Many charities spend huge effort recruiting people to do fundraising events, but fail to inspire them to become long-term supporters. In episode 2 of Fundraising Bright Spots, Rob Woods asks Andy King to explain how he went about solving this missed opportunity when he worked at East African Playgrounds.
The strategy was so successful that it was a major factor in the charity’s income growing three-fold in three years. Andy explains how he achieved a better understanding of the supporter’s perspective, in particular why they might want to stay involved, and how he used this insight to change the proposition they were offered at the end of the event.
As a result, take-up soared from 1% to around 60% of event participants signing up to support in the long-term. He also explains how this strategy led to growth in trusts and corporate income as well as individual giving.
- To Andy it didn’t make sense to invest lots of time and effort to recruit supporters and inspire them to care, and then for only 1% of them to stay involved.
- When looking at what is happening in your fundraising, find the time and confidence to pause and be curious as to what is going on in the bigger picture.
- When trying to solve fundraising challenges, dare to gather a more accurate understanding of the supporter’s point of view, rather than presume you know that.
- To do this, one of Andy’s tactics is to find three or four participants / supporters of a particular event and ask if they’d be willing to act as a sounding board throughout that journey.
- Andy gained the crucial insight that what you think you can afford (eg as a student) and what you can actually afford are very different, but that perception you have must not be discounted. This enabled him to tailor the proposition to match those supporters’ perceptions.
- Insight also helped them make the proposition more attractive to those supporters (eg including an alumni club; offer of references) that did not require too much resource to maintain.
- Focusing on inspiring people to want to stay involved brought far greater long-term value than the short-term increase in individual giving. It led to donations from trusts and partnerships with companies, because once involved, those supporters influenced on behalf of ‘their’ charity once they had graduated.
- Andy applied a similar philosophy at Raising Futures Kenya, deliberately making a more attractive opportunity for event participants to sign up to support in the long-term. An impressive 22.5% signed up to this individual giving proposition when it was piloted.
‘If you want to know what a donor wants you shouldn’t ask someone else what they think the donor wants, you should ask the donor.’ Andy King
‘Treat them as part of your family fully vested in your cause and your mission, rather than someone who might give us money’. Andy King
East African Playgrounds – www.eastafricanplaygrounds.org
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Transcribed notes of Episode 2
Hey there, folks, this is Rob Woods and welcome to Episode Two 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 and make a bigger difference. And on today’s episode, if you’ve ever felt frustrated that your charity spends loads of effort getting people to do a fundraising event of any kind, but then has too little success in actually inspiring people to stay in touch and support in other ways, then you’re going to find today’s episode really interesting.
Because today, we’re looking at a couple of really strong examples of how it’s possible to inspire event participants to sign up as regular supporters. It’s an interview that I recorded really recently with Andy King, who’s now at Rays of Sunshine used to work at East African Playgrounds, where this strategy completely transformed their results. The number of people who sign up for regular giving after doing an event went up from 1% to around 60%.
And this initiative was a key factor in the charities income and growing three fold in just three years. The approach that Andy talks about led to growth in various areas of fundraising, including corporate partnerships and trusts, and obviously individual giving, but whatever kind of fundraising you do, I think you’re going to find Andy’s ideas really helpful.
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’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 brightspotfundraising.co.uk.
So hello, Andy King, can you hear me?
I can indeed.
Hi, Andy, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for making time to chat to us. So you and I’ve had a decent couple of chats recently because I was really curious about particular approach you’ve taken to event fundraising and relationship fundraising. I really wanted to share that story with the listeners to the podcast. But before we get into that, I think you’ve moved charities recently and you’re now Rays of Sunshine. Is that right? Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. And how long you been there?
A calendar month today.
Okay, so it’s really new. But before that, and I think you’ve worked in fundraising for three or four years, mostly at East African Playgrounds, do you want to give me the short version of that journey? And then after that, we’ll get into quite what an amazing difference happened in the income of East African playgrounds across those three years, because that is especially why I wanted to pull out the technique you were using.
Yeah, sure. So I got to uni I did some internships with charities while I was there, and kind of fell into this, this love of telling stories to make an impact and make a difference. Whilst I was at university, I came across a charity called East African Playgrounds who build playgrounds in East Africa. They’re good at a couple of things and naming themselves is one of them. And basically, as I was graduating, they had a job opportunity.
So I leapt at it to be the challenges officer they run to in house projects, similar to how people climb Kilimanjaro for charity, but it was in Uganda where they operate, tracking just the last remaining wild silverback gorillas and then volunteering on a playground build, like kind of seeing where the money that you’ve raised have gone. And I joined them because I knew the team really well and was really passionate about it. And it seemed like a really good opportunity to do something I knew a bit about already, but also a place to really learn from. And I kind of in my head was going to do that for two years, the first of year, to learn the job, to learn what it’s like to have a job, to kind of get to grips with being an adult, and being an adult who specifically does challenge fundraising, with the aim of the second year starting to really deliver on that learning and do the best I could, which is more or less exactly what I did.
So I spent the first year reading books, learning all of our internal systems, making systems And the second year really doing my utmost to grow that programme as much as I could by working out what we were doing that worked and doing more of it. So for example, we noticed that when we went into universities to speak to students, if we went and asked a lecturer, if we could speak for 30 seconds at the start of the lecture, then when we later on in that day held meetings and asked people how that heard about it, a lot of them were saying that to go out, so we started doing more like shout outs, and therefore had more people attend, just by looking at what it was that we were doing.
One of the big things is that for small international development charities, getting people really passionate about your work is actually something quite difficult to do, because it’s often not something that people can see isn’t necessarily something they can relate to. So for us taking hundreds of students out each year to literally see the work and the impact first-hand, and letting go of that seemed completely crazy. So I knew that we just needed to find something that people would want to do and I looked at the approach we’ve taken in the past, because it wasn’t the first time we’d ever tried to fix it. But ultimately what we had been doing in the past is just a standard ask of, can you start giving us money please, on a regular basis, and without really considering who they were or why they might want to do that.
So some important context is that a lot of the challenge participants that we took out as students, and so disposable income isn’t necessarily something they have. A really important point that I think I came across in this form of fundraising is that whether or not a student can afford something, and whether or not a student thinks they think they can afford something are quite different questions, in that most students probably could afford to give a charity five pounds a month, but they don’t think they can. And so it’s unlikely that you’re going to convince them to do that. And the fundamental approach that I took was kind of a mass participation approach of – it would be better to have more of a lower amount than very, very few big amounts, in that we were asking people for five pounds a month, and there was less than a 1% uptake. So what we did was we just completely dropped that off to be two pounds a month instead, on the basis that not only could students afford that, but they knew that they could afford that and saying that they couldn’t was a big statement to say.
And then we made sure that they had a reason to give as well. So we made them feel special. We created what we call the alumni club. So the club of people who had done the challenge events in the past and said that we would hold reunion of that they would get a newsletter. And if they were applying for a job and wanted to use this as a reference they could. We were already offering students references, and we were already doing the newsletter. So the only additional part to that was the reunion event. But that then doubles as a supporter cultivation event that we can bring other people to so it had significant other merits.
So yeah, uptake just went a lot better than we thought it would. And it was about a 60% uptake from there. And something that we thought was really notable was that though we were asking for two pounds a month, the average gift actually ended up at about three pound 10 because a number of students were giving five pounds and because they had decided for themselves that they could afford that rather than us deciding it for them.
Yeah, and we have noticed that some of them have gone on to graduate and get employment and then up their gift, when asked. So we did ask at the cultivation event to make them aware that they could increase their gift if they chose to. We had about 50 people come to that, and I want to say seven of them increased their gift at that stage. So there was a definite point of, if you ask someone for something that you know, and they know they can afford, they might surprise you by offering you more than that.
But by putting it in a stage where they feel like you know who they are and what they can afford, they’re much more likely to say yes, in the first place. And I think it was it was that tangible. We’ve looked at who you are, why you’re with us and what we can do for you in the future. Here is our offer to you that we feel is appropriate. They agreed and thought it was appropriate as well.
And the great thing about that was even though they’re only giving us a couple of pounds a month each, that’s a really good excuse to then continue to invest in that supporter journey to stay more directly in touch with them than we would have done otherwise. And then that’s led to other partnerships and relationships forming from there. So for example, quite a lot of our participants have then gone back to the university to help us recruit the team for the following year. Some of them who have signed up to do the challenge again, they really open us up to their networks.
So one in particular worked for a trusted foundation. So they introduced us to that family trust, which has already led to a grant and a really decent relationship with that funder. I was the first corporate partnerships person that East African Playgrounds had ever had. And having those graduates who’d gone into a variety of different companies and different roles is really, really exciting because of the people that they were able to introduce us to. As I said, I was the first partnerships person, I was the first person focused on new business. And the first pitch that East African playgrounds ever did to a corporate partner was to Mars, because we were able to get in through the Graduate Programme.
So it really did open a lot of different doors to us…so that we were able to build our corporate programme, basically from within companies within young talent. And it led to some really exciting propositions and also a really great chance to get opinions on, for example, a charity championship package based on opinions from people who might then go on to be charity champions. So it was really a useful resource that we could justify spending the time on because they were giving us the regular gift, to what I’m seeing is step one, just keeping a relationship with these people at all.
It wasn’t even mostly about the income that would have come from those two pounds a month. It was staying in touch at all, and quite deliberately treating them as part of your family fully vested in your cause and your mission, rather than out there someone who might give us money, and so much of these other strengths of your approach comes from, we’re all in it together and then feeling that so then of course, yeah, they’re doing these extra things, because they’re not helping you, per se. They’re helping the mission.
Yes, exactly. I think it does require a joint approach from a fundraising team – being willing to hand over a previous event attendee to the new business person, for example. And there’s a real advantage in being both the event person and the new business person because I just put them from one hand into the other. There’s something to be said for a donor focus journey where rather than focusing on your individual targets, you focus on what’s best for that person, and its really, really beneficial to make an event participant or a corporate individual a friend of the charity rather than a friend of the fundraiser, and that can be really powerful to move people forward.
Yes, so many of these details I’d love to pick up on. And but top line it sounds like East African Playgrounds now does have successful corporate fundraising going on where before it didn’t at all. And my sense is that wouldn’t have happened, had it not been for this, this holistic approach to keeping relationships quite deliberately with the people invested in your cause. And could we just take another look at this same kind of approach elsewhere because I think you’re a trustee for another charity, and you have something similar, but already I’ve logged this approach went from a 1% take up to a 60% take up and in various ways that contribute to the overall success of the organisation and then you went and applied a similar kind of model to another charity. I don’t know if the numbers were exactly the same. But what did you do there?
Yeah, sure. So I’m a trustee of Raising Futures Kenya, who are a fairly small charity as well, about a £200,000 turnover. And I wanted to see if the approach would work with people who are doing events that were less schools focused. So we applied the same approach to a different type of event where they were less invested in the cause, per se. They were doing a scavenger hunt across London. There were about 40 people taking part. And the way that it worked was they went out and took photos with particular parts of London, and then came back. We put those photos into a presentation. They stuck around for the presentation to find out who won. And at the end of that presentation, we added in a few slides about the tools and what they could help achieve with a regular gift.
Again, considering who they were, what an appropriate ask would be, etc. And, again, we put it in a club model to make them feel like it was something bespoke to them. We called it The Founders Club because the charity had just rebranded. So we were offering them the chance to be a member of The Founders Club and take ownership in that. And it was a minimum ask to give three pounds a month to join a whatsapp group where one of the one of the people that work for the charity in Kenya would send a monthly video of what was going on. And again, the average gift was actually about six pounds. And I want to say… nine of the 40 people took it up and obviously they wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t given them that appropriate ask at that point.
And fantastic so broadly that’s a slightly different tactic, but still the same overall philosophy is working and it is still early days for that tactic. So they’re yet to hear more data about the next version of that.
Yeah, so that event took place in November. And we have had some really meaningful interaction come from it. So for example, one of those people is now doing some volunteering for us. So they are a masters student in statistics. And they’re helping us develop how we feed back our impact and making that more appropriate to other donors. But in terms of other fundraising, introductions and stuff, we’re still building on those relationships for now, because it was a first touch point for them really.
So a couple of really good examples of taking a thing where many charities are somehow not making use of this opportunity, after all the effort they’ve invested to connect with the person in the first place. And in both cases, you’ve found a way to actually make it work. I think, to me, a lot of how you’ve managed to do it is starting with better insight.
And you started off with just a frustration, an intellectual frustration that this is really crazy that we can’t make this work better, there must be a solution somewhere. But then the way you actually managed to make the breakthrough wasn’t sitting down on a beanbag being creative. It was doing the legwork of more deliberate insight as to the donors’ point of view, what they’re like, how they feel about how rich they are, where they go, what they care about – the tweak, in the setup and the approach and the proposition comes from a deeper understanding of that potential supporters’ point of view.
Yeah, absolutely. I think considering donor motivations has been a lot of it. Rather than considering what we want them to be, considering what they might want themselves to be, and how we facilitate that. I think it helps that it was an intellectual frustration because it made it quite an open opportunity in the anything we achieved, was going to be better than what we were getting at that point with a 1% uptake. And so we were able to experiment more in what we thought they might actually want, rather than being given a ridiculous target. It was, can we make this work? And if so, how? And that allowed us to be more creative and find something that did work.
So yeah, but I’ve noticed it’s really tempting to carry on doing what you’re doing rather than make the effort to do a focus group or send out some questionnaires or go and actually ask more questions with the intention of genuinely understanding better. Maybe there was no special tactic you did. Maybe it was just you prioritised above all getting to the heart of this insight thing. But what actually did you do?
Yeah. I mean, I’ve always had a tendency to pick, especially when managing challenges, fundraising events, three or four event participants per year that I use a sounding board, and I tend to ask that permission quite early on. When I have a better relationship with that person, because they’re particularly engaged, I basically ask them if they would mind offering me their opinion a couple of times throughout the year, and then speak to them directly rather than necessarily my colleagues.
Because a lot of the time, if you want to know what a donor wants you shouldn’t ask someone else what they think the donor wants, you should ask the donor. And by having three or four of them, ideally, from different places and different backgrounds, you get quite a good cross section. I’ve never had the time or the resource necessary to build a full focus group. But just the occasional text conversation or phone call with those three or four people has been really beneficial and a lot of that drove how much we asked for, the proposition, how we presented it, because I asked them their opinions and in particular with the alumni club offering. The really good thing about that was that it meant that when we started pushing it out, we had four people that were already bought in, because they’d helped shape it.
And they thought it was a good idea. So they were willing to speak to their peers that they knew, about the fact that they’ve helped shape it. And were proud of it. I’m a month into my new job, as I said, and I’ve already kind of identified particular corporate champions that I’ll be doing the same thing with here, where we’re trying to get corporate individuals to become individual givers. You need that perspective. And I think it’s quite easy to tell yourself that you have it.
Whereas involving them in the shaping of that product is the best way to keep it, with a regular check in. I think it’s quite easy to think you know those donors, what donors want, rather than going directly to the supporter themselves, but it really does help. And we’re working on that with corporates now as well. Yeah.
And so much of the strength of your approach, I think comes from the instinct and the courage to open up your doors and see these other people as just as motivated in this mission as and being part of this family trying to help this important outcome be achieved, rather than, them and us, however worthy ‘them’ might be, when they give us their money. For many charities, really, there’s this massive wall between us and them. And this last example, you’ve just given me, gives me a sense of a philosophy that is, you know, we’re all part of this mission. And, you know, many charities don’t make use, they’re not open and transparent and therefore they really miss all this amazing opportunity and invite others from outside the charity.
So, Andy, thank you so much for talking us through your approach and those couple of key storeys that bring to life how this relationship fundraising approach has really helped in those couple of contexts. And if people want to find out more or connect with you, do you have a Twitter account? Or can people contact you on LinkedIn?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m on Twitter @andykingraising. And I’m on LinkedIn as Andy King. So yeah, do feel free to reach out at any point.
Fantastic. So thank you for talking through those examples – its massively helped me and I hope the listener as well will be inspired to keep plugging away with some of the principles that have worked so well for you so far. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next chapter for you at Rays of Sunshine, and maybe we could catch up again at some point to find out what’s going on. But for now, thank you so much for your time today, Andy.
Thanks so much Rob.
So there you have it, as you can see, and these examples give us lots of food for thought for how truly seeking to understand our supporters perspective, and acting on those insights with a little bit of creativity can make a huge difference to your fundraising results. If you’d like to follow up on any of these ideas, do check out the show notes on our bright spot fundraising website. And also put the link in there to the East African playgrounds website, so you can get a sense of the great work that they do.
If you’re curious about any of the in-house training courses, one to one coaching or mastery programmes that we offer. Then again, all of that information is on the brightspotfundraising.co.uk website. And if you found today’s episode helpful, please do spread the word by sharing it with your friends and colleagues.
And secondly, we’ve got lots more great bright spot stories and strategies coming up in the series, including an episode on How to Grow your Resilience; another one on punching above your weight in corporate partnerships; and lots more. So if you don’t want to miss out, please do subscribe to the podcast today.
Thank you so much for tuning in today. Best of luck applying any of the insights you took from today’s episode, and until the next time, enjoy your fundraising.