Episode 62: Creating a growth mindset in fundraising, with Davinia Batley

Episode Note

In a crisis, its more tempting than ever to keep rushing to just get things done. Sometimes, taking the time to make decisions about how you’re going to operate is immensely powerful.

In this episode, I talk to the brilliant Davinia Batley, about the decisions she made in March 2020, as the pandemic took hold. She explains the conclusions she came to and the key values she decided to embed in her leadership style and team culture.

She goes on to explain the various ways these decisions continue to pay off, as well as sharing some fundraising tactics that have delivered fabulous results. Davinia’s small charity, Become, which supports children in care and young care leavers, has raised significantly more in the year of the pandemic than they did the previous year. For instance, this includes their most successful appeal ever and the successful launch of a new gaming initiative.

If you want to share this episode with colleagues or on social media because you think it will help other fundraisers – THANK YOU SO MUCH! – we are both on Linked In and on twitter, Davinia is @daviniab311 and I am @woods_rob.

Further Resources

Ongoing training and inspiration…

Are you tired of one-off conference sessions and training days, where any info you learn fades away within a week or two of the event?

Davinia is a long-standing member of the Bright Spot Members Club. If you’d like to find out more about the training bundles (available 24 / 7) and live weekly coaching sessions that Davinia and the rest of the club get access to, or to try for just a month, go to www.brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join/

Want training, inspiration and support to increase fundraising income? You can find out more about the Major Gifts Mastery Programme; the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme or the Individual Giving Mastery Programme by following these links.

Quote from this episode

‘It’s helpful to give people permission to NOT do, what doesn’t need to be done. Get things out of the way that don’t need to be on the list right now.’

Davinia Batley

Rob Woods

Full Transcript of Episode 62

Rob

Hi, there value fundraisers, and welcome to Episode 62 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the podcast for anyone who works in fundraising, and who wants some ideas and a little dose of inspiration to help you enjoy your job and raise more money, especially during the pandemic. Now, if you’re the leader of a fundraising team, or you’re anyone who wants some ideas to encourage you to make proactive decisions about your approach to fundraising, then I hope you’re going to find today’s episode helpful. Because this time I’m sharing an interview I carried out recently with a wise and experienced fundraiser named Davinia Batley. Davinia is the Head of Fundraising and Engagement at a charity called Become.

 

At Bright Spot, we’ve had the good fortune to work with her through the Bright Spot Members Club over the last three years or so, and I’ve always found her approach both practical and inspiring. So a couple of months ago, I invited her to speak at our Breakfast Club for Fundraising Leaders and we got so much great feedback from that session that I couldn’t resist asking Davinia to come back and share some of her ideas for our podcast listeners, as well. So let’s get started. Here’s the interview. In case the listeners haven’t heard of Become, could you just give us a brief outline?

 

Davinia

Yeah, absolutely, Become is a small national charity. We are the national charity dedicated to supporting care experienced children and young people, and we provide direct support as well as champion change within the care system itself.

 

Rob

Okay, so it’s a wonderful charity, I’ve had the good fortune to find out a little bit more about it over the last couple of years when you and I have had occasional chats, and interestingly, if not a household name, yet, you and your team are working pretty hard on that. Some might say it might be one of the harder causes during the pandemic, when many people are focusing especially on health. And I think your results this year, and how hard your team have worked this year, demonstrate that the public still care deeply. There are many people who care about this particular cause. And they’ve been generous this year.

 

Davinia

Yeah, we’ve been really delighted by how the general public as well as funders have responded to supporting care experience young people throughout the pandemic and beyond. And it’s we’ve seen the results come into play over the past few months as we’ve come to the end of the year. And we’re really pleased that we are closing the year ahead of the original budget. And we brought in more money this year than we did previous pre-covid year, which feels like a very strong position to be in, given everything.

 

Rob

Yeah, so huge congratulations. And it’s just it’s not easy for any charity, actually, but especially smaller charities and charities which are not overtly connected to health. So congratulations to all involved. At our Breakfast Club. You mentioned some really interesting fundraising tactics, which I think our listeners will be keen to hear and they’re used to hearing on this show. But the thing that really made your talk stand out was actually about your thought, for me, was your thought process, which you described of what you were thinking and realising and deciding in March 2020, do you want to start at that point, and then we can move on through the story after that?

 

Davinia

Yes, we’ve got to cast our minds back to March 2020, when this strange thing was happening, and we didn’t really know, certainly didn’t know we’d be in this position a year later. But we found ourselves in lockdown and talking of COVID for the first time and so on. At that point, I realised a couple of things. First of all, that there’s much more that I didn’t know then that I did. But with the little information I did have, I realised that this was going to be the biggest challenge that I had faced as a Fundraising Leader, but the 2008 recession, I was in Corporate Responsibility. So I didn’t even have that as a kind of kind of frame of reference that I could refer back to. So this was going to be brand new for me as a Fundraising Leader. And I knew, as I say, there’s lots of unknowns, but I wanted to kind of take control as much as I could of what was in our power as Fundraisers for Become.

 

And so I stopped and made a series of decisions to try and help to frame what the next few months would look like. And in order to do that, I had to kind of take stock of myself and of the organisation etc, first, to then make those decisions. So I asked myself a couple of key questions. First of all, look, what’s my frame of reference say, I didn’t really have one I recognised I was wading into waters that were pretty new. Then I asked myself about my automatic coping strategies at time of crisis. And certainly for me, ordinarily, I’d double down, that would be my first thing is, okay, let’s get really busy. And I realised that that would not be particularly sustainable, and certainly wouldn’t have been sustainable for a whole year. So I knew that that approach wouldn’t help me or my team. And with team in mind, I asked myself, what did the team need? What did our supporters need? Of course, what does the charity need?

 

As well as asking what I needed. Because I think if ever there was a year where self-care was important. I think this is probably it. So with asking those questions, I then kind of was able to, well asking and answering those questions, I was able to get to a place of making some key decisions that I think were quite helpful for myself and for the team, etc, as we move forward into unknown waters. And so those decisions were to be transparent and open. And that manifests in loads of different ways. So for instance, one of the first things I had to do, one of the first things I did was do a re-forecast, as pretty much every charity Fundraising Director will be doing every forecast based on changes within the fundraising landscape. And I was really careful to not be bullish in any way within that forecast. And to not look to tell a good news story or to reassure, but just to be really clear, not to be overly dramatic either. But to be really clear about what the known challenges and what the assumed challenges are.

 

And that forecast, of course, I put to the board. And that really helped the board to feel confidence that there was, you know, a really pragmatic approach being taken within fundraising. And of course, that informs Finance and then that meant we could have really useful conversations at board level, and it meant that the board, were happy to give us the space to get on with finding the solutions and putting them into practice, which is really welcome as well. And I think it came from that real sense from them that we weren’t trying to say everything was okay, when evidently, it wasn’t. But equally with the team, I made a choice to be perhaps more open and vulnerable, if you like with the team than I ordinarily would be. So I talked about my living situation in lockdown, when I found it challenging, which, certainly there were days that I found it really challenging days that I didn’t. And I think that’s true for everyone. And I made a choice to share that and try to not be, you know, the stoic leader, but actually be wholly human. And I think that led to more open and honest conversations with the team, which I’m really grateful for. And it meant that then with those open and honest conversation of course as a manager, and as a leader, I was able to step in and provide support quickly, and effectively where that was kind of needed. So that was really helpful.

 

Rob

So first, making these decisions. And our first clear decision was, if to survive this, we have to be more open and deliberately transparent than we might want to be to somehow sort of just get through in the short term or put on a brave face. And what was another clear decision you made in terms of the values you really wanted to embrace.

 

Davinia

So the next one was around kindness. And I think kindness can seem like an odd one, because of course, we all hope that we’re always kind. Although we are human, we’re flawed. But you always hope you can. But I think to be kind of intentional in your kindness is what I was getting at. And, again, that manifests in different ways, certainly about being kind to ourselves, particularly within the team. And there are a couple of choices that we made as a team that was kind of framed around this kind of idea of kindness. So, you know, don’t let perfect get in the way of done was a real kind of way of working because that idea of aiming for perfectionism when you’re operating in the middle of a crisis is incredibly disruptive, and it’s just it’s unachievable.

 

So the idea of working in with that mindset is really helpful. But also being kind to our donors, and finding ways to, to recognise that they’re going through something enormous themselves. This is a global pandemic, they’re not immune, how can we show that we recognise that. And so we did different things. Such as get on the phone with our donors, which I’ll talk about perhaps a little bit more detail and kind of find ways to connect with them, to recognise that kind of the human impact of this pandemic of everyone. But then, going back to the team, we also we have a culture of learning and, always wanting to reflect and learn and move forward. But also I was really intentional about making sure that there was recognition and agreement and willingness to only do what needs to be done, don’t, you don’t need to do what doesn’t need to be done.

 

And to kind of just get things out of the way that don’t need to be on the list right now. And that’s an ongoing piece of work. Because of course, we always want to kind of like, tick everything off the boxes, off the list, etc, etc. But just really focus in on what is needed, is really helpful, because there’s only so much headspace you can carry. And again, it’s about being kind to ourselves and to our team.

 

Rob

So this is really interesting stuff Davinia. I love the fact that you’re highlighting this permission to look for things to stop doing. Because trouble with going on courses and listening to podcast is forever, there’s new ideas, in order to fit in the new stuff or adapt, we’ve got to somehow make time for it and the things that no longer are needed. It’s a great idea. And I love that as a leader, you’re conscious and explicit about it. Is there anything beyond that, that you’ve noticed, has helped you live this value and help your team do it in practice?

 

Davinia

Yeah, there are a couple of things. So I think first of all, is when working directly with members of the team is to kind of go through what’s on individuals work plan, and to talk through, you know, the value of that, if it’s necessary. And then to take things off. And do the same thing as a team. I think probably, although it seems odd to kind of put so much weight on this, but probably the most useful thing is how that’s done. So to not make it a big conversation, to not make it feel like a weighty decision that’s got to be, you know, really recognised and pondered and worked out.

 

And, you know, and just to kind of give it lightness. So that’s, it doesn’t feel for whomever it is I’m talking to, a team member. That’s they’re sacrificing something, and that something is lost, because it’s being taken off the work plan. And so the kind of the weight in that conversation is not given to that decision it’s given to the things that we are driving forward instead. And I think that’s really helpful. So it’s about where you where you emphasise where you put emphasis in each conversation, I think is really important.

 

Rob

Yes, that makes sense Davinia. And in terms of, in practice, the some of the activities that have happened because of these couple of values of transparency, and kindness. For instance, could you tell us a bit about how that has worked?

 

Davinia

Yeah, so it’s been, it’s been a really lovely year of kind of seeing these decisions being positively received. So for example, going back to the transparency and openness, we took that same approach of our donors, and very early on, we got on the phone with our donors and funders, and we got really open of them about, we don’t know what the next few months is going to hold. We know that’s going to be a challenge for the young people we work with. And we know we need to be there for them. But we don’t know how that’s going to look just yet because we’re know all working from home, etc.

 

But we’d really love you to come on this journey with us. And we had those kinds of conversations. We weren’t again, trying to reassure we were just trying to be really open and honest about what the situation was. And that was received so well. So for example, when I spoke to a couple of funders, the first funder in fact that I spoke with, in that phone call pledged 40k on restricted income, which was such a boost in so many ways. First of all, it was a great amount of money to receive and we’re incredibly grateful. But second of all, it really helped to immediately motivate myself and the team’s got it is worth getting on the phone, it is worth having these conversations and funders are responding really well to that and to be able to have that kind of immediate validation is really brilliant. And then there’s another example where we speaking, I was speaking with another funder and had a couple of conversations with them. And it was around about April time. So a few weeks after lockdown had come into play, that that particular funder opened up funding pot specifically in response to COVID. And she said, I was on the phone with her again, and she said to me loo Davinia this is now available. We’ve spoken enough that I’m able to complete the form for you, don’t worry, I’ll submit it on your behalf. And I’ll submit it for the maximum value of 20k, which was just incredible. And she was successful in her applications. It was just really wonderful that, that she recognised how she could be helpful, and that she felt that she had enough information from me to do that. And that she was kind of reflecting back the value of those conversations. It was really lovely.

 

Rob

Well, congratulations, Davinia. Again, I can see how on so many different levels. Getting these financial results helps. And it just seems to me one of the reasons it’s so powerful is it. It just reminds us all of the obvious truth. It’s not us fundraisers separate from these people who benefit from the money separate from these people who care and might want to fund it. We are all in this together, people who care about this particular issue. And that’s among the most extreme examples I’ve ever heard of her being part of your family. Yeah, filling in the form for you.

 

Davinia

Yeah, absolutely. It’s, yeah, it’s a really lovely kind of example of people feeling close enough to the cause, as a result of those conversations, be able to be a really active ally. So really grateful.

 

Rob

Hi, it’s Rob. And I wanted to jump into the middle of this episode really quickly to tell you about something I’m so excited about, which is the way that our Brightspot Members Club has been helping fundraisers to not only survive, but also to do really well to raise funds. So effectively, during the pandemic. Through the club, our 300 members get access to a whole library of my best training films, as well as regular live coaching sessions to help you handle whatever challenges are coming at you each week. And we’ve also found that handling these challenges has not just been about getting the right advice or strategy. It’s also been about morale.

 

And we’ve found that the encouragement and help that our members get from each other has really helped them to stay positive. If you’re not yet a member, but you’d like to find out more, go to BrightspotMembersClub.co.uk/join. That’s BrightspotmMembersClub.co.uk/join, I would love to welcome you to the club, do my utmost to help you succeed in your fundraising. For now, though, back to the interview, as I asked Davinia to share more detail about how prioritising certain values, helped her team’s fundraising results.

 

Rob

I think you also talked about some really interesting ways that being proactive with kindness to your supporters, not only helped you in the team feel good, but also in any way, it was a valuable thing to do from the point of view of the charity.

 

Davinia

Yeah, so we were, as I say, we were really conscious that as we were going through this enormous in a world changing pandemic, so to were donors, and we wanted to reflect that back to our supporters in any way we could so, again, we got on the phone and had some really lovely conversations with individual supporters, consciously not asking for any gifts in those calls. It was all about just connecting and seeing how they were, and letting them know what we were doing and what we were still kind of trying to figure out as a charity back to those really open and transparent calls. But ultimately, those calls were about checking in with our donors and making sure seeing how they were getting on. And then around summertime, we knew that with the lockdown continuing far beyond anyone’s expectations that they were going to be quite a lot of people that were feeling loneliness, which was certainly something that the young people we support were experiencing. And we knew that that would also be true for a lot of our donors.

 

So we created some postcards for all of our supporters, sent them purposely through the post rather than e-post so that there was something lovely that would come through their letterbox that was just a little, little moment of respite from otherwise quite difficult news around the pandemic. And that just kind of created a break for everybody, we hope. And both of those things were really well received. So the phone calls that we had early on in lockdown. were absolutely there to connect with our donors and to make sure that they were okay. They actually served as a primer for an appeal. That went out not long after. And that appeal, I’m really pleased to say was the most successful appeal in the charities history.

 

Rob

Wow. So I think it’s so wonderful that when we act on our best instincts and are genuinely doing things, because we care about our supporters, and there is no agenda, isn’t it also glorious that, you know, in terms of reciprocation, it can’t help but make it more likely that people will think of you and want to be generous as well. In terms of the various values you, you particularly wanted to give more energy to this year. So far, we’ve talked about openness or transparency, and we’ve talked about kindness. Remind me, what were the other couple of decisions you made from March and then and then shared with your team.

 

Davinia

So the other two, I think, that are worth exploring a little bit more, were around agility and growth mindset, particularly having a real willingness to learn and to test and iterate as we went along with particularly new products that we put into marketplace.

 

Rob

And, as I remember it, your team and you as a fundraiser, you’ve always been interested in this, because I met you a long time ago, when you were interested in learning, and you’ve been a member of the Bright Spot Member’s Club for least two or three years. So I know that you’ve always made time for learning. But I think it’s really interesting that you were explicit about it in March now more than ever, with all this change, we have to, to be interested in doing a thing, not just for its end result, but also as part of a learning process. And I think you also mentioned on Breakfast Club, that it helped you this particular one, it helped you make time for trying a particular fundraising project out and getting it out there in a braver and faster way than ordinarily might have happened.

 

Davinia

Yeah, so when the lockdown came about, we had, well as the year started, we had a fundraising products kind of earmarked for later in the year. And the plan was to work out that product and to work it up, and then launch it over the year. We instead with a lockdown massively accelerated that process. And then within about two weeks of lockdown, we had launched a brand new gaming product called Become Players with a gaming marathon ask attached to it. And it was possible for two reasons one, because it was led very ably by Will Robinson, our Fundraising Manager, but two because we had this culture of being really willing to, to test and learn and to continue to move forward with whatever we’ve learnt, apply it move forward, learn apply, move forward. And that manifests in many different ways from what ads we put out there where people responding to which ads, we kind of then kind of put all of our budget behind those ads, images, the same etc, etc.

And also built into that, and I cannot say this one enough. And I’m actually just surprised I haven’t mentioned this yet, is we were really open to willing to and recognise we would fail. And that that was okay, because that’s absolutely a part of learning. And I made sure I had those conversations with our CEO that we would fail as we as we progressed, and that I had those conversations with my team that is okay to fail, because that’s how we learn. And we continue to embrace failure as a really important part of learning. And we continue to test.

 

Rob

Yeah, and it’s it. I think you said before that this was a completely new kind of way of fundraising. And that you did manage to just get this, get something out the door and learn from it. And I mean, in the same way that IT Software Engineers have always worked this way. For some fundraisers. This is a especially if we don’t we’re not used to working in the digital world so much. It is a stretch. It’s a different mindset, isn’t it? Is there anything else you could share about how you and your team managed to make this more normal?

 

Davinia

Yeah, well, first of all, we took that kind of same approach outside of just a digital world so that that attitude of, of testing iterating is absolutely same thing we’ll take we take to, what’s the best way to work up, a trust application.  Or, whatever it might be, I think we’ve really got that kind of embedded across our fundraising culture, which I think is really helpful because it means we’re forever, sort of forever, feeding back our learnings and kind of feeding into that culture and normalising it and making it okay to kind of constantly test and iterate and learn and fail. and everything in between.

 

With regards to like, when we first went into the pandemic, and to make that comfortable, it was all about constant reassurance and it being okay to do that. And again, talking to the board and, and particularly to the CEO about everything we do this year is not going to be successful. And then having those really kind of like, honest conversations again, and getting that comfort, and then bringing that comfort back to the team as well and saying, you know, everyone’s behind us, we’re okay. And been up to reinforce that.

 

Rob

This is really interesting stuff to Davinia. And in practice, what does that look like?

 

Davinia

Yeah, so it manifests in many different ways. For instance, at the end of an appeal, we’ll do a review of the appeal, including our learning, but perhaps more all inclusive way across the team is at the end of this year, that’s just closed, we did a review of the year kind of came together, I spent some time reflecting on what we’ve learned, what worked well, what we didn’t get to do, what we’d like to do, and so on. And actually, even within that review, we learnt that having it on an annual basis is useful. But actually this year, we’re going to do it three times in the year. So we’re learning within the learning as we go ahead. And that’s really helpful.

 

Rob

Yeah, and I get a strong feeling that in any given one to one meeting or team meeting, some of the time that gets spent is on not just talking about victories, which can be tempting to do in some teams. But it’s embedded in everyone’s mindset now that we come and share what we learnt from this, this project or this latest stage in this project.

 

Davinia

Yeah, absolutely. So is, I think that embedded is definitely the word. So it’s almost unusual now to have a conversation, be it in a team meeting one to one or informal, where we’re talking about a particular piece of work that doesn’t include an element of what I’ve learned from it as well. So it’s really, everything is about looking back in order to move forward.

 

Rob

This is really valuable stuff Davinia. I would love to talk more and more because I always learn so much when we have these conversations, but I better get the episode finished. Thank you so much for sharing what your process has been in the last 13/14 months. And some of the examples of how that’s paid out in fundraising terms for the charity as well. I wish you huge congratulations to you and all your team on this wonderful achievement in the last year or so. And I look forward to catching up with you on the podcast again soon. Davinia Batley, thank you so much.

 

Davinia

Thank you.

 

Rob

So I hope you found the Davinia’s, ideas and examples helpful. If so, do remember to subscribe to the podcast today, so that you never miss an episode. For a full transcript and a summary of the episode. Go to the podcast section of our website, which is Brightspotfundraising.co.uk. As I say Davinia has been a member of our Bright Spot Members Club for over three years now. So she enjoys access to our weekly problem solving sessions and masterclasses to all my best learning bundles, and to our supportive community. If you’d like to find out more about our training and inspiration club for fundraisers, or to dip your toe in and try for just a month, go to BrightspotMembersClub.co.uk/join.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s left us a kind review on your podcast provider, and to everyone who’s been spreading the word about this show to colleagues and on social media, helping us to get this content out to as many charities as possible during the pandemic. Davinia and I would love to hear what you think about this episode. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter, Davinia is @daviniaB311 and I am @Woods_Rob, thank you so much for listening today. Best of luck with your fundraising and I look forward to sharing another bright spot episode with you very soon.