call with X company back to the organization and said, “I don’t mind if you don’t have an answer today because we’re desperate to try and solve this problem and put this fire out, but next week I’ve got an hour with the team from this company to talk it through. I would love to have something concrete by then and if not me, can you come on the call?” So it just helped me to put in milestones the almost like, if you build it, they will come moments of, “Well, I’ve got an hour next week so the service is, can you help me with that hour? Company, you’re going to speak to me next week so now I’ll have something for you.” Do you see what I mean?
I think the honesty of the situation which comes from speaking to services because I try to be a sort of people-pleaser, a relationship builder and so I’m desperate to say, “Yes! Yeah! In 10 days time I’d love your thousand headsets. They’re all second hand? Great! Woohoo!” The truth is that when I speak to Wendy of Childline, she gives me some really good reasons as to why that won’t work, which then enables me to say to them, “I love that idea. Either I’ve gone back to Childline or I’ve already spoken to them and the truth is I needed it 24 hours ago.” So the honesty is to why what they first think they can give you isn’t quite right is okay too, I think, as long as we can get it from someone. And then what I’ve found is it’s led to lots of questions and conversations about stuff that I just knew already.
So for instance, one of the reasons why Childline can’t be done from everyone’s phone is a safeguarding issue and a security issue and a mindfulness and mental health issue for the workers themselves. That stuff I’ve known for years. And so it then meant that I had really nice conversation with a few companies about what it’s like to be a Childline volunteer. And do you know at the end of it, they said, that’s the question Audrey was asking, they were like, “You know the problems I was talking about, about furloughing half my operations team and that makes life a bit harder. God, you realize that pales in significance when you think that children can’t be answered or blah,” and you’re right. I’m not pretending that I’m an NHS nurse here. I’m not pretending that we’re at that front line, but even then realizing the impact that they had had on their lives to what it has on ours was enough for them to end the call going, “Yeah. Yeah. Let’s speak again next week.”
Internally, can you or one of your colleagues get a link to someone? Have a conversation with someone? I, I was off for the week. I showed symptoms, which meant I couldn’t come into the office, so I was off for the weeks leading up to this sort of, now we will work from ho`me. So I felt like I was away from it all and I came back and within about four minutes of a conversation at nine o’clock in the morning, I was like, “We’re not getting enough information. I just need to speak to a director who I’ve spoken to in the past.” I get her on the phone, even though, do you know what? I just butchered my way into a 30 minute conversation that was about something else and use three minutes of it to just ask her, “Can you just tell me Claire, what’s it like on the front line at the moment?”
And the answers she gave me were amazing and it then led me to say, “This is really interesting. Is there anyone else I can talk to to get these sorts of, what it’s like what you need, et cetera? Because I feel like you’re quite busy at the moment.” And you’re right. It’s just as soon as possible finding a link, shortening the link to the front line. And my favourite thing about this, Julian, is I saw a little picture on LinkedIn recently that said, “Who was responsible for your organizations? Digital transformation, chief technical officer, chief operating officer, or COVID-19?” And what COVID-19 has done is innovate the hell out of all of us. So in the past if I was struggling to speak to the front line because of a whole host of bureaucratic reasons, those are gone. If you really want help in the next 24 hours and you want us to find partners that can help or donors that can help, then that old world that you thought was the way things were always done, I’m afraid that’s gone now.
Cut me straight in and let me talk to someone. But don’t worry if that’s a bit scary. I thought working from home would be scary. This is a different world now and we should be using that to say, “Hold on. Let’s just go straight to it.” Because correct me if I’m wrong, but ExCeL Center down the road is now a hospital and Lidl have turned their retail distribution centers that normally are used to help thousands of stores get food, they’ve just cut a wing of it now so that NHS staff from local hospitals can just shop directly there. They’ve just taken a step back and gone, “We haven’t got the time to get lorries to do things. We need to circumnavigate everything, because this is what today calls for.” I believe that that’s the conversations we should be having internally. Every time someone says, “Well we’ve got this process.”
Well I think part, my view and some of it is I don’t think you need as much information as some of your fundraisers think you do. I think, what the companies need to know is, what is hard for your beneficiaries right now? What’s not obvious about it, and if you can bring that to life with a real example or a story. That’s probably 80% of what they need, that will catch their attention on the phone. A little bit of detail about what you might be doing to solve it in the month of April, but honestly what’s the problem and the consequences of that problem for Edith or for little Tracy? What’s not obvious? What’s not obvious, and real examples. Actually, you can get that through just a relatively quick half hour call once a week to just one of your service colleagues. My view is it doesn’t need to be the director who’s in charge of the whole thing.
Well, I hope you found that discussion helpful. In the session, members of the club went on to ask about a range of other difficulties that they now face as fundraisers and I’ve chosen two more important questions that we heard from the group. In a moment you’ll hear a couple of new voices, both belonging to smart, hardworking corporate fundraisers. The second of these is Michaela Butorova who works for Save the Rhino and has a question about how to approach corporate partnership strategy during these chaotic times. But first you’ll hear from Tanushree Srivastava who works for a small youth charity and who wants to know what the charity can do to avoid losing momentum with new partner relationships that had been developing really nicely until the pandemic hit.
I hope that discussion helped some other people as well. I’m going to come to Tanushree if I may. If you could unmute your microphone, Tanushree and just chat to Ben about what’s going on for you.
Yeah. Hi everyone and thank you Rob. Thank you Ben. There was some really great insights and I have to send, this is my only, I think the first month of Bright Spot Fundraising membership and I couldn’t have joined it at a better time, is all I can say. I had a question. We are a very small charity with a very small fundraising team of three people. There was corporate partners, people who were in the pipeline we were talking to and they had all these visits confirmed. Sadly not happening anymore. My question is, how best we can keep engaged or what’s the kind of messaging we can send out to them until all of this finishes and we had back to our sort of regular schedule of being able to take prospects to meetings and schools and things like that.
That’s a good question. I can imagine a few of us have got the same sort of problem where we were nearly there with the partnership and then this has just come at the wrong time. I think you can give them almost a virtual project visit. You can technically, just like we’re doing here, have a couple of them on where you just steer the conversation with a few open questions that could be about definitely starting with what’s it like to the company at the moment, understanding the impact on them.
Then the impact on you all, followed by, “And tell me, subject matter expert, why is that impact’s important or what have you noticed? What’s it been like for you?” With a few stories there. We’ve been doing something at the NSPCC, our charity, called them Pandemic Busting Power Hour. On it, I very deliberately find someone who works on the front line to tell a few stories and I’d love to say the feedback after it has been about my wonderful presentation style, but it hasn’t.
Yeah it hasn’t. You know what? Every single time it’s been, “Wow. Thank you for letting Gemma come and talk to me about what life is like on her Childline shift when she had to figure out a way to get in and then was the only person in a room of eight people when there’s normally 30 people there, and, and, and, and,” and yet she spoke to a girl who was stuck at home in a house where her abuser was and had nowhere else to go. It was amazing hearings from the front line from that person. And what I quite liked about it was that I know Gemma’s was a wonderful storyteller and very deliberately get her to tell stories. So I think one thing would be that and then enable them to ask those questions. It sounded like you’ve got to a point in the conversation with them where if you ask them the question before this happens, do you want to have a partnership with us? Are these areas that we work in ones that are interesting to you? It sounds like they would say, “Yes. Yes, absolutely.”
Yeah. I mean it did sound like initially after all of that effort of the months and they had agreed to this visit which was going to be happening in their office and that like I said, and their CEO had finally agreed to join the visit as well. So it did seem like something that they were keen to take forward, but because it took us that long a time and now it’s fallen flat, we just weren’t very sure of how to take this forward. But yeah, like I said, I’m glad I’ve at least got a call with them next week just to keep it warm and I have a few more ideas thanks to you guys too [crosstalk 00:16:19]
Brilliant. I guess that my main thing is that towards the end of the visit, your project call, ask them the question again. “The things you’ve just heard, do you still feel like it’s important that we deliver these in the next few months or whatever? If not today, in a few months time,” and when they say yes, because they will say yes, then you can say, “Well every week that goes by something new happens. Should we book in another call for four weeks’ time and I tell you how we are or what we’re doing or who else in your team do you think I should speak to?” And just like Rob says, and you’ll notice this on the membership site about test drives, about getting coffees in and calls in. If you can make sure that those are booked in, then it’ll help you keep that momentum. That’s my advice.
Yes, thank you both. Thank you.
Thank you. I’m going to come to Michaela.
Hi, can you hear me?
Hi Michaela, how are you?
Good, thank you. And this has been incredibly helpful. Many of my questions have already been answered, which is great. I have a question because for the last three or four months we have been developing or working on a new corporate strategy and much of that has been to really try and change our approach from being very reactive and just waiting for companies to approach us and then develop a partnership to actually targeting and knowing what kind of companies we do want partner with and which fit with us strategically and then develop network ambassadors to try and get those companies and be more proactive to really grow our corporate income.
So all the thinking behind that has happened over the last three or four months and we were just in the process of doing the research and really thinking about the list of the key companies we’d like to go after, and then all of this happened and I’m just trying to see how I can approach them, if there is a skill way to not completely forget about all the work we’ve done and try and develop these partnerships and continue that. I don’t know what you think.
It’s a tough one isn’t it? I wonder, like the very first question we had about should I be speaking to the partners who aren’t my current partners, my prospects? I believe if you have a link to them, if you have an ally there that can set up a Skype call or a webinar or something, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with still trying to use that with them already and you’ve spoken to them in some way, even however small. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in having a chat with them, especially if this is having an impact on your organization and you can find those real examples or stories of where it is.
I think if you have no link to them and your pipeline had a bit of a percentage of sort of, “Well let’s see, I would put that as seriously high risk at the moment,” because it’s harder than ever to connect to them and I would focus on those warmer ones. Especially, like I say, if you’ve got an interesting and unexplained, like Rob was saying, the question in the magic formula is what’s unexpected about the problem. This has thrown up a whole host of unexpected problems for a whole host of charities that we didn’t realize. And so what I’ve noticed is when I have talked to people about strange headset problems, people have gone, “I didn’t even think about Childline. You’re not who I’m even thinking of at the moment.” And so that’s been quite helpful.
I do believe that in some way you will have to rethink your strategy and your priorities. This morning I was listening to the radio and they had people from a neurology department who said that they had people on their waiting list who’ve been waiting two years in the NHS, two years to go and get neurology scans and to get support, and some of these people that just literally got in their beds three days earlier after a two year waiting list and their job for the whole day had been going round to those beds and saying to people, “I’m really sorry, we are now ending your work for now because we’re going to need these beds,” and not a single one of them argued even though they’d been waiting for two years because today the problem is not, “Where’s my four year corporate new business strategy?” Today the problem is, how are we going to be here in six months time.
And I think I liked both the iPhone example, the NHS example because it helps me to be okay with the fact that some of the colder prospects I’ve got, some of the work I was planning to do, some of the cause-related marketing. I was hoping I would do with a brand, it’s just going to be paused for a bit because today that’s not the thing they want to talk about and the problem. If I have a warm connection with them, I am going to let them know the honest situation of what we’re facing at the moment. I’m going to try and do that over the phone. I’m going to get an intro. If I haven’t, I’m not going to use my time now, I don’t think. The NHS is not using its time for people who need to get a bit of therapy on their brain injury. They’re using their time to save the lives of people who’ve got coronavirus, if that makes sense.
Yeah, it does, and it’s a really nice way to think about it. Thank you.
I think it comes back to three weeks ago when I first heard before coronavirus had actually hit and I was talking to someone from an NHS hospital who didn’t have a single coronavirus case who said to me that the hospital had already asked them for chocolate bars, for lunch snacks, for instant tea and instant coffee because they think the staff will be working 40 hours and not have a break. They’ve asked them for chaplain hours money because they think they’ll need more chaplains because there’ll be more deaths. They’ve asked them for training resources because they need resilience. They’ve asked them for travel because they don’t want to travel on public transport. And I got off the phone and you might have seen the video on Twitter, but I was absolutely shaken with the impact that the virus would have on the hospitals.
And then I talked to someone from a national opera and found out that they had wiped out everything and they’d be doomed, but their creative director had used nearly all of their reserves to pay for their staff to keep their jobs for the next year and a half so that they didn’t have to go anywhere. And then I spoke to another charity and I realized that the impact that this is happening is scary and actually can cause a bit of fear. And yet, most of the world don’t know it. And if we can just speak to some people who they themselves are quite scared and give them a chance to talk through what life is like for them and then let them know the situation, the real honest situation that this is having on our organizations, the next thing they’ll say is, “How can I help?”
And that sort of kept me going the more that this has happened is every piece of shxt that is handed our way, there’s been a case of we’re not doing this alone. And I know that to be true because I’ve got a WhatsApp group now with my local community helping everyone in our local community. We’re all shopping locally so that we can desperately help the cafes and the restaurants and the suppliers who are going to be gone in six months to still be here, because there’s one thing we’re going to do is we’re going to get scared and then we get to do what we can to help. And I think as fundraisers we are in a privileged situation to be able to take that and then speak to as many people as possible about it.
And that’s what’s sort of been keeping us going is, it’s not yet we need to review our sectors and we need to think this other stuff through. But the main thing we need to be doing is talking to people at this moment and giving them a chance to chat to us and then understand the impact they can make. It doesn’t matter if they can’t give. The bank I spoke to today, she can’t give to us. That’s fine. I don’t mind, but the main thing is giving them an outlet to be able to talk to us.
Well, I hope these discussions gave you some ideas or reassurance that you’re on the right track. If so, please do hit subscribe today so that you don’t miss out on the other episodes that we’ve got planned. Also, if you think this session would help your wider team or your friends in other charities, I’d be ever so grateful if you could share it on with them so that these ideas can help as many charities as possible to get through this crisis. To get in touch or to share this episode on social media, Ben and I are both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Ben is @BenSwart and I am @woods_rob. We’d love to hear what you think and we respond to every single comment and question.
With so many new tough problems for our charities to solve, we found these life coaching sessions through the Bright Spot Club are proving more popular than ever because they’re helping people to stay positive and solve their fundraising challenges. In fact, I’m recording this on a Thursday afternoon and one reason I’ve got a smile on my face is that as I was preparing to record it, I received a message from a high value fundraiser who used the techniques we talked about in this morning’s session to make several calls to her supporters directly after the session. Just after lunch, she fed back to me that those conversations in and of themselves gave her a real boost in confidence that people still care. In fact, one supporter made a generous donation to the hospice without the fundraiser even asking for the gift.
So if you’re stuck at home and searching for ways to keep learning and solving your fundraising problems over the next few months, do check out the Bright Spot Club. As a member, you get 24 seven access to a whole library of inspiring and practical training content as well as this regular live help. You can find out more at brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. That’s brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. Finally, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate the effort and time it takes to keep learning when you’ve got so many other distractions on your plate and I hope it gave you some ideas and encouragement. Until the next time, stay safe and thank you for all your efforts to make a positive difference through your fundraising.