Episode 85: Six Valuable Listens, with Louise Morris and Rob Woods

Episode Notes

If you’d like to hear some useful lessons and stories from the podcast in 2021, or you’d like tips on what to listen to next, we hope this one will help.

Rob is joined by the excellent Louise Morris of Summit Fundraising to talk about some episodes she most often recommends to fundraisers she works with.

They discuss helpful themes and stories from the show this year, including the power of kindness in leadership and fundraising; fundraising with gamers; how to make it easier to ‘ask’ for a major gift; finding match givers; influencing colleagues; Facebook and Instagram Lives; going the extra mile and more.

If you’d like to get in touch or share this episode with other charities, THANK YOU! You can find us both on Linked In and on twitter Louise is @summitfundraise and Rob is @woods_rob.

Further Resources


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‘It’s not always the new shiny techniques that make the biggest difference. It’s often about doing the basics of fundraising day in, day out, looking after our supporters really well.’

Louise Morris

Transcript for Episode 85

Rob: Hello and welcome to Episode 85 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. This is the show for anyone who works in fundraising and who wants some ideas and maybe a little dose of inspiration to help you enjoy your job and raise more money, especially during the pandemic. Dear listener, today we’re doing a slightly different show. I’m going to be joined by my associate colleague, Louise Morris from Summit Fundraising and she and I are going to be talking about some episodes, which we think can particularly help people, as we look back on 2021 and we look forward into 2022. So, Louise Morris, are you there?

Louise: Hi, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob: Thank you ever so much. So for the listener, what I said to you a couple of weeks ago was Louise, it’ll be wonderful if you could choose two or three of the episodes of the podcast from 2021, which you’ve enjoyed and you know that the fundraisers who you coach and you train and some of the chief execs, you help in charities that they’ve particularly appreciated. I asked you to choose two or three so that our listeners could get a heads up on your ideas. Then also I want to share two or three of mine from the same point of view so that we can create an episode that can help people get a few stories, a few tips and also potentially go out and find the full episode if it’s something that suits them. So with that in mind, what’s one of them that you’ve found particularly helpful.

Louise: Well, my first is Episode 62, which is with Davinia Batley and who is a fundraising leader and all around her attitude to culture, leadership and fundraising when the pandemic first hit. So in some ways you can think, well, that’s a bit out of date but there was just some brilliant stuff in there that I think whatever fundraising discipline you are at and whatever level you’re at, it could really help. The key thing that I took from this was the intentional kindness that Davinia speaks about.

Rob: Yeah, a thing I like about it is, Become, which is the charity she works for, their fundraising success, if you just look at the numbers, it has been really stunning growth they’ve achieved in the last two years, including some really extremely generous gifts from trusts and the most successful appeal they’ve ever had in the autumn of 2020. But the thing I like about it is most of what Davinia talks about, about how that was achieved, wasn’t even the fundraising technique, though there’s some really brilliant things they’ve done, which she mentions in passing. The genius of it is how she helps us understand that, how she decided to be them of the decision, philosophically for me as a leader, what do I need to be like? And we as a team, how can we be? She just brings that to life beautifully, how that was the most important decision compared to any of the specific fundraising initiatives or decisions.

Louise: Yeah.

Rob: As you listen to that one and that notion of intentional kindness, how did it pan out in actually helping to get the results?

Louise: Well, one of the things I think is particularly pertinent, you and I talk about it a lot, Rob, because as you say, it’s not always the new shiny techniques that work. It’s sometimes the basics of fundraising day in, day out, looking after our supporters but it’s not always easy to do and it’s not easy to do in a pandemic and especially in that first lockdown. So hearing Davinia talk about how she was openly more vulnerable with the team when she would normally have… She talked about doubling down, that’s being so self aware that she knew what she was likely to go into but actually being more vulnerable with the team, which then gave them the confidence and encouragement to be picking up the phones to supporters, to key funders as well and actually checking in.

So not having that agenda but that kindness that she was displaying internally for the team actually then being reflected externally with donors and you and I know Rob that the organizations that have spent more time checking in with donors, not just calling when they need money or when they want something, are the ones that build better relationships and they raise more and yes, that’s on the major gift side, but that’s also on people giving at any level, shown by Thankathons and various things. So for me, it was the way that culture wasn’t just about the team internally but also externally with supporters.

Rob: Yeah. Beautifully said, Louise. We have seen that pattern. I know lots of your clients at Summit Fundraising, absolutely that’s a thing they’ve been doing really well for the last two years and so it flows on it’s, it’s not hard to see why people have felt appreciated. They’ve understood the difference gifts are making and of course then when an extra opportunity to give has come their way they’ve been generous. And yeah, I totally agree. Listening to Davinia explain how that panned out, even if it’s obvious in a way people have fed back to us that the listening to it has helped you really stick to your good instincts on that front.

Louise: And so Rob, moving on to one of your favorites, I know this was around gaming and links back to the charity Become as well.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. So one of the ones we’ve, especially in the last six weeks, I don’t know why but consistently one of the episodes of the podcast that has been listened to most has been the Episode 77. In fact, both episodes that we did about gaming fundraising initiatives. It does flow nicely on because this was an episode created with Will Robinson, who’s a colleague of Davinia at Become. There’s a couple of reasons why I love it. One of them is I really got a jolt from talking to Will about just how most charities can’t afford to ignore gaming as a really sensible option. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be the number one thing in the portfolio of every charity but Will’s point to me early on was whatever kind of cause you are almost certainly some of your supporters game on a regular basis. It’s one of their leading hobbies.

He just made the point, not only even before the pandemic was the hobby of video gaming dramatically growing year on year and then as you can imagine, during all the lockdowns, it’s just gone through the roof but he was also saying and that’s all demographics. It’s not just young men and children who are gaming. Lots and lots of people count gaming as one of their hobbies and that means your charity has some gamers in its supporter base. Another reason I like it is many larger charities have seen this trend for the last decade and they’ve got something strategic in place to look at it and to raise money with gamers.

But I really like Will’s example because they are a fairly small organization and early in the lockdown they decided to explore whether this could suit their fundraising and their supporter base and they initiated a first go at it and during a weekend they invited people to raise money for the charity during a particular weekend. It was so successful they, at the time when I interviewed Will, I think in early 2021, they’d repeated it twice. So across three particular initiatives, they’d raised more than £16,000 and crucially the 65 people had raised the money, none of them had donated to the charity before.

Louise: Yeah. I love that and I also think it’s just a real lesson for us. It’s so easy to completely generalize our supporters like, well, our supporters are older and I think a lot of us were guilty of that, certainly I was 10 odd years ago in social media. Well, my supporters are over 65, so they’re not on social media and I think gaming, it can be very easy to do that as well, particularly if you’re a charity that has a traditionally older supporter base but my father-in-law is 75 plus and he has a gaming chair. My 10 year old is so jealous, all of the kit, if you don’t know, you can get these special chairs that move and have all the gadgets on them. So I think the episode is just a real reminder of that and also the fact that Will involved some of his gaming supporters in that. I think that is such a great thing to do if you’re doing something for the first time, to give yourself confidence but also it’s taking that supporter insight to the next level.

Rob: Yes, it’s a great example of Will knowing that he didn’t know all the answers but being… Getting it started and having a go. But every step of the way, like you say, getting help from the community and lots of the key bits of progress he made because he opened up in that way and he got help from the gaming community to a, help other people who were joining the initiative but also various ways along the… Strategic things he did like the incentives he used and messaging on the Facebook ads and so on. So many of the bits of progress was because he was vulnerable and sought help. So I love it for that reason as well and like you say, you could apply that mindset to a fundraising initiative in any type of niche actually. Then Louise, in terms of another episode which you really liked, which one would that be?

Louise: Episode 64 with Angie Carter who heads up philanthropy at The Children’s Trust. I love this for loads of reasons. We’ve talked about this. We could do a whole episode about the podcast, which would be a bit better but I suppose top of it for me was Angie just really being aware of who The Children’s Trust potential major donors are and I work with so many charities and fundraisers on this and sometimes we think we need to look elsewhere, on the rich list or out and about for these rich, wealthy philanthropists and as well as their existing major donors, who they look after very well, Angie and the team wanted to know who of their regular givers and other supporters could potentially give a larger gift. That absolutely paid dividends because they had one donor who was giving 40 pounds a month, who they recognized was high net worth and had the ability to give more.

Angie has this lovely way of talking about bringing major donors closer and giving them the golden nugget, which is what is really special for them, for that individual and they did it with this donor. So also breaking down silos rather than this person’s over here in individual giving so we can’t speak to them. They gave her some really, really great stewardship. Actually, interestingly, didn’t get a lot back, which is also another one of the things we know we hear a lot Rob from fundraisers is, well, I’m updating really nicely and I’m not getting anything back from major donors. She didn’t get much back until the pandemic hit and then the donor called and gave a £50,000 gift. I love it for all of those reasons, for looking places to home, for really having the confidence that when you update someone on the difference their gift is making, when you are connecting them to that difference, you are not bothering them. Actually, I’m just so glad that they’ve got a number of larger gifts and particularly this one as well.

Rob: Yes. That particular episode that Angie created with us, it has been proving popular. One of the things that people on my Major Gifts Mastery Programme have been really liking about it is the example she gives about seeking a match funder and how a, that’s an extra reason to talk to one of your existing major donors but also the extra hook, the extra motivation some donors can have because of the power to multiply their giving. I know that’s obvious and experienced major doner fundraisers know all about that and are delighted when they’ve got a match funder but listening to Angie talk made me want to be that bit more proactive in searching really carefully for someone in our portfolio who might be able to do that. So if that chimes with any of our listeners I recommended that as an extra reason why you might listen to the episode that Angie kindly made for us.

Hi, it’s Rob and I wanted to pause the interview for just a moment to let you know about our two flagship mastery programs in major donor fundraising and in corporate part partnerships, which start again in April, 2022. These six month courses are a combination of master classes and one to one coaching with expert coaches, such as Louise, to help fundraising professionals grow their confidence and their income. To give you a sense of the difference that these programs can make here’s what one fundraiser Sara Davies said about how Major Gift Mastery helped her.

Sarah Davies: Just finished Rob Woods’ Major Gift Mastery Programme and it’s been amazing. The last six months of doing this course, I’ve had the most successful time in my job to date. I’ve had three or four major breakthroughs. My confidence has increased and it’s no coincidence. I know this course has helped massively. Also, my colleague who works with me has been doing this course as well and she’s had the best six months in her career as well. Again, major breakthroughs and I really encourage you, if you can find the budgets within your organization to apply for this.

Rob: If you’d like to find out more, go to brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services. For now, let’s get back to the interview. I decided to stay on the subject of major donors and I took the opportunity to talk to Louise about one of our most popular episodes in 2021, which is one of the ones where she was the guest.

The other thing I just wanted to tee up though was there are three episodes you’ve generously made with us, Louise? You are super experienced as a fundraiser and as a major donor fundraising consultant and I know you’ve had a very, very busy couple of years. In particular Episode 73 really sums a lot of it up, actually, because we were talking about this notion of how you offer someone the chance to donate and how seeing it as an offer or an invitation to solve a problem that they care about just feels psychologically different and frankly practically different, than if you see it as an ask. And I know you’ve got quite a bit of feedback from people when you explain that anyway on your courses and people you coach. Since we created the episode, other people have been coming back to you saying that shift in language and how it affects behavior, how that’s been helpful.

Louise: Yeah, it’s great to hear. It’s something that’s tough. I remember in my fundraising roles, walking out of the office to see a very famous philanthropist and people go, oh, make sure you get a big gift. Hope it goes well. That pressure that we put on ourselves and that we can feel, I think at that to make that ask and from somebody who has a lot of money can be really tough and so, yeah, I suppose that the language and also the mindsets of feeling more like we’re offering the chance to get someone involved is rooted in the psychology of giving in philanthropic psychology, which is giving is good for people. And I know you teach that as one of the core elements of your mastery programs, Rob, that actually people get a huge amount out of their philanthropy and they’re giving, at any level and at the higher level as well.

Therefore, it just shifts that balance of power so we don’t necessarily feel like we are going desperate to hit our target but actually we’re going with the opportunity for somebody to give to something they really care about and to make a difference. Also, link to that, that sometimes if we offer someone the chance to get involved to give, sometimes the answers, no. I think that is something, as fundraisers, that can be really tough to acknowledge and sometimes when we feel that there is a big ask, in inverted comma’s, that thought of upsetting someone or them saying no, or ruining the relationship because we’ve asked for too much. All of these things can go around our mind and it is as simple as some people won’t want to give or give at that time and that, that is okay but it doesn’t feel simple when we’re in roles and we’re under pressure.

Rob: Yeah. And again, I think quite a lot of fundraisers I’ve worked with and you work with and people who listen to this show, they get that and they feel it to be self evident. They’ve learned very definitely over the years that seeing it that way helps you be a successful fundraiser but their challenge can be not all of their colleagues necessarily see it that way. So one of the things that’s made me most happy is when people have fed back the use of this show is just forwarding it to a colleague because we tell stories. It’s not too dry hopefully but in listening to our content, it helps people see it more aligned with that philosophy and therefore over time, your conversations with your colleagues, who might not be professional fundraisers, they might be a chief exec, might be a finance director or whatever role, the using of this show and for instance, those excellent episodes you created can help people tune more in to that way of doing things.

Louise: Absolutely. I would say some of the feedback we’ve had is, oh, I’ve been telling my Chair about this. I’ve been saying it’s not just about the money and we can’t go and ask for that big gift straight away. So it is really nice to get that feedback, isn’t it? To know that we’re arming, hopefully arming some fundraisers and people can use it with colleagues and with trustees if they want to. So Rob, moving on, what’s another of your favorites from this year?

Rob: Well, I tell you one that’s been spectacularly popular. It’s with Laura Croudace and it’s Episode 76 actually. It’s all about the power of going the extra mile and Laura explaining how the extra mile is rarely crowded and she spent her whole career doing some fabulous, disciplined and creative stewardship and thanking and in episode 76, she shares examples of just how, not only is that the right thing to do, but just how powerful that can be in leading to people, feeling closer to you, trusting you more. And of course, inevitably often wanting to give more generously.

So if the listener would love for their team to be more inclined to make time for that and manage to stick to that good intention, episode 76 is well worth a listen. But the one I wanted to talk in a little bit more detail, was actually Episode 72, which Laura made with me and that’s all about Facebook lives. In this era, many charities have needed to be more creative, more brave about ways they can find their audience and add value to their audience and tell stories that help their audience connect to what the charity is about and there are many ways we’ve had to try and do that. One in particular is Facebook lives or Instagram lives and Laura is really interesting in episode 72, talking about how charities can do that.

Louise: And Rob, I know some charities and some fundraisers listening to this, they’ll feel very confident in this area now, particularly after the pandemic but others will still be lacking a bit. Is there anything in there that just gives people a bit of confidence to take that step and go into that realm of Facebook lives?

Rob: I think that’s one of the things I love about it. The stories that Laura shares, the first two stories are from really small charities. One of them is this fabulous organization called the Hugs Foundation, which is a wonderful charity in Cornwall that rescues horses and ponies and looks after them and re homes them as well as using those animals as a wonderful chance to improve wellbeing and confidence and so on in children and young people. The story I love from Laura is that charity really struggling early in 2020, thinking if people can’t visit the farm, what can we do? And Laura mentoring them and helping them be brave to create a thing which they called the daily hug. So every single day when lots of parents up and down the land were doing their best to entertain children and do homeschooling and all the rest of it, Laura and the people at the charity spotted there was an opportunity there to create some lovely, powerful content about animals and nature and so on.

So they created this daily hug, Facebook live. It was so phenomenally successful that the charity Mind became very interested and worked with them to continue that daily hug. That’s just how powerful this intervention was. And again, that had a really positive effect on helping the Hugs Foundation go on to thrive during difficult times. Laura talks about Yorkshire Cat Rescue and in particular, maybe that was another key nugget, was helping our listeners see that there’s a power to helping people see behind the curtain, behind the scenes. Is just intriguing and also hand in hand with that, the way these things don’t need to be perfect. They don’t have to be slick and everything were professionally organized. The viewer is okay with the fact that it doesn’t all go perfectly but that you’re being honest and real.

And actually that leading to a greater interest therefore, growing audience and in due course improved results in fundraising terms as well. So whether you work for charity that’s large or small and whether you’ve already done this tactic or whether you haven’t but you can see that in 2022, the ability to connect with audiences that you can’t meet face to face is more important than ever. If you’re at all intrigued about that, I really recommend checking out episode 72 with Laura. She tells those stories and some more and she gives some practical tips. So then Louise, if I were to ask you for one more episode, which you’ve been recommending onto your contacts and your clients, which would it be?

Louise: It would be Episode 58, which is all about influencing colleagues, within your own charity with Ben Swart and you and I know Rob we’ve talked about this before that fundraising would be so simple if everyone internally just got it and everybody did maybe what they’ve been asked to do, when it was needed by but obviously that’s not real life and I know from a lot of my fundraising roles, I had some really big frustrations internally and a really interesting thing for me about this episode is the time that some of those internal barriers take but how as fundraisers, we have the skills to be able to do that.

These are a lot of the skills that we would use externally with funders, with donors, even writing appeals. We’d use these skills all the time yet, sometimes when we’re short of time and we’re under of pressure, we forget to use some of those skills internally, whether that’s for the finance colleague that maybe doesn’t understand the breakdown we need for a trust application or maybe that a trustee who feels like they’re very reluctant introducing some contacts to the major donor program, whatever it is and whatever type of fundraising you’re in, I think this episode is just crucial and I know fundraisers will be doing this as part of their role already but I don’t think there’s many people in fundraising who can say, yeah, all those internal barriers are fine and everybody’s with me and we’re all moving in the same direction. If you are in that place, you don’t need to listen to the episode but for everyone else, I’d really get some tips from Ben and this for 2022.

Rob: Yes and I think part of the reason why it can be difficult is many fundraisers understand the need to be really thoughtful and empathetic and understand the situation of any type of donor or fundraising audience they work with. So they work really hard at getting that insight and then putting themselves in that person’s shoes and tailoring their channel or their message accordingly and so on. But they end up not working quite so hard to do that for internal colleagues, especially ones in teams that are just very different from fundraising because they feel they shouldn’t have to, because surely any enlightened charity could see that we can’t do the work without the money. But I think people get frustrated that colleagues aren’t all as in fundraising enlightened or donor friendly as we think they should be. And in that moment of us expecting that they should but they’re not, I think where it starts to go wrong because in that frustration, we end up not working as hard as we could.

And I think Ben addresses that really well in persuasively encouraging us to try and step into the shoes of your colleague whose day job is finance or policy or communications or whatever. The way Ben explains that helps you see just how essential that is just as you would do that for a donor. So, Louise, I always learn so much when I talk to you and today’s been no exception. Thank you so much for making time to share these ideas, these bits of advice, these stories with our listener. I look forward to catching up with you again very, very soon for more fundraising in 2022 but for now Louise Morris, thank you and goodbye.

Louise: Thanks Rob.

Rob: So there you have it. The last episode we recorded in 2021. I do hope you found it helpful and that maybe it gave you an idea for something else to listen to or to share with your team. If you’ve not already subscribed, please remember to do that today so you can get instant access to all the episodes we talked about as well as lots of new ones that we’ve got planned for 2022. As always, you can get a summary of today’s episode with links to everything we talked about, as well as a full transcript on the podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk. And if you are the leader of a fundraising team and you’d like to get your team access to a whole library of my best training films, including an excellent one on major donor fundraising that Louise made with me, as well as our weekly workshops and our community, then do check out the Bright Spot Members Club.

You can find out more at brightspotmembersclub.co.uk/join. Although at the time I’m publishing this, in January, 2022, we are not taking on new individual members. We are still able to accept new team memberships and the various discounts for teams are better than half the price of individual memberships. So, if you’d like to find out more about these options do send me a quick message at events@brightspotfundraising.co.uk. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone whose been listening to the show this year and thank you as always for spreading the word and for the kind messages you’ve been sending me, to let me know that you’re finding it helpful. Louise and I would love to know what you think about this episode. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. Louise is @summitfundraise and I am @woods_rob. Lastly, good luck with all your fundraising efforts in 2022.