Episode 5 Adam Heuman: How do you get your board to invest in fundraising?

Episode Notes

Most fundraisers agree that you won’t achieve serious growth without first investing in fundraising. But how do you actually persuade the board to invest? In this episode of Fundraising Bright Spots, Rob Woods talks to Adam Heuman, Director of Engagement at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

In three separate charities (of varying sizes) Adam has asked for investment, and all three times his request has been successful. Rob and Adam talk about what holds many fundraising directors back from exploring this issue, and why Adam feels it’s such an important challenge to address. And he explains the particular things he does when he prepares a case for investment.

Key takeaways

  • Significant, sustained growth, a step-up in results, will not come without increased investment. The logic of this holds true in various areas of life, including in business (advertising spend) and in Premiership football results, as well as in charities. Deciding whether you broadly believe in this logic is a helpful step.
  • As a fundraising leader an important issue is whether and when you could seek investment in fundraising.
  • The starting point for you, and for the board, is not about the money, but about the problem charity solves with your beneficiaries. Based on that problem and the effectiveness of your solution(s), could you (or should you) be seeking to do more?
  • Find a way to show how much impact your charity has been having (to solve the problem out there) at the current level of investment…and then ask, how much more should we aim to do?
  • This is powerful both for your own conviction, and crucially in how you put this issue to the Board. It is their decision.
  • It’s important to have a plan, and to have a confidence that this is achievable, but you don’t need to know all the details of how the extra income is to be raised. In business you don’t know all the detail when you are seeking investment.
  • You do need to take stock of where the organisation is currently at. But you also need to be able to ‘point the camera’ not only at the current challenges, but also to see the potential.
  • Can you ask yourself ‘what could this organisation be if we get it right, and what do we need in order to take those steps as a team to realise that potential?’
  • Timing is important. Understand the planning cycle. And also, early in a new role (as a fundraising leader) is often a great opportunity. If you can, capitalise on any appetite for investment early on.

Memorable Quotes

‘It’s a really obvious statement, but your income, your return, is based on what you put in…you can have exceptions, occasionally…Leicester City managed to win the Premiership once… but nearly always, results are directly correlative.’ Adam Heuman.

‘Are you going to squeeze your team even harder, as if they’re not working hard enough? That’s not reality… In order to get more return, you need more investment.’ Adam Heuman.

‘What could this organisation be if we get it right, and what do we need in order to take those steps as a team to realise that potential?’ Adam Heuman.

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Full transcript of episode

Hey there, this is Rob Woods and welcome to episode five of the fundraising bright spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in charity fundraising and wants ideas and inspiration for how to raise more money, love their job and make a bigger difference.

And on this episode, have you ever wished your charity would invest more in fundraising? Or if you’re a fundraising head or director, have you ever wanted to ask for greater investment in fundraising, but not known how to go about it? Well, then you’re going to find this episode really interesting because we’re going to dive deep into how to go about getting your trustees and senior leadership to make that crucial decision to invest.

The episode is with an excellent fundraiser and fundraising leader called Adam Heuman, who’s currently director of fundraising at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

This episode of the fundraising bright spots podcast is brought to you by bright spot mastery programmes. So if you need to increase income and 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’ll 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.

So, hello, and welcome to the podcast. Adam human. Can you hear me?

I can hear you. Great to be here. Hi, Rob.

Thanks for joining us, Adam. I know you’re as busy as ever, at the moment. And so the listener doesn’t know this, but I’ve known and worked with you for many years and your latest job…let me get this right, you’re director of engagement at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts just initially… What does that include, is that it’s more than just fundraising?

That’s more just fundraising. So I look up to the fundraising, advocacy and communications and girl guiding as a movement works with 10 billion girls in 150 countries throughout the world.

Okay, massive job, massive opportunity, massive mission. And I’m so grateful you made time to join me on the podcast because there’s this crucial topic. I think I’ve read several blogs and I’ve seen several people on conference platforms, almost speaking about and almost haranguing leaders of fundraising that a fundamental to growing your fundraising is to secure more investment into fundraising. And just occasionally there are a few helpful tips there. But overall, I have found myself agreeing that it’s needed, but myself and other people in the audience, we wanted to do it but it’s just a quite a difficult thing to do.

So I wanted more of the how one goes about that. And, and I know you gave a talk at our breakfast club few months ago in which you unpacked three or four specific things you seem to have done and you really help the audience, not least because you’ve gone and done it three times. So I know I’m getting ahead of myself here. But you want to just give a bit of why you feel you have learned some things about how we go about securing investment in fundraising from the board.

Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s a massively important topic. And I don’t think enough people talk about it. You know, we talk at conferences about how we won big corporate partnerships. So I talk about how when I was at Plan UK, we won Barclays AstraZeneca, Credit Suisse, CNN, Chelsea, Unilever, we won our first million pound gift, how we grew our trust fundraising.

You know, we talk about those stories, we talk about the pitches, but actually the most important asset that we made at Plan was to the trustees to invest in our new business fundraising. Without that we couldn’t have done anything else, you know. Teams are at full capacity. We hear it every day. And without looking for something that unlocks an extra investment, you can’t do any of the forward-thinking progressive, proactive stuff, because you just don’t have the time you don’t have the resource. And I’ve done that at plan UK. I did it recently at what is Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts where it’s such an incredible cause where young women are doing this amazing things throughout the world… that change the law on child marriage, They are campaigning right now in Malaysia actually to outlaw child marriage which is a huge problem.

And yet, we weren’t doing enough practically to raise money for them. And I’ve also done it for a tiny, tiny charity where we were talking about 5000 pounds of investment, but that charity as the first ever full time member of staff, that was a big thing. And the money was just for, you know, a subscription to trust funding.org – it was for a computer and an internet connection because I’m genuinely that old… but it was still just important because without that investment, we wouldn’t have unlocked the huge growth we had in that charity – we tripled (the number of beneficiaries) we worked with and it started by asking the trustees to invest.

So my understanding top line is three different organisations you’ve worked with, including that very small one initially and then Plan and now where you work right now, three times running you felt you couldn’t not, I mean, you didn’t necessarily do it immediately but there was a point when you worked in each of those places you felt because I care about this mission, in this cause, I can’t not try to get the resource to grow our ability to help and it was also a sort of, the last time we spoke about it, it felt like a almost a moral imperative. How can I not was the question that you felt burning in you, and then even if at the time you didn’t have this recipe of, you know, the four master steps or whatever it is that you and I worked out the other day, it started from needing to at least ask and ask as confidently and persuasively as you could.

First, do you want to just speak to that idea? And then after that, maybe I think our listeners are going to be keen to hear what are the those three or four things that you have found to be useful techniques in that process? But what’s your attitude to, what the listener is thinking, ‘well, it’s quite hard, maybe we should just play safe and keep on as we are’, what would you say to them?

It’s a good question. I think you’re right, it starts from the core. So if I think about my current role, I can tell you stories of girls in Malta who have changed the law, and I’ve had the Maltese government, talk to my team and say, it was your girl guides that enabled us to change the law to outlaw FGM for the first time three years ago. I’ve heard of guides in Togo working with the UN managed to train 50,000 teachers with no external funding just to just their own proactive network on an anti violence curriculum that’s now taught in schools in Togo. I can tell you that, you know, a month ago we had guys campaigning outside the Malaysian Parliament with 156,000 signatures, not just from Girl Guides, but from youth groups across Malaysia, saying we must end child marriage, there was a case in Malaysia of a 41 year old man marrying a 12 year old girl and other 12 year old girl to in the girl guide movement….saying ‘that’s not what we want. We have to outlaw that we have to close these loopholes in the law’.

And when you’ve got that amazing network of, in my case, young women all over the world doing amazing things, but it’s massively under-funded. And they’re doing all this things on a shoestring. Imagine what they could do. If they had actually quite small amounts of money to bolster what they’re doing. And then the question becomes, well, how are you going to do that? Are you going to squeeze your team even harder as if they’re not working hard enough as if the problem is that they’re just a bit lazy. So we need to squeeze them harder and get more money out of them.

What are we going to think you know what, that’s not reality. In order to get more return, you need more investment. Every business knows that, every football club knows that, every organisation in the world knows that except certain charities. And we need to change that mindset, because fundamentally, it’s a really obvious statement, but your income, your return is based on what you put in. And you can have exceptions to that, there are people that managed to break the rules. Occasionally – Leicester City managed to win the premiership once. But if you look each year, how much teams invest and where they are in their premier league table or what organisations invest in advertising, how many sales they get, it is directly correlative, and therefore we have a responsibility to help our teams unlock that investment.

The advice you gave the other day was that each time you’ve done it, you didn’t know all of the how you were going to get there. And yet somehow you needed to do this conjuring trick, you needed to have certainty and convey certainty that I’m going to get you these outcomes. Even though at the time you didn’t yet know, for instance, what proportion of the income would come from corporate versus trust…try to convey to us how you managed to pull that off.

This is the myth this is a conjuring trick or there is some magic that some people are doing and others aren’t. This is totally standard for every business in the world. If you invest in an IT infrastructure solution, you don’t know exactly your path of how you’re going to get from A to B, you know where B is, you know what you need to get to you need to have a fully integrated CRM solution or whatever it is. And your first step will be to recruit an IT project manager to help scope out build, that’s normal. That’s every business in every walk of, you know, every sector, you know, if you knew how to do it, if all the steps were there, then you’d have done it already. You should have a good idea of what the expected return is, and what your level of certainty is and why.

So for us, it’s because we have a great cause. We have all those different stories I talked about. And I could talk for hours just on those stories. And yet, annually, if you look to our average income from 2016, we raised 1.7 million a year and you tally up 150 countries, 10 million girls, these extraordinary stories of impact, whether they’re in America, Malawi, Madagascar, South America, etc. And you did all that with 1.7 million of external funding, it just doesn’t make any sense. And therefore we’ve got a big growth opportunity to do far more and that’s what we’re there for, talking about the fact that we’re under-performing. Not that the teams are underperforming, but the charity is in fundraising terms. And we’re looking for investment for us to take our first steps to remedy that.

So if the listener had been considering building a case and going in and seeking extra investment, because that’s a way to do more good, what I’m hearing from you is a couple of things which are fundamental – number one, is in order to get your own emotional fuel or emotional resource, moral courage, and so on, start with the difference you are making, and therefore the difference you could make to even more lives. And then after that, moving in a sense, to what you’ve done when you’ve succeeded in this – you’ve almost built that logical graph with the numbers. What we have done so far with this amount of investments and projecting up how much more we would like to do. Is that roughly right?

Yes, but that’s because you don’t know what it is you’re going to do, you don’t know what the next three years are going to look like politically, economically, socially, or within your charity. So you have to accept that. What you can say is, here’s the profile of previous performance. Yes. And I guess what I did is I asked the question of the trustees, what do you see as the potential of this charity? Where do you think we should be if we’re an organisation that reaches all these girls and young women that does these incredible things to build the capacity of our member organisations who deliver phenomenal change to girls all over the world? And what should we be bringing in? What should we be raising on behalf of our members?

And to me, the answer is very, obviously more than 1.7 million and to most boards of trustees. They’ll say the same thing. And they’ll probably say, no one’s ever asked us that before. They haven’t asked enough. So you’re getting them to think well, what could we be, you know, in some cases, they would have said, well, they did say we want to be raising one pound for every girl we have, or five pounds for every girl we have. So that means we’re 10 million or a 50 million or 100 million charity.

Once they’re aligned with that vision, and they can be dissatisfied with where they are at the moment, that’s when you can outline how you get there. And as you say, I didn’t know the plan. In any of the cases that I did this know, I could have told you the process. We’re going to prospect from these areas. And we’re going to look through these, we believe our high potential areas here, we think we have a great fit here. But you don’t really know until you start making those calls and testing the market. And you can’t do that until you have a team you know, in the case of Plan, when I joined plan in 2012. You know, I was answering the phones, if it was if there was a new business inquiry that came through to me. So until the trust is invested in the business capacity of a proper team of people who are skilled you have the knowledge, have the experience to drive that forward and have the resource and the time, we’re always going to be limited.

So for me, it’s about positioning that vision. And then all you have to do once they’re on board with the vision is show that you have a complete and well thought-through plan for your first steps. But it doesn’t have to be complete, because it’s just a first step.

Yeah. And, and we don’t have time to make it through the training session. I’d make you see that whole question again. For the listener, what Adam said about two minutes ago, is one of the most important bits in this whole idea is, as the fundraising leader its not for you to tell them it all. But to open their minds and then put the ball in their court to ask them your equivalent of Adam’s question along the lines of, where this kind of organisation that stands for these people. Where do you think we should be? Because they are the board. It is their responsibility to do the best they possibly can for these people, as long as you framed it right, and then you confidently ask that question.

It seems to me, that’s what Adam did three times running in three times in each of those three cases. That was a key step in helping the organisation start the discussions and that led to the decision that we needed. And I know there were several other things that you said to me before Adam were quite important along the way to ultimately get the decision. Do you want to say if there’s another couple of those that you think would be useful for the listener to hear? What would they be?

I guess the, if I think about the worst thing you can do, rather than the best thing is probably more helpful. So because this is the first time I did it, to share this, this story, so I was 23 or something. I had no business running an organisation, absolutely not qualified for it. But I gave a very good bullshit interview, and therefore ended up in this position that I was woefully unqualified for, and I made all the mistakes that you should make. And the mistake I made when I was thinking about this investment that we need, I need a computer, I need a subscription to trust fundraising.org, etc, is that I picked off each one of the trustees and I thought, okay, you might go for it. I don’t think you will. Therefore, I need to take you out for a coffee. I need to understand what you’re thinking I need to understand whether you like this other person on the board and the power play and how it’s worked in the last 20 years and all those kind of board level relationships.

And actually none of that is my job and am really bad at it and it’s not my position. It’s not my place. My place is to say that more is possible, that we can get to a bigger place that we can do more as a charity and I’ve got a decent plan. That’s 70 – 80% there as much there as it can be that enables you to take that first steps of investment. And that’s all you know. And then you need to use your trustees as ambassadors for you in getting that through and get it and working through that with a supporter because it’s their job to do the coffees and the drinks and the schmoozing and then whatever else coming from you won’t work. Yeah.

Yeah. And that makes sense and you know, just the way you outlined the case broadly of who we are what we stand for what more could be done that the logic of the emotion of that and then the logic of that more effort into those areas and less into the all this exhausting, absolutely consuming, difficult thing that might you know, a few you know, politicians might have the skill level to get that done, but it would still take too much time. And you know, doing your way around…. that’s a really helpful, because again, especially if the listener might be an experienced major gifts fundraiser, their default thing might be to automatically to think more coffees. And more.

It was for me as well, but it just happened to be wrong.

Great. So and I’m so glad you said that little example. And I think before another thing you told me was just about belief, really. And I’ve alluded to ‘certainty’ already, but just very briefly, what’s your take on how important it is to bolster your sense that this is absolutely the right thing to do? And I back us as a group and myself, to at least try.

I think that’s a good question. And you need to be cognizant of where the organisation is. So when I joined WAGGS, which was only about a year ago you know, the organisation was in a pretty messy place. So we lost something 40 – 50% of staff in a year, we’ve had issues in my, just in my role – I was the sixth person in two years to do my job. And on my second day, my predecessor who had asked to meet previously said to me, well, actually, I didn’t want to meet you, I avoided meeting you because I didn’t want to have to say that this is the worst job you’ll ever do.

So, there’s this thing, you know, you have to be cognizant if I come into that environment and ignore it. Just say, yeah, I definitely believe we can do this. It looks nice. At the same time, even though there were all those issues, which hopefully are, you know, in a better place now, there is that thing about where do you point the camera. You know, if you’re pointing the camera at those issues, you know, that there are some impact reasons why five successive people felt that, yes, it wasn’t the job for them.

I’m with my team, I think we’re able to point the camera somewhere else. So what this organisation could be if we get it right, and what we need in order to take those steps as a team to realise that potential. So you don’t come in and say, ‘I’m absolutely sure this will work. It definitely will. Just trust me, it’ll be fine.’ Because you’re playing with real, genuine income that people have given you – that the organisation is reliant on in terms of reserves.

It needs to be based on where you are, but also, you should be sure as a fundraising director can be that your team has more potential to raise more money with more investment. If you’re not sure that that your cause is worthy of more investment, or your team on the right people to deliver it, you might want to look at the job pages because it might be that you’re in the wrong role. Yeah. I can’t conceive of a situation where a fundraising director thinks well, we’re about right, you know? Yeah, I reckon we’re about right. In terms of funding its fine. Yeah, our team isn’t great, but I’m not going to change it.

You know, that’s just not. That’s not what your job is. So do you need to have a lot of certainty that you’re the right person to deliver that change? But I think that is your job as a fundraising director? Yeah.

I think the other thing you mentioned before, is in terms of the timing being important. What did you mean by that in the context of seeking investment?

I would say, when you start a new job, that’s to be the time that you’ll be having this competition, not necessarily asking them but one of your first jobs as a fundraising lead coming in, is to understand the appetite for investment. And that you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t miss that window. We aligned ours to our strategic planning cycle. So I asked for investment in the beginning of 2018. And we run on a three year cycle that goes from 2018 to 2020. So it made sense. I think I would be imploring everyone that it doesn’t wait for the, you know, the magic time when weather conditions are right and off the eastern seaboard Full Moon at three o’clock in the afternoon etc.

I think it’s imperative that you get in front of this and start positioning you and your team for investment and I think that’s true. Whether you’re a fundraising director, whether you’re a manager, whether you’re a head of department, whether you’re a fundraising officer that if you think more could be done in your area with a little bit more investment, it’s beholden on you to outline the case for that investment, and what you need to make it a reality.

So just before we finish this topic, there may have been some other thing. You’re pretty experienced and pretty successful in this area of leadership. Is there anything else that occurs to you that you think is interesting or useful for the for the listener to bear in mind? If they’re taking it to heart and they, after this podcast, they’re going to have a think or a conversation with a colleague about doing something about this idea?

I think how you align it with the rest of your organisation. You know, for me, the hardest part of fundraising is never raising the money. It’s what that money is funding. I’ve worked at so many causes. Where that link is not right. Because we want that money so much that we’re being led by our donors and what they want, not what actually our cause is all about. So we end up kind of setting ourselves and pretending something was slightly different to we are stretching our mission and our scope as a charity. And fundamentally not doing the wrong things but not doing the best things possible to help our beneficial beneficiaries.

And so to me, it’s working with the rest of the organisation to put that case forward. So for example, what I mean is, WAGGS, I worked with the rest of the leadership team, to say, okay, we’re not going to put loads of investment cases that compete with each other. We’re going to put one investment case or actually we integrated it, but we’re going to put one investment case. And in that fundraising case, we’re going to make clear that if we’re successful in that fundraising if that 350k of investment, least at 1.6 million of income returns. Here’s what that 1.6 million will do, it will benefit our members in these ways. It will grow our capacity building infrastructure so that we can help our members get to a different stage in finance and governance and safeguarding, it will help our programmes team in particular ways. So it’s not just that you’re raising, that’s probably the biggest bit of my investment case, it wasn’t, we can raise more money because I think everyone could raise more money, it’s that there is a unique opportunity in this organisation to raise more money for the right things that are going to make a big difference for, for most people, for our beneficiaries, in our case for our members, in order for them to make a difference for their beneficiaries. Yes. And because we were able to outline that, it then makes sense the to the trustee, whereas you can very easily otherwise end up with fundraising, making a case over here, marketing thinks a bit different. You’re different teams, across the organisation competing with each other, instead of going in with an integrated ask as a leadership team.

That makes sense. I need to stop is there, Adam, thank you so much for all your ideas that you’ve shared with us today. So many great little stories and examples. And then also just some wonderful little tips. And I look forward to our next chat because I always learned so much when I when I talk to you, and about until the next time, thank you for helping out the listeners. And I look forward to speaking to you about more fundraising, leadership things another time. Thank you.

So I hope you found Adams’ ideas and examples as helpful as I did. If you’d like to go back to the key ideas we explore in this episode, do take a look at the show notes on our bright spot website. If you’re interested in The Breakfast Club for directors and heads of fundraising, which we run every couple of months in London, and that’s where Adam first shared these ideas, you can find out about that, as well as all of our other fundraising courses, our coaching, mastery programmes in major gifts in corporate partnerships or an individual giving, you can find out about all of that stuff on our website, which is bright spot fundraising.co.uk if you found today’s episode helpful, and if you think it would help other people to please do spread the word and share it on.

And finally, thank you so much for listening. And I look forward to sharing more bright spot stories to help you with your fundraising in the next episode.