Episode 31: Damian Chapman – Corporate fundraising for a niche cause

Episode Notes

What do you do to succeed when your charity is in a very clear niche that is not universally popular? Many charities get demoralised or waste energy trying to appeal to everybody. The best strategy is to embrace the situation and find a way to turn it to your advantage.

In this episode I talk to Damian Chapman, a very experienced fundraiser who has been fundraising director at several small charities and is currently at the Charity for Civil Servants. In addition to getting his views on some implications of the pandemic, I particularly wanted to find out about the very successful corporate partnerships strategy he and his colleagues implemented when he was working for Police Care UK.

You can find out more about our Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme here or feel free to get in touch if you have questions.

If you want to share this episode because you think it will help others – THANK YOU VERY MUCH! –  we are both on Linked In and on twitter, where Damian is @damianchapmanuk and I am @woods_rob.

Three Key Ideas

Niche down

The first crucial distinction Damian made was to be absolutely focussed on which companies his charity would and would not pursue as potential partners. Although the danger faced by police officers is compelling to plenty of people when you focus on it, the reality is that this cause is not at the top of most companies’ CSR policies.

When he started this job, Damian embraced the SW3 principle, that is ‘Some Will, Some Won’t, So What?’

So one of Damian’s first questions was ‘which companies are far more motivated by this cause than the rest?’

The answer was the various companies that supply goods and services to the police forces in the UK. And because in this case the names of these companies are publicly available, he was able to draw up a list of which companies to proactively contact.

Build relationship / offer value first

Crucially, he did not then seek money or a partnership in the first instance.

He knew that the first step with any potential partner is to find a way to start a conversation. This may seem obvious, but the challenge remains that in most charities we have colleagues who expect us to go and ask for money and get impatient if we don’t.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse

A letter was sent to just the list of companies we discussed earlier, those most motivated to care. The letter invited them to an event to find out more about the possibility of partnership.

Note, it did not invite them to come to a ‘fundraising’ event. There was to be no auction, no raffle etc. The event was as easy to say yes to as possible. Importantly, the invitation to visit was signed by both the Commissioner of Police, Cressida Dick and the Policing Minister.

On our Bright Spot training programmes we teach the extraordinary and under-rated power of Professor Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence. One of these principles is Authority Power, which clearly was a factor in the success of the project:

  • An immense 72% of the companies who received the letter responded.
  • 92% of the companies who responded turned up to the event! Well (if you were that kind of company) you would, wouldn’t you?
  • At the event, they heard powerful stories and facts bringing to life the importance of helping police officers who have been injured in the line of duty. And they were offered the chance to arrange a meeting to find out about how their company could get involved.
  • 90 of the companies that attended agreed to a follow up meeting.
  • These meetings led to 26 partnerships.

Over to you

  • How could you use these ideas to build relationships with the kinds of company (whose customers in particular / and /or employees) are most likely to care about your cause?
  • Which are those companies?
  • Which venue and / or host are most likely to achieve fabulous attendance rates?
  • Can you be sure to use the event to involve and inspire people to want to talk to you again, rather than raise a bit of money from this relatively cold audience on the day?

Further Resources

Want to get dozens of strategies (and lots of support) to increase corporate partnerships income?

The Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme can help you understand and confidently apply dozens of strategies like these to solve the various challenges you face. You can find out more about how it works here.

If you’d like more powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then there are lots of different approaches in my new free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise money with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

Quotes

‘A key thing that helped me is the SW3 principle. Some will, some won’t, so what?’

Damian Chapman

Transcription

Rob:

Hey there folks, welcome to Episode 31 of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast. My name is Rob Woods, and this is the show for anyone who works in charity fundraising, who wants ideas for how to raise more money, enjoy their job, and make a bigger difference, even during the pandemic. Firstly, I just have to tell you some exciting news, which is that last week I discovered that our podcast has now been listened to more than 10,000 times. To put that in context, that’s all happened in a relatively short time, through the 30 episodes since we started in November 2019.

 

Before we get going, I just wanted to say a huge thank you, firstly to all our guests for sharing their time and their advice, and secondly, thanks to you the listeners, both for listening obviously, but also for sharing it on with your colleagues and your followers on social media.

Rob:

I’ve certainly learned that this podcasting lark does require a fair chunk of time and effort, but knowing that it’s reaching and potentially helping more and more fundraisers all the time really does make that effort feel worthwhile to me. So thank you ever so much for your help. In today’s episode, we’re going to look at an approach to fundraising for if you’re a small charity, or if you work for a cause which is relatively niche. If that’s the kind of charity you work for, or especially if you’re a corporate fundraiser, I hope you’re going to find today’s interview really helpful. I’m about to share a conversation that I carried out a few weeks ago with Damian Chapman, who is currently Fundraising Director at the Charity for Civil Servants. Damian is a very experienced fundraiser who’s read fundraising teams for several small charities over the years, including Police Care UK.

Rob:

In particular, I wanted to hear more about his successful corporate partnership strategy when he worked at that charity. But before we get onto that, I wanted to get Damian’s view on how the pandemic will affect decision-making about working habits in charities over the coming months.

Speaker 2:

This episode of The Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast is brought to you by Bright Spot Mastery Programmes. If you need to increase income in corporate partnerships, or major donor and trust fundraising, these programs will help. As well as the advance 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 programs, head over to Brightspotfundraising.co.uk.

Rob:

Damian Chapman, how are you?

Damian:

I’m very well. Yourself?

Rob:

Very good thank you, and yes, we’re recording this still in turbulent times. How’s lockdown life treating you, Damian?

Damian:

I am so looking forward to being able to work in an office with real people again. I love a digital screen, I love talking to people, but there’s only so many calls you can have by Zoom and Telegram and Microsoft Teams before you’ve had enough.

Rob:

I’ve been at my threshold for a while now, I have to say. And so thank you for agreeing to this interview, albeit via some remote software. I wanted to jump in firstly on the subject of what you feel is different now? So many things about the world and the fundraising environment are different, but what a couple of the things are that you feel are different, but crucially what the implications might be of those differences for us as fundraisers, and in particular as fundraising leaders?

Damian:

Well I think it’s fair to say that everybody now has used the phrase, “Turbulent times, new normal.” These kind of things are now forming into our own virtual bingo game now, it doesn’t matter which conference call you’re on, you’ve now got virtual bingo. I have to keep reminding myself that I am living through a fundraising crisis that’s part of a global pandemic, that we have never seen in my lifetime, my parents’ lifetime, my grandparents’ lifetime, even my great grandparents’ lifetime. To try and contextualize it, and just say, “Oh, it’s the new normal,” is to discount the fact that this is completely unprecedented within the fundraising world, within the global world. We go back to the 1918 era for the last global pandemic of this kind of size and scale, and what we didn’t have back then was the approach to charitable activity and charitable organizations delivering at scale as part of the social fabric.

Damian:

So we can’t really compare what life was like in the 1918 era to today’s, there are things that we can learn, we can look at modelling and how charities and society came out of these kind of situations, and there’s been lots of talk about that. But we can’t rely on that when it comes to future forecasting, modelling, and even working out what our service delivery is going to look like.

Rob:

Absolutely. Even just down to whether we’ll be going back to an ordinary office any time soon, or whether it’s economically possible for most charities to afford the office space they used to. So many things are different, and we’re going to have to work out answers along the way.

Damian:

For me it goes beyond that, because when I started out in fundraising I didn’t know it was a career, and B, I didn’t realize there were other people who did what I was doing. It took me three years in my work as a fundraiser to realize there were other people like me, and that’s how I found the IOF. I attended my very first event, was the Yorkshire Regional Conference up in Scarborough, and that was my introduction to the fact that actually, fundraising is a profession and career. It’s not just something you did at university, as part of Rag Week, that evolved into working for a social cause as I ended up doing. But all of that led me to understand and realize, and to a certain extent accept that if I wanted to progress my career and become a senior fundraising leader, I would have to move to London, because that’s where all the main charities were based, it’s where all their offices were, it’s where all the cost of living was through the roof.

Damian:

But it was the only way, if you wanted to progress that far down your career as I wanted to do. So I always assumed I would be in London at some point in my lifetime, to be able to do what I wanted to do and what I loved to do. That now has changed, and there is no need for charities to be based in London with all of their architecture, all of their infrastructure and all of their team focused in one small geographic footprint along with seven and a half million other people within Greater London Area, all trying to commute to work between the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM and trying to get home within 4:30 PM and 6:00 PM, hoping that the trains are even blinking running.

Rob:

And then, after exploring some of the implications of the pandemic, on where fundraising work will increasingly take place, our conversation moved on to corporate fundraising, and in particular options for how to build valuable partnerships with companies if your charity does not work for a cause that is at the top of everyone’s list. I asked Damian how he approached corporate fundraising when he was at Police Care UK, and in particular how he used the very fact that his cause was niche to help his corporate partnership strategy succeed. This is consistent with a common theme that we teach on our corporate partnerships mastery program, which is, don’t be trying to appeal to everybody, get super clear what the fit is, and be focused on those kinds of companies where there is a match, there can be a match, and I’m reminded of some other initiatives you did when you…

Rob:

I think the charity was Police Care UK, and you were very clear from the start that it’s an excellent cause, but it wasn’t going to be the top of the list for some supporters and some companies out there. You were fine without that, because it enabled you to absolutely be focused on the companies and donors that were most likely to care. Do you want to tell me the gist of what your approach was and how you used that niche to your advantage?

Damian:

Yeah. A few years ago now, I can’t even remember where I learned it, but it was something called the SW3 principle. It’s the idea that some will, some won’t, so what? That was so, so important to me as Head of Fundraising, Communications and Brand at Police Care, because there were only so many people who are absolutely supportive of police. I am not, and was not the propaganda arm for the police, it was not my job to try and convince people of the merits and values and importance and efficacies of the way the police operate and handle, it wasn’t my role to talk about the merits and values of stop and search, or anything to do with operational policing. A charity’s job, as the benevolent fund for the police service, was to support the people within it in their moment of need. When it came to policing, you ended up with one in five serving police personnel who got post-traumatic stress disorder.

Damian:

You’ve got a police officer being injured every 20 minutes, every single day, and you’ve got a police officer guaranteed almost to be injured within the first five years of their service. Those kind of things really do resonate, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s individual, whether it’s trusts and foundation, whether it’s high net worth or corporate, there is a niche market. Really understanding that you’re not there to try and convince 80 million people, 72, whatever the UK population is right now, by understanding and qualifying your market and saying, “Right, there are 2.6 million people maximum who are likely to find this cause appealing. There are 130 businesses who would find this cause appealing at scale.”

 

So rather than having a corporate prospect list that was a mile long and saying, “Right, we’re going to go after this company, that company, every other company and having…

 

“Not knowing where to go,” you refine it down and say, “Right, these are the 20 companies that we want to work with.” You do your due diligence, you do your background checks, you do your screening, you make sure that there’s a proper values fit, that there are no ethical concerns or constraints, and that you’re not going to find yourself in nuanced territory that you can’t enter. Most charities will not touch anywhere that comes with firearms, when it comes to policing firearms are part of the core business, same as aviation. The Police Service run helicopters. So I can approach markets and territories at Police Care UK that no other charity could. So why would I fight to try and get in at KPMG, at EY, at Aberdeen Investments, when every other charity’s there? Why would I not go to the more niche specialist companies that have a strong values fit to my organization, to the work and mission of the charity, what we’re trying to achieve, and then start developing the relationships?

Damian:

Body armour, it’s a very small market for them, it’s military and uniformed personnel. Core opportunity there, because the military charities have been approaching them for years. You coming in as a new entrant to the market and saying, “You want something new and exciting and different? We’ve been supplying Kevlar vests for the UK Police Service now for nearly half a century. How about we develop a relationship along those lines? You do it in a way that they recognize and they appreciate, and this is something else that commercial business does all the time, they network, but they network in professionally sensitive ways and techniques. The put on awareness events, they put on pop up events, they attend exhibitions, they run side events at majors shows. I went there. I used to go to the Security and Policing Conference, closed event for suppliers into the policing sector.

Damian:

These are people who are interested and are motivated to trying to work within the policing sector, whether it be directly to individuals, or through police forces. But they’re my audience, they’re my market, and actually proactively doing your work, cultivating your relationships and saying, “Right, I’ll see you at Security and Policing, I’ll see you at the UK Counter-Terrorism Expo. Can we grab a coffee at 11:30 in a side room? Because I want to talk to you about something.” It’s that kind of world that they understand, so you go to it. Talking all of those things into account and then saying, “Right, we’re going to put on a special event that involves bringing high-profile people within the policing world into an event that’s purely about introducing you to the charity that is there to support them and their colleagues for life, and you’re going to hear the stories about the impact of our work.

Damian:

Those are the kind of events that really stick out, and if you invest in that in the right way, you get the real opportunity to develop the relationships from the ground up and saying, “Look, this is not a quick burn, it’s not a quick 10 grand here, gone next week, this is about building lasting relationships of value that you will cherish, and that will matter to the people we’re caring for.” That’s the approach and methodology we put in place, we ran a high-profile event at New Scotland Yard, we invited the right people with the right message, and they turned up.

Rob:

As I remember it, many of the companies you’d invited, you didn’t have any existing relationship with, but they received a formal invitation, and again, it wasn’t signed by you, a fundraiser they’d never met. As I remember it, you had found someone they would respect to be hosting, or inviting them, and that was some of the reason… In addition to the venue, and the authority of that venue, that was some of the reason why you got such extraordinary take up for people to attend. And then the other thing I took from it when you last explained this to me was, unlike many charities, you didn’t create that high profile event to raise money on the night. It was quite deliberately to get them to take the first step to come and hear more.

Damian:

Yeah.

Rob:

Can you just remind me those couple of points?

Damian:

Yeah. If you want to develop an event that you cannot not attend, you find the one person, and the key individual, and the key location that they want to be at, see at and be seen at. In our case, we used the old New Scotland Yard, the one that’s down on the embankment. It had only just recently been turned into New Scotland Yard, it was now operational. You’d got the Eternal Flame that’s attached to reception that’s always on to remember the dead, you’ve got the Book of Remembrance that’s open right as you walk in at the entrance space, and you then get invited and taken up to the top floor, which is opposite the London Eye, and into the open space atrium, which is full of the right kind of people, that you would expect to see and expect to be seen with.

And the invitation happened to say that the Commissioner of the Metropolis of London requests the pleasure of insert name here to a private reception, to hear more about the work of Police Care UK, this date, this time. Don’t forget your invitation, and don’t forget your security verification credentials. Those kind of things get people to RSVP. Now, we did it right, we took some expert advice from other people, and I’ll always be grateful to a guy called Charles Pegram, who was really helpful in building the right kind of approach, and ask, and how we frame this event. He was brilliant throughout, and he gave excellent advice, and he talked about the merits of the invitation itself. It had to be something that would get past a PA, it would actually land on the desk unopened.

To the point where the person who it was addressed to was the one opening it. I knew it worked when I had one corporate, who will remain nameless, who will remain nameless, who said that because they worked remotely their mailbox was actually at their office, and the person who looked after their post looked after 20 other people’s. They phoned the individual three times and said, “You’ve got something in your mailbox you need to see.” Hadn’t opened it, it was still there unopened, but the way it sat in that mailbox was enough for the assistant to keep pestering the individual to say, “There’s something here you’ve got to see.” They opened it, they contacted, they RSVP’d, and they were there. That invitation had got them to where we needed them to be. The event itself was geared for two things.

One was networking, so they could see the other people we’d invited, so they knew that they were in the right place, they were in the space that they should be at. Because everybody they would regard as being influential, important, powerful to us was there, and the number of sideways conversations that were going, not even about the charity, that were going on before we even started the event proved to me that it worked. There were people who saw each other across the room, knew each other, and said, “I’ll see you in 10 minutes.” That’s how you know you’ve got the right people in the room. Then they hear about the organization, the cause, and the call to action was not for money. Although, there was a very, very blatant and obvious statement that says, “You know why you’re here, but you’re not here to give money tonight.

 

“You’re here to arrange and commit to a meeting with…” And we stood up the member of staff who was leading on it, coordinating it. “Yes, we made a joke of it, they’ve only been here a few weeks and they’ve got an empty diary, so we expect it to be filled by the end of the night,” and all that kind of stuff to make it lighthearted. But it was very clear, the action there was to get a meeting in the diary. They’d had a good experience, they’d committed to a meeting before they left, they left with the right information on the way out, and we got the meetings that we needed. We got 90% of the meetings we expected to get on that night.

Rob:

That’s amazing. This is a while ago now, so doesn’t need to be exact. From your memory of the letters that were sent out, approximately what proportion RSVP’d and said, “Yes I want to come,” and of those that showed up on the night, you’re saying, approximately how many then agreed to a followup meeting?

Damian:

From memory we had just over 80% RSVP’d, and of that 80% 75% of them were RSVP yeses, 20% were RSVP nos, and 5%, “We can’t make it, there’s another event on, but when’s your next?” But of those who RSVP’d to say yes they were coming, 95% turned up. This is unheard of for me within major giving, within corporate funding, within philanthropy. I’ve not had an event where the people who said they were going to turn up turned up. It’s that kind of swell that even if, and we had some people that dropped out at very, very last minute, but they still wanted the information, they still want to be part of the event, they just couldn’t be there in real time, so they weren’t lost to us. But what it allowed us to do was go from a cold start, we’d never done anything like this. So to go from a cold start to having an event that achieves that kind of response rate, and that level of conversion to meetings was what drove and incentivized us to do it again.

Damian:

It was scheduled actually to be taking place two weeks ago I think, and they planned to do it again in early June. Unfortunately I’m assuming that didn’t happen, but it proved to us that the concept was right, it proved to us that the approach was right. If you get the right people at the right time, with the right incentive to get there, and have the right ask at the end of it, you’ve got a successful, viable solicitation and approach, and cultivation stream. By not making it a cash ask on the night, we guaranteed that we were going to have the next meeting. Because we’d never be able to sell the merits and values of, this organization that people had never heard of, in 20 minutes of speeches.

Rob:

Especially if the nature of each partnership might be a little different for different kinds of companies, they might be saying yes for slightly different reasons. So unlike many charity events it was unbelievably clear, the request was, “If you’re interested in it at all, here’s what you do. You agree to a follow up meeting with us, meet us for coffee.” My memory from when I read about this before, there was at least 30 or 40 that agreed to that follow up meeting. And then from that, again there was a high proportion that went on to be a partner. Can you remember roughly how many partners came about through this overall strategy?

Damian:

I think the final figure before I left was 26 were committed supporters at the end of the process. Now, some of that was cash, some of it was in kind, some of it was, “We want to do something, we don’t yet know what.” And so there was a mix and a mishmash in here, but it was a very infant program that was started from the ground up. For us, the expectations on delivery for that first event were quite low. We expected to get one or two. So we absolutely exceeded our expectations with it, but what it meant was that it allowed us to build for the future. These are companies who are not going away, they’re not going anywhere. The people that we were dealing with might go away, but the reality is the industry and sector they were in, they were only going to go to like-minded or comparable companies.

Damian:

So getting the relationship right with the individual and the company meant that even if the person moved on, chances were you’d actually just have a new prospect to be able to go to. You’d then introduce it, “Oh, I see you’ve moved to so-and-so. Can we have a talk about here as well?” It’s that kind of approach that does work, but we delivered an event in a way that they would expect to see. They’re used to attending road shows, they’re used to attending road shows, they’re used to attending drinks receptions, they’re used to attending events that don’t come with a cash ask in that moment. They’re used to building a network, and that’s what we deliver.

Rob:

If some of the listeners are liking the idea, and there’s certainly… Goodness, there are so many charities that are very niche, and they feel like they’re not a mainstream cause that’s top of everyone’s list. If there are listeners in that boat, and they don’t currently have that kind of venue at their disposal, and they don’t currently have that true authority figure that this kind of company would say yes to, what could they do? Presumably we can’t all get the most famous celebrity, but if we know what sector we have decided to focus on, we absolutely can start to build relationships with the kinds of authority figures we would like to be our chair, or do the inviting. And we can start to ask people who are our current friends if they have access to that kind of venue. These are solvable problems, even in the context of a small charity in a local geographical area.

Damian:

If you’ve got a very niche organization, you’ve got the best opportunity to find the most committed individuals that you could ever need to deliver what you’re looking for. Once you’ve got one person, it’s a technique that we talk about time and time again. I’ve heard you and others talking about this so many times, you must be blue in the face saying it. But asking people, “Who do you know?” It’s even easier if you know who you’re trying to get to. If you know who they know, the ability for you to be able to work it up and go, “Right, I think you probably know this person. So I’m going to say, ‘You don’t happen to know so-and-so, do you,’ and give them the opportunity to say, ‘Well, yes I do.’ ‘Would you like an introduction?'” Giving them the opportunity to feel special, and feel as though they’re contributing and adding value to your work is the single greatest gift we can give to somebody, beyond the thanks and appreciation of a financial ask.

Rob:

One opportunity I think there is now more than ever, and something we go into in some depth in the Corporate Mastery program is that now almost every charity has had to adapt its service delivery strategy into areas where it is no longer expert. It may be an expert in child protection, but is it an expert at delivering things remotely? Is it an expert in all of the technologies required to deliver counselling remotely, or whatever the thing might be? If all our charities are now having to adapt, and they are no longer expert at all elements of that model, this is such an opportunity, because there are companies out there that are good at solving any one of those problems, and many of those companies would be only too happy at the very least to offer advice, and at most potentially be involved in helping a charity more efficiently deliver an excellent solution there.

Rob:

So I think now more than ever, the opportunity for building strategic partnerships where the company’s genuinely adding big value rather than just some cash, I think more than ever now there’s an opportunity for that.

Damian:

There is, and I think there’s some charities doing it really, really well, and one of my favourite charities is Missing People. Because the relationships that they have been able to build with the likes of Deliveroo and Royal Mail, are the kind of transformative partnerships that everybody should aspire to do. We need to be able to reach out to people across the country when somebody goes missing, whether it’s an adult or a child. We need to have eyes on the ground across the country, looking out for that individual to see if we can find them. Who has the most people on the ground? The postal network and the delivery network. They also had a great partnership with Palmer and Harvey to put adverts on the side of their delivery wagons. So there were missing people alerts on the back of Palmer and Harvey wagons across the country.

Damian:

It’s that kind of approach to strategic partnerships that I have admired for years, and I happen to know the fundraising team and the partnerships team, everything like that, Missing People, and I can only hold them in high regard, because they really, truly understand how a transformative partnership, and one that is based on mutual benefit, is going to deliver results for both sides.

Rob:

Well said Damian. I need to let you get away very soon, I’d love to chat on and on. But to wrap this up fairly quickly, if people would like to get in touch, are you on Twitter or LinkedIn? Where could people find you?

Damian:

I’m on LinkedIn and at Twitter, by all means find me. So it’s @Damianchapmanuk, and /damianchapmanuk for Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Rob:

I know you’re very busy not only in your own charity, but helping out various special interest groups and so on. So doubtless people will be able to see you on one of those committees, or platforms, or at IOF Convention sooner or later when the world returns a little to normal. For now Damian, so many good ideas, so much helpful advice. Thank you very much for sharing it. I really enjoyed our chat, until the next time Damian Chapman, thank you for appearing on the podcast.

Damian:

Thank you.

Rob:

Thank you Damian, bye.

Damian:

No worries, cheers.

Rob:

I hope you found Damian’s approach to corporate fundraising helpful. If you’re interested in improving your results in corporate partnerships or major gifts, then do check out our Corporate Mastery and Major Gifts Mastery Programmes, which give you effective strategies through a blend of training and individual coaching support, all designed to help you overcome the challenges of the pandemic and win valuable strategic partnerships, and major gifts for your charity. If you’d like to find out more, go to www.brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services. If you’d like to see the episode notes from my chat with Damian, you can find those on the blog and podcast section of the website. If you want to get in touch or share this episode, thank you very much for your help, we would love to hear from you.

Rob:

We’re both on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, Damian is @damianchapmanuk, and I am @woods_rob. Finally, thank you so much for listening today. Until the next time, stay safe and good luck with all your efforts to make a positive difference this year, of all years.