Taking full advantage of an opportunity makes a huge difference to your fundraising momentum. In this episode of Fundraising Bright Spots, Rob Woods talks to Jo Bega, Chief Executive of Child Rescue Nepal. The charity’s Radio 4 Appeal was one of the most successful of the year and in this interview Jo explains how they achieved these stunning results.
This included securing investment from the board, tactics with the script, story-telling and ways to help existing supporters make the most of the appeal. She also shares a couple of great tips for making the making it easy for a celebrity to support – in this case Joanna Lumley was the spokesperson – so you can add value to your appeal, without having to make lots of extra requests for their time.
We also hear a range of creative tactics Jo and her colleagues use to make their supporters feel special, because ‘a well thanked donor is where your next donation is most likely to come from’. Jo believes the charity’s supporters are an essential part of the mission, and she explains several practical ways this belief affects how they communicate.
- For a media appeal like this one, it’s crucial to keep your message incredibly simple. Get straight to the story that brings to life your cause.
- Let the story do the work and find its essence – what is the problem and what gets better when that problem is solved? Resist the surprisingly powerful (‘Curse of Knowledge’) temptation to explain more complex or intellectual things about the charity.
- Take advice from people who have expertise in this area, in this case, the advice given by Radio 4 – there are probably sound reasons they make those points, which may be less obvious when you are coming to a particular format for the first time.
- To back this up / test this advice, study what works and what doesn’t work in appeals that have gone before – for the Radio 4 Appeal you can study the patterns in those that raise more compared to those that raise less.
- Find the details in the story, especially details which are not immediately obvious – (ie things we would not have known unless you had pointed them out).
- Bring the ideas to life through the senses you evoke in the story.
- A big reason for the success of this appeal was the way they helped existing supporters take advantage of the event (to give and to get others involved eg with the postcards the charity had sent out to supporters for this purpose).
- When working with supporters, an advantage for small charities is you can respond to in-bound offers of support more quickly, such as Jo’s meeting which led to £45,000 in fundraising from a previously unknown supporter.
- Because resources are limited, Jo feels its more important than ever that you work hard at thanking and building relationships with existing supporters.
- For example, Jo sends handwritten cards ‘from the heart’ about whatever is going on at that moment, in coloured envelopes, with heart stickers on the back. They track who has received which card. They send bespoke thank you films.
- They see their supporters as part of the family. This comes through in how they communicate (eg authentic, ‘normal’ tone) and it includes letting them know when a mission to rescue children is under way (rather than inform them after the event.)
You can listen to this successful Radio 4 Appeal with Joanna Lumley here:
Sticky Marketing by Grant Leboff
‘A well thanked donor is where your next donation is most likely to come from’ Jo Bega
‘Being small doesn’t mean a disadvantage, it just means you have to be more creative, and bring people on board.’ Jo Bega
‘Don’t put on an event that you yourself would find boring to go to you; don’t write social media that you would skip over.’ Jo Bega
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Transcript of Episode 3
Hello, this is Rob Woods, and welcome to Episode Three of the fundraising bright spots podcast.
So I’ve been working in fundraising for new two decades now. And a lot of that time I’ve been asking myself this question, how do you raise more money to charity? Or in other words, what to the most successful fundraisers do differently and better than other people? And what can any of us learn from them?
And over the years, very often, the most exciting answers I’ve got to this question, have come through interviews with fundraisers who really are getting consistently great results by doing certain things slightly differently to what most people do. Now, in the early days, I would do these interviews, and I would scribble furiously in my notebook, and then I’d use those ideas in both my own fundraising and then increasingly to create the courses I taught other fundraisers. So to me, the fundraising bright spots podcast that you’re listening to now is the logical extension of what I’ve been doing for years.
And in many way is better this way, because you’ll be hearing those examples and powerful strategies directly from the person who’s applying them. So in each episode of this podcast, we’re going to share with you an interview or a presentation or a collection of examples with two key purposes in mind. Firstly, we’re aiming to give you access to effective strategies that help you raise more money. But also, just as importantly, we’re going to share things we hope will help you feel differently about some everyday aspect of fundraising. So you feel it’s worth working that little bit harder in certain areas, because you’ve got more confidence it’ll be worth the effort.
And today, I’m really excited about this episode, because with an amazing fundraiser, Jo Bega, and she’s the chief executive of a wonderful charity called Child Rescue Nepal. I was really keen to talk to Jo, because not only is her charity doing really well and their income is consistently growing, so they’re able to rescue more children from slavery, but also because they’re a really small charity and they don’t have large budgets and resources to call on. I think there’s two members of staff in the UK. But in spite of that size, and maybe even partly because of it, they’ve developed a really fantastic approach to working with supporters. One recent success was a Radio 4 appeal, which was one of the most successful radio for appeals of the entire year. So in this conversation, I first wanted to find out what she thinks made their appeal, top the radio 4 appeal charts for so long. And secondly, to talk me through their approach to supporters and to fundraising in general. So whether your charity is large or medium sized or small, I hope you find this interview as interesting and as helpful as I did.
This episode of the fundraising bright spots podcast is brought to you by Bright Spot Mastery Programmes. So if you need to increase income in corporate partnerships, or major donor and trust fundraising, these programmes will help. As well as the advanced strategies you learn on the training days, you receive one to one coaching to help you put those powerful techniques into practice. To find out more about the corporate mastery and major gifts mastery programmes, head over to bright spot fundraising.co.uk.
Hello and welcome to the podcast Joe bega.
And thank you so much for making time for this. I know you’re busier than ever at the moment. You are chief executive of Child Rescue Nepal, thank you for joining the podcast. Just before we jump into a couple of questions to do with your approach to fundraising. Can you just give us a snapshot of what the charity does?
Yep, so Child Rescue Nepal physically rescues children from slavery in Nepal. We’ve rescued over 800 children so far, but the works far from over. And we’re pretty small in the UK – just myself – the chief executive – and our office manager. And in Nepal, we’ve got 26 staff.
Okay. And I understood that you joined the charity about three years ago.
That’s correct, coming up three years. And it’s been a really steep learning curve, but I’m absolutely loving it now.
Yeah. And so there’s a couple of reasons why I was so keen to talk to you and why I think some of your insights are going to help the listeners – everyone frankly, but especially fundraisers in smaller organisations. I’d already heard about the amazing results you’ve been getting. Obviously, in terms of growing the number of children you’re able to rescue in particular, because of how steadily you’re managing to grow the organisation. And top line as I understood it, it’s been growing each year, but just in this last year, income was around 338,000 or so and it looks like it’s a further 90,000 up on that at something like 400,000 430,000 income this year, and I may have got those details a tiny bit wrong, but basically that sounds like the trajectory of growth. And I also understood that several things in terms of your approach, especially to the supporter and the donor is a bit different to what I noticed in many small organisations that are every bit as resource strapped as you are.
So that’s a reason I was really keen to chat to you because its really working. Before we get into your general approach, I just wanted to dive into something very specific, which was your approach to the Radio 4 Appeal, what was your recipe? What was your approach to making that opportunity work so well?
So I joined the organisation and I found out very quickly that we’ve been successful at (getting chosen for) this Radio 4 Appeal. And as a small charity, this is an absolutely fantastic opportunity. It’s something that you can grab with both hands and I wanted to use this as a focus and make sure that the whole organisation could benefit from this opportunity. So I pitched an investment package to the trustees, which is what you can sometimes do when you’re new and feeling a bit emboldened, I pitched a £10,000 package to the trustees, which involves support from Richard Turner, involved myself and a trustee going on Alan Clayton’s great fundraising master class. And the idea behind that was to really focus on our big ambition, make sure that the charity was streamlined and all our ducks in a row and that we would make the most of this opportunity. So as we were getting that professional kind of support and input we would also be aligning our messages and our branding and so that we were completely ready. And I boldly said to the trustees that if we put in this £10,000 not only will we get ourselves kind of up and running and focused as a charity, I think we will make back that money and some yeah, you know, we’ve pretty much tripled what we’ve done before and so it was well worth the investment. And I think it is a really good idea to ask for help at certain points, and strategically when you really need it.
Yeah, well, many congratulations because that takes not only careful thought but actually courage to actually take that risk. But there’s Adam Heuman who I also talked to in this podcast series who’s really proved successful at getting people to invest. The key element I noticed in his mindset is always that willingness to be brave, take a deep breath and actually really go for something and taking on the risk that’s involved in the leader saying that to their trustees, so congratulations for doing that boldly. I want to move on if I may, to the two or three of the bits of the recipe for how you created that script and created something which when people listen to it was so successful, what would you say were a couple of the things you made sure you did and did really well?
So one of the pitfalls that I wanted to avoid and to be told about and was not to try and tell people, everything that you do, there just isn’t time, you have to get right to a story that will grab people, you have to start with the beneficiary your story you’re telling and bring that listener to that story as quickly and powerfully as possible. And to do that, you need to focus on the details, focus on the description. So an example that was given to us when I went to the radio for workshop that they put on was a lady that was so poor that she was eating the bark from trees. And that phrase stuck with me.
And I think when I came to write the script, I tried to put things that would connect with people wherever they were listening to the story. And so we were focusing the appeal on a boy who’d been trafficked from a rural area after the earthquake, ended up working in a metal factory, and he was sleeping on the floor. So I went back to the team and said, you know, can we get some more details? Is he sleeping on the floor? Was he really sleeping on the floor? Was it on a mattress on the floor? Was it concrete, and it turned out that it was, it was really, literally sleeping on a concrete floor with just some sacks. And so, you know, we came up with the phrase just, you know, covered with shreds of sacks.
And another thing that happened in the factory was that the boys were working with acid, they were polishing brass statues for tourists, and sometimes the acid would spill on them. And so we came up with the phrase, you know, and when the acid spelt, it seared through their clothes and into their skin, you know, into not even onto – we were a hundred percent accurate, but actually just digging down into that detail, you know, made it powerful for the listener.
Yes. Excellent. It really chimes with what I’ve learned about story and what I teach on my storytelling workshops is zooming in on those very real details, especially if they involve the senses, to help someone connect to what’s going on… That’s beyond the obvious…so they have some sense of what really is at stake. And clearly it worked really, really well. When we spoke before, it wasn’t just about this script where you worked hard. It was also about seeing this as an opportunity overall. And you worked hard to maximise the opportunity with your existing supporters rather than just leaving it to Radio 4 to speak to their listeners.
Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. I think it would be easy to think that Radio 4 has a big listenership and that that will do its work. But actually, every donation is important, and you need to get your own supporters, first of all on board with this, this being their opportunity. And we sent postcards to all our supporters, we sent some extra ones they could give to their friends. And we made sure that there was a real ownership within the organisation, that this was our appeal and that our donors were going to be very responsible in terms of sharing it with their friends and with their family. We made it easy for people to kind of forward it and promote it, and I do think that really helped.
I guess that’s the sort of thing that we would plan to do… But when we’re busy, it would be all too easy to presume that the power of radio 4, those millions of listeners would be the bulk of it. And then any effort we make would be drops in the ocean compared to the power of that giant. And my instinct is you working so hard, and going the extra mile with all of that communication actually went a long way to why you really made the most of it. And that shows up in the results.
I think so. And I think, you know, we were a small charity, and this was an amazing opportunity for us. So I took all the advice that was available. If somebody said, you should do this, I did it. And you know, we put a lot of effort into it. And we focused on how we were going to look after supporters afterwards, how we were going to thank them. So one thing that I did when we were recording the appeal, which was with Joanna Lumley, I asked her to do a lovely handwritten thank you to donors, which then we could reproduce and send out with the thank you so there was ‘Dear lovely ones. Fabulous. Thank you that you could do this. Kiss Kiss Kiss’. And so we had already thought before we even recorded the appeal how we were going to make that thank you.
That’s, that’s really smart. And again, depending on how good one’s relationship is with that figurehead or that celebrity, there is power in thinking from the start, how can we possibly maximise the value of their influence and their status or authority power to bring value to our supporters and bring them extra joy and connection? Thinking of that right from the start and making the right ask for the right kinds of some them, Rob and getting their voice? I think that was really smart in terms of your attitude to building relationships with your supporters, enhanced by this opportunity with Joanna.
Yeah, and I think if you have a relationship with any kind of celebrity, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to help you. It’s kind of a short amount of time. So I had worked with Joanna in a previous fundraising event. And we made an auction prize, which was Joanna Lumley recording your voice message for you. So, ‘hi darlings, you’ve reached the home of ….please leave a message…’ which was perfect. Took her one minute to do on the night. But it raised 600 pounds and we managed to multiply up so if four people put their hand up for 600 pounds we could make it four times.
That’s brilliant. I love that idea.
You’ll love even more who bid on it… Judy Dench
I love that. So I’d love to stay and drill more detail on the radio 4 appeal. But you’re doing lots of other things really well as well. And I’d like to shift focus, if I may. My observation is you work harder than almost every other charity I know at engaging your existing supporters. As you don’t have hundreds of thousands of supporters, but those who have you, you work so hard to find them and especially to keep them warm. And so many of your other growth storys you told me care about as a result of one of your existing supporters getting someone else involved.
And so I wanted to unpick a bit of your mindset on your approach to that. So how is it you managed to make time to go the extra mile in thanking people so well, and building relationships with the existing supporters? I think you mentioned that one of the books that really helped you was a book by Grant Leboff, tell me the gist of what you got from Leboff’s book and then how that’s affected your approach.
Yeah, so the book is called sticky marketing. And the idea is that everybody is a channel that you know, it’s no longer a kind of one way conversation, that actually people engage with you and they’re telling their friends is the way that we’re going to grow because as a small charity, we just do not have money to invest into an cold acquisition. So we have to work with not only every supporter that we already have, but even every inquiry, our approach is to treat everybody as well as we can…to thank them immediately and to follow up on inquiry.
So for example, you know, I think in bigger charities, if you email in, you’re going to get into kind of support services, and you’re going to receive something out. So we had a guy who googled us and said, you know, I’m thinking of going up Everest, am looking for a charity to support. So because we’re small, I was like, yeah, sure. Let’s meet on Thursday. And so we met up in a cafe and it turned out that he was self funding himself to go up Everest, and he wanted to do some fundraising. And he ended up raising 45,000 pounds for us, which funded three schools to be built.
And I think that kind of approach – that any inbound lead can you know, could lead to something really exciting has resulted in some really good results. And in terms of thanking, I think that uh, a well thanked donor is going to be where your next donation comes from, I can’t really think of anything more important and you say ‘how do you find time for it?’ Well, this is the first thing that we do, because these are our donors. And so we try to thank authentically, creatively.
So sometimes it will be a phone call, we have invested in some nice cards with red envelopes, we make a note of which card we send them to them, we don’t send them the same one next time. And we’ve just got a little sticker with a heart on it that goes on the back. And so it’s a nice thing and I always just pick up a pen and just write straight from the heart. I don’t have any set words that I use. Like if I’ve just come back from Nepal or I’ve just heard something then that’s what I write. And we recently realised that with modern technology and with phones, it’s very easy for me to contact my counterpart in Nepal and say, you know this is just happened.
Could you record a quick video, so over this last week just after the marathon, and we made a short film, from our care home to our four marathon runners and named them all and so we were able to just immediately email that out so it doesn’t cost anything, but it’s just super personal. And that’s how we try and approach things.
Wow. So a bunch of little detail there that I could pick up on, even down to the proactively not just having the card printed, but the thought that it should have a warm colour for the envelope and a sticker which costs almost nothing, but it’s creating this extra connection and feeling, the moment someone ever hears from you. And that I sense is true, whether a lovely thank you card, or they’re getting that even higher touch thing of a personalised film. I sense any of these people interacting with you, they just getting this connection, a prompt and it’s creative, and it’s consistent, and I can totally see where your growth is coming from because those people , they’re going to want to keep coming back. And they’re going to want to be sharing those things with their friends.
And presumably also in this day and age, the fact that you work this way is even more to your advantage, because some of those things are then getting shared on social media, which is then further enhancing the chance that someone else will help. Again, resources are tight, but do you manage to be involved and proactive in connecting with supporters on social media? And if you do manage to do that, do you have any tips for the listener on, on how to how to find the time in the day to do that or tactically ways of managing to send those tweets proactively or do things on Instagram in a way that I know many people have good intentions, but it doesn’t quite get done?
One of the good things is to employ somebody who’s a little bit young. I mean, that’s really a good start. Because I couldn’t even do an Instagram story if I tried. So she’s great at that. And I mean I think this is our kind of only cold acquisition strategy at the moment, in one sense is actually what we do on social media and seeing those likes and shares increase. And social media is amazing. Because you get so much immediate feedback, you can straight away see what’s working, see what time of day is good. So if you’re a small charity and you don’t have resource, trying things out on social media is very good.
And if you want to put a little bit of money behind a Facebook ad, but then again, you can test it out. But we’re always looking at ways that we can get in you know, interact with people, and we had this week a designer come in and share some options for a new sweatshirt that we want to print. This is kind of quite early days in merchandise for us and he had four options and I immediately thought, well, let’s put that out to our supporters because who doesn’t like a bit of a vote, a debate on social media? So that’s gone out this morning. And then it’s another way of previewing – actually this sweatshirts coming out. And it’s a way of involving people in our journey and feeling a part of us. And when you’re, when you’re a child, you need to start, you know, people know, they’ve got to step up and be part of your team, we’ve actually got an amazing volunteer who just pops up and, and does things every now and then.
But at the end of an event, he just got out the Hoover and started hoovering and it just touched my heart so much because he says, I don’t even know how to do it – I’ve got a cleaner at home, but the fact that there’re just motivated, just do what needs to be done at the time. And if you’re a small charity, then you know, if you show a bit of vulnerability to your supporters, they will step up and they will want to be part of your team. And that I think is very much part of it – that being small doesn’t mean a disadvantage, it just means you have to be more creative and bring people on board.
And there’s a couple of things that again, I’m noticing I really have a sense this pattern that is not just you within the charity; and then all those people out there who might send you some money to help the kids. I really sense that it does feel like extended family, I sense that the way you approach supporters and communicate with them. It’s all us together, rather than this, this barrier between the people who give us money and then we’ll go and do the helping and your instinct is to involve much more than I think some charities do. That’s why people feel they are part of this rather than just kind of chipping in with money.
Yeah. So at a recent event we had I talked about a three legged stool and I absolutely believe this. And but, you know, Child Rescue Nepal is a charity. The beneficiaries are one leg of the stool, and they’re, you know, vital and why we exist. And our staff in Nepal are also incredible, absolutely incredible people who really literally go the extra mile and then the third leg of the stool is the donors because without them the thing falls over. I mean, they’re not an optional extra.
And yeah, I very much hope that our donors feel part of what’s going on. And one of the ways that we try and involve them is that when we’re actually about to approach a rescue, we send out an email saying, we’re literally about to rescue or a rescue is underway. And so rather than kind of two weeks later, say ‘two weeks ago, we rescued these boys and a girl’ But actually, it’s happening now you’re part of this, and this is why we need your support. And as the days go on, if you can get support these children in their rehabilitation, and people are fed back that that’s very powerful.
Yeah, it really is. And we may not have much time to unpack this but the other thing I’ve taken from our recent conversations together Joe is authenticity, which is a word easily used, but I think many charities just are not quite authentic, the vulnerability this requires and the courage and to just say the truth of what’s going on and in a tone that is normal and human rather than tied up with some jargon. Any last thoughts? Maybe you couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. But any, any thoughts about how you’ve managed to live that?
Yeah. So I think, you know, you have to know what it is you love about the charity, what impressed you when you first got to know the work of the charity, if you can share what your passion is that just comes naturally then that communicates the most clearly, you know, share the stories that touch you. That means something to you and the rest will flow. Don’t put on an event that you yourself would find boring to go to you; don’t write social media that you would skip over. Just be spontaneous and be yourself and you know, I think donors can spot a fake a long way away and you know, to be a fundraiser you really have to like people, and if you like people, you will like your donors and you will care about when their dog dies.
And you want a kind of journey with them and want to share updates from the charity, but actually, you have really got to like people to do the job. And be authentic, be yourself and also share when things that you know, are challenging because essentially people give to the charity because well, I think people give to the charity because they believe in what I’m doing. And they trust that if they give the money to the charity, going to go to the right place, they trust me the person that I’m going to go to Nepal and I’m going to go and see that the children are okay, I’m going to go and support the staff and find out what it is they need to do their job and that in a small charity, we have a massive advantage because we can be a lot more transparent and people want to give money where they trust that is going to go to the right place. And I think people do trust the money’s going to the right place. And that’s really, really important.
I think you’re doing a really great job to live that and make sure that all of your supporters do that trust. I’d love to talk on and on, but I’m aware of just how precious your time is Jo. So a huge thank you, to you. I mean, congratulations for all the progress you’re making on behalf of those children. It’s really inspiring, very inspiring for me to see what you’re doing and get some of the ideas and tactics and stories. So thank you. And if people want to find out more about your work, obviously they can. They can listen to that fantastic radio 4 appeal by going to the radio 4 website, or if they want to find out more about this amazing organisation you’re helping to run where would they find that?
Child Rescue Nepal.
Fantastic. It is a wonderful organisation doing amazing work. And so I really encourage people to check it out. Get involved if they can in addition to being inspired by the way you approach your business of running the charity and running the fundraising. Thank you so much, Jo, best of luck with it. We’ll talk to you again another time for a recap on how this is all panning out.
Thank you, Rob. Bye.
Take care. Bye.
So I hope you found it helpful to hear about Jo’s approach to the Radio 4 Appeal, and also their approach to working with supporters in general. I’ve put a summary of the key ideas we covered in the show notes in the podcast section of our website. And if you’re curious about any of the in house fundraising master classes, or the one to one coaching, or the corporate major gifts, mastery programmes that we offer at bright spot, you can find all of that information as well – bright spot fundraising.co.uk if you found today’s episode helpful, we’ve got lots more great episodes planned for the rest of the series. So if you want to make sure you get those do remember to subscribe to the podcast today. Thank you so much for listening today. Until the next time, I wish you the very best of luck with your fundraising.