Episode 51: Inspiring high value gifts through online events, with Julide Troedson

Episode Notes

As other income streams have been hit, high value fundraising has become more important than ever for many charities. But amidst all the challenges of the pandemic, how do you deepen relationships and inspire people to donate?

One charity that has tried a range of tactics in high value fundraising this year, with great success, is St John’s Ambulance. In this episode, I share an interview with Julide Troedson, who heads up the team that looks after philanthropy, partnerships and special events.

Our conversation includes Julide’s to story-telling, stewardship and conversations with supporters. And we explore how the charity created an unusually successful on-line fundraising event that inspired generous donations as well as stronger relationships.

If you want to get in touch or share this episode, we’d love to hear from you – we’re both on linked in, and on twitter Julide is @JulideTroedson and I’m @woods_rob.

If you find this episode helpful, please subscribe to the podcast today, so you don’t miss out on all the other episodes we have planned to help charities raise funds successfully during the pandemic.

Further Resources

Want training, inspiration and support to increase high value income? You can find out more about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme (which Julide attended a few years ago) or the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme by following these links.

Free E-book. If you’d like to know powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, then do check out 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

Other episodes for high value fundraisers

Episode 33 Generating major gifts momentum, with Paul Davies

Episode 41 Part 2 – Story-telling, internal relationships and more, with Jamal Iqbal

Episode 19 How to inspire supporters in spite of the pandemic, with Ben Swart

Quote from this episode

‘We found that conversations with supporters before the (virtual) event are really important. We had calls and emails with people to really entice them to attend.’

Julide Troedson

Full Transcript of Episode 51

Rob:

Hello, my name is Rob Woods and welcome to episode 51 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for fundraisers who want our ideas and inspiration to help you raise more money and make a bigger difference for your charity or non-profit, especially during the pandemic.

And in today’s interview, I’m talking to a wise and experienced fundraiser named Julide Troedson, And we’re talking all about the approach this year and her colleagues at St. John’s Ambulance have taken to high-value fundraising during the pandemic. This includes fantastic results with companies, major donors and trusts, as well as a hugely successful online fundraising event towards the end of 2020. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to Julide today about her approach to fundraising during the pandemic. And I hope you do too. Julide Troedson, how are you?

Julide:

I’m doing very good, Rob, how are you?

Rob:

I’m very well at the end of a long week at the end of a very long year. Thank you so much for making time for this conversation. How’s the end of this year treating you?

Julide:

I think I’m very tired and so is my team, but they’ve been doing amazing things this year, so I’m really excited to tell you all about it.

Rob:

Yeah. And that was the reason I was so pleased you agreed to the interview. Just before we get into the detail, help me get your job title right, you’re at St. John’s Ambulance and you’re the head of several different teams.

Julide:

I’m head of philanthropy, partnerships and special events. I’ve had the privilege to be there for a year, and it’s been a really great time, lots of change, and obviously going through a challenging time fundraising, but we’ve done some brilliant stuff so delighted.

Rob:

So I gather, I’ve been hearing about it through the grape vine, as well as a couple of conversations you and I have had about it. Just to start off, across this really difficult time with the pandemic, I gather you’ve managed to achieve some fabulous increase in income, and there’s various tactics by which you’ve achieved that. One of those is a really interesting approach to a virtual event which we’ll come on to, but just to get us started, what have the results for your team been? And indeed do give results for the event.

Julide:

So we are 30% up on our target from last year, which is amazing given the landscape we’re working in at the moment across fundraising. And we had an event at the end of the year which raised £5,000 on the night, but around it, 33,000 towards some of the work that we were talking about. So it’s been really, really pleasing to see.

Rob:

These are really brilliant results, Julide. I appreciate that you are a charity that works in the area of human health so at some level, some of what you’re about speaks to the many concerns that people have got to do with COVID-19. But still, I know of many other organizations in this space that have really struggled, especially in the high value space so really well done. I would love to unpack a little what your approach has been, what some of the concepts are that you think have helped to achieve these results. And when we were speaking before, you mentioned with strategies changing so much and so many difficulties your organization is facing, you mentioned the need for a more robust approach to talking to supporters.

Julide:

I think it’s more of a human approach absolutely. We need to know what we’re talking about in terms of our staff, our figures, where the money’s going, but actually, I think it’s just a bit about being open and honest about where the need is. Also across the board, I looked at a lot of the projects that we’re working on and the different income streams, and I really want to be obviously bringing in income, but I really want to be building those pipelines and having meaningful conversations that go on into next year and beyond, and make sure that we’re really taking people on that journey with us. So I think that’s the way we’ve approached it.

And I think we’ve also been doing a bit of what we’ve called rebel fundraising. So for example, I think particularly in the philanthropy landscape, you might assume that a gift might take 18 months to two years to bring in or something similar, but we’ve actually been much braver about talking and asking in that area, at least we’re having better conversations with new people as well. We’ve been talking to trusts and foundations in different ways that we haven’t before and in corporate partnerships, we’ve been really, again, trying to hone our sweet spot and try and find really better matching partners. And just generally, I think because of the time this period’s given us, it’s about really understanding our supporters better. So yeah, I think that’s the approach we’ve taken, it’s about that human, open, honest conversation to take forward.

Rob:

And I mean, lots of charities would like to do that, but they don’t always manage it in practice. Practically speaking with your team, have you managed to get people having more conversations on the phone or through some other electronic means? And if so, what tips do you have for increasing the chances that we’ll have those actual conversations?

Julide:

We’ve really gone through our pipelines with a fine tooth comb. We’ve picked up the phone, we’ve sent emails. We also had our first ever emergency appeal for the whole organization across different pieces and different income areas. For my area, obviously it’s more the high value piece. So we were having a bit more I suppose bespoke conversations around where we need help. And I think that has resulted in some quite amazing relationships that have been ongoing. So for example, we had a corporate partnership or a corporate support that had come through from the appeal at $300,000. We then were able to carry on the conversation with them to then take them on to talk about other areas of our work that they might not have been aware of before. And they’re now funding our youth work at £300,000, which is amazing. So again, that was through being open, giving them options to kind of know more about what we do.

Rob:

And I think from early on, you decided, because you couldn’t invite people to real events and do you couldn’t sit and have coffee with people, you were determined to set up regular chances to share the stories and the impact of what your supporters were doing. I think those were a series of breakfast events, but what broadly was the idea and how did they work in practice?

Julide:

So I didn’t really want to, or as a whole team, we didn’t really want to wait until the end of the year to show people impact of those donations a few months later, because you kind of missed the moment. So we put together some impact breakfast events, which were for a wide audience of corporate philanthropy, but pretty much everyone who really wanted to know about everything and who’ve given to us or who we were having conversations with so they could really understand how important that work was and what impact they’ve had.

We had case studies and people who come and talk to us a couple who are NHS workers, paramedics, who then drive an ambulance for St. John in their spare time to really bring that work to life, all sorts of really amazing people doing amazing things in their spare time and volunteering for St. John. And also, we had exactly the example I’ve just given you the corporate partner, I was really keen to show the voices across the board. So actually I asked for that particular corporate partner to speak at one of these breakfasts from their perspective about why they had funded our work specifically, and that went down amazingly. And also it has the ripple effect, hopefully that other corporates will want to do the same.

But more than anything, I wanted to highlight how important that relationship is to us. And that’s the one that’s gone on to, again, we’ve been able to, from that back breakfast, keep talking to them to get to a point where they’re now funding at quite a significant level of our use work. So they really important, I think. These events are not just about income generation after an event, it’s about building those relationships and showing what amazing things people do with their donations.

Rob:

And obviously different charities have different levels of resource so they’re going to have to decide how often they can do something like this, but for your organization, how regularly do you do those impact breakfasts?

Julide:

So this concept was something that we came up with because of the scenario we’re in at the moment, but we loved them so much we’re taking them into next year. So we’re going to be doing them quarterly. And it’s going to be part of, hopefully, once we’re back to face-to-face, we will continue to do virtual plus face-to-face events because we are a UK wide charity. We don’t always get to hear from everyone who does work or volunteers for us. So actually virtually, the silver lining is that we get to have more voices and we want to carry that on.

Rob:

Yeah. And one thing I love about that is just the notion that it’s a series of things, and it’s already been a series this year, rather than put all our eggs in one basket and it’d be a one-off, that’s a key thing I’ve noticed that some other successful fundraisers have done as well. And the other thing I’m reminded of, Julide, when you and I had a chat recently, you mentioned that one of your responsibilities is that you’re chair of trustees for another charity called Include. And they had an interesting example for how they’ve helped people feel connected and included in this year when many of us have been feeling isolated.

Julide:

Yeah. So Include, I am chair of trustees for this wonderful charity who are a choir. So this has been quite tricky, obviously, for people who might have understanding or speaking difficulties during this time, a whole other level of trying to connect people. But they recently took part in the Big Gift Christmas challenge and I really loved the content that was coming out from that campaign that they put together. They some amazing bits of footage and film that was people singing obviously in the choir, but all sorts and it included volunteers, choir members, staff, and the general community. And the feeling you got that when you kind of watch them is that you’re already part of their community. So that was the beautiful, better, the storytelling of why it was so important to give to them. It really is a family. People are connected and they’ve been doing lots of stuff online and taking their choir online in fact, so that storytelling piece about everybody’s perspective really I think gave a really full picture.

Rob:

I think this year more than ever helping us, the viewer or the supporter, meet our need to feel connected, to feel part of something we care about is clearly so crucial and it sounds like Include did that really well. And again, it’s interesting to note, I gather Include is a relatively small organization, I’m guessing that maybe not all of their footage was beautifully slick, but another theme you were telling me the other day for your other events in your day job is it doesn’t have to be polished and perfect in this day and age of video communication, it’s heart and intention needs to be in the right place. And for that reason, even a relatively small organization without lots of resources or editing budgets or so on can still put together something that really is so enjoyable to watch.

Julide:

Yeah. And okay, that goes across big charities as well with all of our budgets being frozen or when we we’re a bit tighter on resource, you can also repurpose a lot of the content. So for example, at the big event that I told you about at the end of year, the Back to our Future event, we had Sir Trevor McDonald interviewing a couple of our volunteers, Mary and Luke, telling their stories, Mary was at university and then became a volunteer for St. John at just the time that COVID hit. So she was also then volunteering in one of the Nightingale hospitals and telling her story about being with people who were not with their families when they’re poorly and being there for them. And Luke, who is architect of the year telling his wonderful story about his journey with St. John, we used some of that content again for a different event. And that, again, you could repurpose into written word or just using audio and using it on social media. So you don’t have to have lots and lots of perfected things, you can just use it in a slightly different way.

Rob:

Yeah, and just knowing that, some of the other charities I’ve been working with, we’ve found that knowing that there’s lots of other ways you can reuse bits of a story in those different formats really can help you justify all the time and effort it takes to find great stories in the first place and do the recording well in the first place, because maybe weeks later you can be sending a clip to some major donors or include a part of a story on social media or in a trust application or something. So it really pays you back.

And even just taking a recording that you get transcribed, sometimes you can even get it transcribed for free, there are services that do that, and then turning that recording of a story into a blog. The mindset now of looking for ways to repurpose can help you communicate those stories to different audiences and to audiences that might ordinarily be accessing your charity’s information through different channels.

Julide:

I think that’s really true. And I think also internally, lots of teams are super busy and you can’t keep going to the same people for the same story or a different story, or have multiple teams going to someone who might be able to give content. So it also streamlines how that comms piece works across organizations. Obviously you need to update your content to make sure it’s relevant, but I think it really does help across all income streams and you also have that continuity of story across the whole piece.

Rob:

Yeah. And in terms of this big online event, I mean, lots of the events we’ve been talking about so far are not primarily about getting money through the event, they’re about engagement and inspiration and helping people feel part of something. But this other event where normally would have had a gala dinner, this time you chose to do an online event and to tell the stories and give people the opportunity to give on the night. But you were also clear from the start that it was nevertheless also a really important relationship building piece to increase engagement, to get more conversations from it. Before we get onto a couple of those bits, I’m curious as to what your approach was to selling the idea in the first place with your colleagues.

Julide:

I think we needed a touch point at the end of the year. So if we didn’t have that, there would have been a gaping hole of no contact with people. And so it was really important to me that we did this and the audience was a mixture, again, of all of our high value supporters, but also some of our key stakeholders across the organization. So for me, it was really important we did it, and we had conversations internally about whether it was going to be worthwhile, would we actually raised enough money from it? But I suppose if you’re going to set KPIs against something like this in an unknown world where you’ve never done it before, I was a little bit cautious, but I think I approached it in three ways. One was obviously around income towards the work we do, but it’s about meaningful conversations.

And that, from my perspective was being able to tell the stories that then are stakeholders or advocates, we’re a UK wide organization, but they can then go out and use that content and have really good conversations to help us build our networks. It also gave the stories about everything we’ve done from our history right to what we’re doing now. Some of our internal stakeholders didn’t even know some of the information that we were able to pull together for this or some of the stories. So it’s about meaningful conversations with our supporters as well as stakeholders. But then also I think for me is driving the traffic to maybe our social, digital or services for maybe another organization. So it’s a bit of a three prong attack kind of, I suppose, pulling an event of that nature together. But for me, it was more about telling all the good stuff and all the efforts that everyone has gone to this year and the impact of those donations as well.

Rob:

Hey, it’s Rob. And I just want to jump in really quickly just in case you’re a corporate fundraiser or trusts or a major donor fundraiser to let you know that we’ve just launched new dates for our mastery programs in major gifts and in corporate partnerships fundraising. We’ve found that these in-depth programs which include master classes and individual coaching and access to all of the courses and support in the Bright Spot members club are proving more helpful than ever to fundraise this during the pandemic. In fact, if you were at our virtual breakfast clubs last year, you may remember one wonderful fundraiser named Leanne who attended our corporate mastery program share how she used things she learned in that program to raise four large gifts and partnerships totalling more than £90,000 as the pandemic unfolded, which made a huge difference to her small international literacy charity.

So if you’re curious about how the corporate mastery program or the major gifts mastery program would help you to improve high value fundraising results, you can find out more by visiting our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk, and then clicking on the services section to find out more about either the corporate one or the major gifts mastery program. For now, though, back to the interview as I asked Julide to explain how her recent online fundraising event worked. Really top line, could you describe what Back to our Future was?

Julide:

So it was a virtual event, online hour and a half private invitation only. So we focused on three areas of work that we need funding for, so bringing that to life through either archive images, film interviews, like I’ve mentioned with Sir Trevor McDonald, all sorts to just really bring the whole piece to life. I’m very much the kind of person who, if you see something in black and white or in a proposal, it’s not quite the same as hearing it from everybody so we really wanted to bring those three pieces kind of into colour rather than black and white. So that’s the way we approached it. So we did a case study, a film, maybe three elements to one piece of area of work, and then that format again for the next. So that’s the way we did it. And then with an an ask at each point.

Rob:

And so there would be those stories, and then there would be an ask, an opportunity to give, and then how would people be invited to give?

Julide:

So it was through a platform we use, Givergy. We’d also had some previous conversations before and after the event that also garnered some donations, but predominantly on the night it was given Givergy.

Rob:

And just before we move on, it might be something really obvious, but that sometimes falls by the wayside, or it might be kind of less obvious, but having been through that, if there’s a charity listening and they’re considering doing some kind of virtual event that inspires people to want to give there and then. Any last top tips about making that work?

Julide:

I think it’s about, how do you want your audience to feel when they come away from that event? So it really is about being quite eloquent in that piece around why it’s so important to fund it, but making it as human as possible. It’s a fine balance.

Rob:

And then the next question is, I gather one reason you were really pleased with the event wasn’t just the money on the night, that you had a strong sense that doing it, did it lead to more conversations and deeper relationships with people who’d been there? What would be your tips for how the listener might deliberately achieve that through their event?

Julide:

So I would say pre-event conversations are really important. We had calls and emails with people to really entice them to attend the event, a bit of a teaser about what might be coming up and also a little bit about the content. Then obviously at the event on the night, we did ask people to contact us, keep talking to us. So then we did follow up after the event as well. So on the morning after, sent out emails and had phone calls with attendees

Rob:

And Julide, as you look back on this event in particular, is there anything else that you find interesting about how your organization has approached this and in relation to weighing up success of an event like this?

Julide:

I think you just need to be aware that it’s not always about income on the night, it’s about being patient and really having those meaningful interactions with your supporters. So often you won’t get those results until much later on and it’s really difficult to measure at this point, especially when it’s an event about how you’re celebrating people’s impact into your organization. So I think the best thing to do when you’re talking to internal stakeholders maybe is around that maybe expectation management around the fact that you’re going to have to be patient and it will work in the end, and I suspect some of the conversations I would give six months to, and hopefully we’ll be seeing some results, but it is at the end of the day giving your supporters the best experience they can of you and the best stories you can of how they’ve made such an important contribution to your work. So I think that’s the key thing to take away.

Rob:

Yeah. It’s the thing to be aiming for first and foremost in the first place and trusting that if we do certain things right then in due course the money will follow anyway.

Julide:

It will, and I think it is that if you can have a really lovely stewardship process throughout the year, you’ve got some really nice touch points, some really interesting content, some great stories, you’re teeing yourself up for some really great conversations to take forward.

Rob:

Yeah. And then the more of those great conversations you have, sooner or late some people, as has been true in your experience, some of those people are going to give generously. Well, well done, Julide, a huge congratulations to you and all your colleagues on a wonderful set of initiatives this year and wonderful results that have been generated by that effort. And thank you for coming on the podcast to share how you’ve gone about it. I look forward to catching up with you very soon, but for now Julide, thank you and goodbye.

Julide:

Thank you, Rob.

Rob:

So there you go. I hope you found Julide’s ideas and examples helpful. If you did, please remember to subscribe to the podcast today so that you don’t miss out on any of the other episodes that we’ve got coming up. For a full transcript and a summary of this episode go to the blog and podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk. And if you’d like some more ideas to help you succeed during the pandemic, then why not download my ebook? It’s called Power Through the Pandemic, and it gives seven key strategies to help you raise money even now through major donors, corporates, and trusts/ you can download it for free at brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power.

And I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s been spreading the word about this show to colleagues and on social media. I really appreciate it. And we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. We are both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Julide is @JulideTroedson, which has spelt at J-U-L-I-D-E T-R-O-E-D-S-O-N. Julide Troedson, and I am @woods_rob/ finally, thank you so much for listening today, and I wish you the very best of luck with whatever you’re doing today to make a positive difference.