Though some funders keep relationships with charities very formal, many of them really appreciate it when charities go the extra mile to create a deeper relationship. But how do you go about building these relationships, both with existing funders, and indeed, with ones that are not yet supporting you?
This is the second half of my recent interview with Andy Watts, Head of Trusts and Foundations Fundraising at Sue Ryder. In his first year at the charity, trusts income increased by 349%, largely thanks to the strategy of proactively building more inspiring, personal relationships with funders. And during the chaos of 2020, this approach has helped generate valuable donations that have been helping to fund the charity’s work during the crisis.
In this episode, we discuss a range of things Andy and his team are planning to do over the coming months, including ways to steward and re-inspire existing supporters, as well as a way of increasing your chances when approaching prospective supporters.
If you want to share this episode because you think it will help other charities – THANK YOU! – we are both on Linked In and on twitter, where Andy is @andywatts27 and I am @woods_rob.
Takeaways from Episode 35
- CLOSEST SUPPORTERS FIRST – In times of crisis, its more important than ever that you proactively have conversations as much as possible with your warmest existing supporters (rather than spending most energy seeking new supporters).
- BUDGET CONSERVATIVELY FOR 2021 – Informed by words from The Wolfson Foundation’s Paul Ramsbottom among others (who was part of a panel discussion at IOF Convention Online in July 2020), Andy believes that in 2021 many funders will be less able to give as generously has they did in 2020, so his budget forecast for that year reflects this.
- KEEP TALKING – Andy’s plan for the Autumn 2020 is to continue to talk to existing funders about how they are doing and what his charities’ plans are now.
- WEBINAR SERIES – After finding webinars for funders was successful during the spring and summer, the team are making plans for a series, including webinars for both national and local funders, and trying out various iterations of this tactic.
- PERSONAL STEWARDSHIP THAT FEELS GREAT – For instance this helps Andy to make requests of his colleague’s time (and courage), for instance to send personal thank you cards or make personal thank you films in their smart phones, mentioning the trust by name.
- TO REACH NEW FUNDERS, SEARCH FOR CONNECTIONS – Andy shares the names of trusts he is trying to reach with colleagues based in those communities, and has found that this often helps his charity make a connection and start a conversation that otherwise would not have been possible.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF COVERAGE – Not every charity has strong coverage or the communications / PR resources to make this more likely, but if this does happen, be proactive in sharing these articles etc with both existing funders and those new ones you would like to inspire.
If you’d like to find out more about our Major Gifts Mastery Programme which helps you increase trust and major donor income during the pandemic, you can find out all about it through the link above – or feel free to get in touch through the Contact section if you have questions.
If you’d like more powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then there are lots of different approaches, including some of Andy’s tactics, 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
If you found this helpful, we recommend you also listen to the first half of my conversation with Andy – Episode 32 – Andy Watts – The trust fundraising approach that increased income by 349%.
‘There’s a danger in making assumptions and trying to generalise that one trust’s situation will be the same as another… You really have to remember to treat each one individually.’
Transcription of Episode 35
Hey there, folks. Welcome to episode 35 of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast. My name is Rob Woods, and this is a show for anyone who works in charity fundraising and who wants ideas for how to raise more money, enjoy their job, and make a bigger difference even during the pandemic. Now, if your job includes fundraising from trusts and foundations, and you’re always on the lookout for ways to improve your approach, then I hope you’re going to find today’s episode a valuable listen, because I’m about to share the second part of a recent interview I conducted with the brilliant Andy Watts, who is head of trust and foundation fundraising for Sue Ryder. I’ve known Andy for several years, and he’s one of the very successful fundraisers that I interviewed for my ebook, Power Through the Pandemic: Seven Ways to Raise Funds with Major Donors, Corporates, and Trusts, Even Now. If you’ve not yet read the book, you can download it for free at brightspotfundraising/power.
And in today’s episode of the podcast we discuss a range of things that Andy and his team are planning to do over the coming months, including ways to steward and reinspire existing supporters, as well as a way of increasing your chances when approaching prospective supporters. You may have heard the first half of our conversation in episode 32 of the podcast, in which, among other things, Andy explains his approach to deliberately seeking out real conversations over the phone with as many trust supporters as possible. Today’s episode starts as I ask Andy about some of the results that this more informal conversational approach has achieved.
This episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots Podcast is brought to you by Bright Spot Mastery Programs. So if you need to increase income in corporate partnerships or major donor and trust fundraising, these programs 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 Programs, head over to brightspotfundraising.co.uk.
I think I interviewed you a few months ago and your strategy of proactively calling as many of the existing funders as you could was working out really well. At this time of recording, what have your results top line been, in as much detail as you feel able to give me now?
Absolutely. We, in the last four months, have raised over 1.2 million from trusts. And just to put that in context, it took us 10 months to raise over a million last year. So it’s quite a difference. And obviously recognizing that as a hospice charity, we do fit in that frontline category, so context is always king, but it’s really interesting too. I’m part a peer networking group with other trust fundraisers and with three other charities that shared their results with me. It was an older people’s charity, a mental health, and food redistribution. So again, on the front line. But between us, so those three and Sue Ryder, we had over 10 million pounds from trusts and foundations in the last four months, which is incredible. And for them as well, that was way above what they had achieved in the same period last year. So this is, as we know, it’s an exceptional time for fundraising, but it just shows, I think, how trusts and foundations have responded really to this.
And I’d say also what’s been really interesting for me is… I kind of apply the Pareto principle in our fundraising, so that the idea that 80% of your support tends to come from 20% of your supporters, and we’ve had 10 trusts that in the last couple of years have given over 80% of our funding. So those are the ones obviously that we focus a lot of time on, but interestingly, only three of them so far have given, and we’ve actually had five of our 100K plus gifts have come from trusts that have never given to us at that level before. But these are ones, these trusts we’ve all had… Well, apart from one, that we’ve had relationships with them and they’ve given at lower levels, but it’s been really interesting to see that, actually, if you had asked me at the start who I thought would give us the most, it’s not worked out that way.
And this question might be an unfair and just not possible for you to answer, but for the listener who doesn’t work for one of those pandemic related causes, what is your advice or what’s your take on the mindset of trusts? Do you have any thoughts that might help someone who’s having to apply for a different kind of cause at the moment?
Sure. And that is a real challenge, isn’t it? If you are, I suppose, a charity that falls outside of that core group. I think if you are lucky enough to have some warm trusts already, my sense is that still, like say arts organizations, for example, they’ve had some of their warmer trusts actually give significantly because they are kind of connected to the cause and they’re passionate about what you do. So I think that’s always the starting point, is to be speaking to your warmest supporters, and they’ve obviously given to you because they care about what you do and hopefully that will give you the opportunity to bring some funds in.
So whatever kind of charity or cause it is, still this fundamental relationship first approach of getting as many proper conversations as you can with anyone who has ever cared, and doing it that way can only help your chances of success and being near the top of the pile for if they are able to give at the moment.
I guess another thing I wanted to explore, and we don’t have a crystal ball, but in terms of not so much predicting the future, but your reading of what’s going on now and the implications of what seems to be going on with government announcements and health announcements about the pandemic and the lockdown, based on that, and based on what you see to be going on from the funder’s point of view, I think you mentioned before you listened to an interesting session at the IOF convention recently where some funders were talking about their point of view. I’d love to pick your brains on what you think is going on now and therefore what might be the reality for trust fundraising for the next six months?
Absolutely. So like you say, Rob, I’d really recommend the IOF convention session Life on the Other Side of the Fence. It’s a panel discussion between I think about four or five grant makers, including the Wolfson Foundation. So for people wanting to get a glimpse into the minds of funders, that is a great starting point. And I was really interested, so Paul Paul Ramsbottom, who is the chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, he said in that session about how he sees this year funds perhaps holding up, and he wonders 2021, that that could be the year where things are particularly tough. So I think for those, when it comes to budgeting, I think it would be good to be conservative when we all come to do that for next year.
And I think, like we talked about before, when you’ve met one trust or foundation, you’ve met one trust or foundation, so each one is going to be different. I was speaking to one trust recently, and they’ve got a lot of cash reserves in place, so actually the next couple of years for them, they’re well positioned to continue their grant making relatively unaffected by the stock market and investments and so on. Others are perhaps in a more difficult position. But I think as well, it’s important to note with the bigger trusts and foundations that they’ve often got quite diversified funding portfolios. So that gives them… I think they’re often more able to weather these kind of crises that that can go on and dips.
And my sense is that for a lot of trusts and foundations, it’s going into more of a recovery phase now. So several that I’ve spoken to have said that they feel that they’re done for the moment on the emergency appeals, and they’re now returning to more of a business as usual. And it’s really about being aware of the potential for a second spike and a lockdown, and that obviously may change how they behave, really. But yeah, I think it is just about being in conversation with funders, really. And what our plan is in September, which will be six months really since the pandemic really broke out is to go back to a lot of the trusts that we’ve been talking to with a short update and follow up by phone to just find out where they’re at for the next six months and to explore with them how they’re thinking about giving to charities, particularly as so many would’ve given as a part of an emergency appeal, whether they would consider giving again this year.
And I’ve already spoken to a couple who have given to our appeal and they’ve suggested that they might consider given to Sue Ryder again in this financial year. So I think that’s an important point. I think we’re trained, as trust fundraisers often like to think, “Well, it’s one gift a year.” And most trusts will say that’s how they work, but I would very much encourage people to base it on having asked the question and got the answer from a trust rather than assuming, because you don’t want to miss out on any opportunity.
Yes. And to encourage that further, does your charity have more plans to create virtual events or webinars or a chance to do a Q&A with the head of nursing or something. You mentioned that worked so well for funders who had funded initially. Are there plans to do it again?
Yeah, absolutely. So we’re actually looking at a series of webinars at the moment, and a mix of national and local. So we’ve got plans, excuse me, in place to, to do a virtual tour of a… We just extended one of our neurological care centres in Scotland, so we’re planning with that kind of group of donors to invite them to that because obviously they can’t be coming to see it in person at the moment. But that’s a great chance to connect with them and then to see it very much as stewardship, but with the kind of question like, “We’d love to speak to you afterwards just to find out about where you’re at as a trust and foundation, and if we can work together again.”
We’re planning another webinar for one of our hospices locally as well, just to test that with local supporters, and another national one in the autumn as well. So I think that’s a key key for us at the moment, as it’s the prime way that we can engage with a group of donors, and given the success that we’ve had. But yeah, we are looking at different iterations really of the kind of webinars, and they’re just a chance to give them that update and give them that sense of them being part of a group of supporters, really, similar to them for Sue Ryder.
The reason I really liked that tactic is it can work both for existing supporters and you can invite new ones that you’re not yet working with, and especially now there are a few alternatives we’ve got to help them understand more and get inspired. So that tactic can work for new potential funders. I think a lot of the tactics we’ve talked about today are for the existing supporters. And I think a tough thing about the pandemic is existing supporters, many of them may be able to help, but it’s become harder to make cold approaches.
I know when you spoke at our breakfast club, so much of the growth, that 300% growth you were talking about, was achieved with doing better stewardship of existing supporters, rather than having some magic formula for finding new ones. You said then that’s as difficult as it ever was for you or anyone else. But all of that said, if we’re a trust fundraiser and we need to be making some approaches to people who haven’t supported before, do you have any ideas for how you do that or tactics that are more relevant than ever for increasing our chances of success with a relatively cold approach?
Absolutely. So we have seven hospices based in different areas. And we have a fundraising team based in… A community fundraising team based in each hospice. and what I’ve done with each of them is to produce a document, which has our kind of our key trust prospects, and these are ones that we don’t currently get support from, and have a very short bio on the particular trustees. So say if they work for, as they often do, a local company or that they have an official position within that community of some sorts. And from doing that, it’s really about getting it on their radar. So the community team are obviously… Well prior to this, they were talking to lots of people and meeting people locally. And even now they do have those groups of local supporters that they’re engaging with.
So it’s just a chance for them to be on the lookout, if there’s any connections there. And recently we have received 15,000 from a trust that hadn’t supported us before, and that came about because one of my heads of fundraising at a local hospice, they had a supporter who had a connection to this trust and they approached them on our behalf, and just because we knew that this trust supported in the community where we had a hospice, they were willing to support. So I think it’s the classic, if you are… If you’re a local charity, then great, I’m sure you’ll have supporters, the people who know other people. So if you can just get that out there, really about who that you’re trying to speak to, that you can often find a way in that way, and I think that has worked well for us in several cases.
I’d also say what’s been really successful for Sue Ryder during this time is a PR led campaign. And again, the context here is that our cause is perhaps more prominent because of hospices and the pandemic and so on, so the environment was one that helped us do that. But I think that has really driven our support because people have become aware of us from media coverage that we’ve gained. I like to think that even for other charities, that if you can generate media about what you’re doing and what your needs are, that that can only kind of help more people be aware of you locally or where you are, and from that could potentially give you an opportunity.
Because again, we got a trust that gave us a 100,000 pound gift in part because they’d seen our chief executive on the television talking about how the government really needed to step in and do an emergency funding package for hospices, which fortunately they did. They’d seen that and it really positioned Sue Ryder for them to say, “Okay, we’re going to give Sue Ryder 100,000,” alongside, actually, because they gave the same amount to Mary Curie. So they’d obviously seen, obviously Marie Curie has a much stronger brand than Sue Ryder, but because of the media we’ve gained, we were able to be seen in that way.
And I guess some of the people may not be able to influence whether there is going to be that kind of a PR campaign, but a key thing they can do is if you are fortunate enough that your organization is putting out some stories, being very proactive in how you share those links and post those articles through your own LinkedIn and social media and so on, that is a thing that is very doable. Making use of the existing content rather than wishing there was content or expecting your colleague in PR to do all of the sharing.
Absolutely. I know some trust fundraisers have, as part of trusts that haven’t spooled in before, but they want to get on their radar, that they have sent… If they’ve got a really good news article written about you, perhaps a feature on your service in a magazine or a paper, sending that to the trust, unsolicited in a way, but just to say almost as an introduction. And I guess it adds that social proof, doesn’t it, that it’s not you writing about yourself, it is actually a third party that is hopefully writing something really positive about you. So I think that if you’re a charity that fits with that trust’s criteria, but perhaps they just haven’t supported you yet, that that can be a great way to get on their radar, really.
And likewise, if you’ve managed to get coverage on TV and a short news clip or something like that, that again, sending that by email can be a way to, I suppose, engage.
Yes. Especially if they may have been saying no in the past, because that’s what their criteria were, but in the last four months, almost everything has changed, including both the problems your charity solves, and your charity’s strategy in solving it, and potentially maybe added flexibility in the trust’s criteria. With all of that different, if you could send some kind of authority or social proof that is talking about a new problem that you have just been solving and the journalist is writing up how, thank goodness, your charity did it. I think the old rules, people are likely to be more forgiving, aren’t they, I think now, of you being a bit more bold and will willing to be more proactive, I think given so much of the old order on the old etiquette is now broken down.
I always get so much from our conversations. I really appreciate your advice, but also all the examples you used to bring it to life. Thank you ever so much. I look forward to speaking to you again in another conversation about fundraising very soon. Bye-bye, Andy.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope you found hearing Andy’s approach to trust fundraising was helpful. If you need to improve your results in high value fundraising for your charity, then one thing that will help you do exactly that is the Major Gifts Mastery Program, which is designed for trust and major donor fundraisers, and also the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Program if corporate is your main focus. Over the last six years, these six month programs have helped hundreds of fundraisers to improve their skills, confidence, and fundraising results. The next programs start in October, 2020, and in this latest version, I’ve included powerful strategies that I’ve learned from dozens of outstanding fundraisers, like Andy, that I’ve interviewed in the last five months. The programs are designed to help you overcome the challenges of the pandemic and achieve valuable major gifts and corporate partnerships for your charity.
If you’d like to find out more, go to brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services. And if you want to get in touch or share this episode, I really appreciate your help in spreading the word so that more charities can benefit from this content that we’re working hard to create. Andy and I would love to hear from you. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter, Andy is @AndyWatts27, and I am @Woods_Rob. Until the next time, best of luck with your fundraising, and I look forward to sharing more Bright Spot strategies with you soon.