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Episode 100: Cost of living crisis; and thinking small, with Rachel Ketola and Phoebe Cooper

To celebrate our 100th episode, Rob spoke to two regular listeners, both with great fundraising stories to tell.

Rachel Ketola shares how being proactive to create a series of small ‘WOW’ moments inspired one donor to increase his regular gift to the hospice from £50, to £1000 / month!

And Phoebe Cooper explains some things she and her colleagues have done to make it easier for donors to keep supporting as the cost-of-living crisis affects many people’s ability to give as much as they’d like.

If you’d like to get in touch or share this episode with other charities, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! You can find all three of us on Linked In and on twitter Rachel is @r_ketola and Rob is @woods_rob.

Has the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast helped you?

The reason I make this podcast is to inspire fundraisers with ideas and encouragement to raise funds effectively. And I get super-excited when I hear that it has helped you.

If, like Rachel and Phoebe, you have an example of something you did after listening to this podcast, please take a moment to get in touch by following this link. Clearly I’m not able to turn every example into a podcast episode, but I will always be delighted to hear how you’ve applied the ideas and congratulate you.

Further Resources

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You can find out more about our flagship 6 month programmes: the Major Gifts Mastery Programme or the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme by following these links.

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‘…We don’t always need to be doing the big fancy sort of stewardship things. I think we can often think, “Oh, what new creative idea can we do?” But actually, it’s often just about the basics that will wow your a donor.’

Rachel Ketola

Transcript for Episode 100

Rob:

Hey there, this is Rob Woods. And today dear listeners, I am especially excited because this is the 100th episode of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. In case this is the first time you’re listening, 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 raise more money and really enjoy your job. And if you are a regular listener, thank you so much for all your support in various ways to help me keep plugging away, to create these episodes over the last two and a half years.

 

So firstly, thank you for listening and subscribing. Secondly, I really appreciate how you’ve helped us grow the audience so that these free episodes have been helping evermore good causes. So thank you for sharing with your colleagues and for those of you who’ve left a kind review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. The last time I looked, the show had been listened to more than 70,000 times and clearly that wouldn’t have happened without the help of lots of people kindly spreading the word. Thank you to all the wonderful guests, most of whom are frontline fundraisers and leaders from within charities, who’ve been super generous to share their time and their examples to help others.

 

And to celebrate this milestone episode, I wanted to do a show that is slightly different in that firstly, I wanted to give you two guest interviews and not just one. And secondly, I wanted both those guests to be regular listeners to the podcast. They’ve both got stories to share about how they’ve used the episodes to spark their own ideas. Across the episode, we discuss a range of things. In the second half, I’ll be talking to a great marketeer and individual giving fundraiser named Phoebe Cooper from the RSPCA about, among other things, her charity’s proactive responses to the effect of the cost of living crisis. And my first guest is a fabulous, experienced, high value fundraiser named Rachel Ketola who works for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland. One of the themes is the power of doing seemingly small things to build relationships. I hope you enjoy our discussion. Hello Rachel Ketola, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Rachel:

Thank you, Rob. Thanks. It’s great to be here.

Rob:

Good. And just before we get into some interesting ideas that might help some fundraisers listening, what’s your job title and what’s the name of the charity where you work.

Rachel:

So, I’m Philanthropy Manager at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland, also known as CHAS.

Rob:

Great, thank you very much. And I know that you’ve been listening to the Fundraising Bright Spot show for a while. Generally speaking, what kinds of ways do you find it helps you?

Rachel:

So I find the podcast helps me in many ways. I’d say there’s two main ways that it’s helped my approach in fundraising. So one is, a focus reminder, sort of keeps me on track on those actions that I should be focusing on for my major donors. And then, I just find it really useful as a way of sparking new, simple ideas. So as I say, as a focus, it’s kind of a reminder of those simple actions that I can take with my supporters.

Rachel:

And you’ve talked about this recently, about the tiny habits and just doing those simple actions that quite often fall down our to-do list and actually can make the biggest difference. So, it’s about that reminder to prioritize them. And so your podcast is that reminder to do those things and those simple ideas that anyone can do.

 

I just enjoy hearing from like minded fundraisers and just hearing what others have tried and tested. And it just, for me sparks new ideas that I will then discuss, either with my colleagues or actually fundraisers outside the organization. And just really thinking about the ideas as, “Is it a quick win? Is it something that I can just simply do, start doing as a habit? Or is it a strategic idea that really needs more time to work through?” It just keeps encouraging me to keep going and that confidence to know that I’m doing the right thing.

Rob:

Yeah, that makes sense. I used to think so much of progress is about the astonishing creative idea you never would’ve thought of yourself, but as my career has gone on, the more I’m clear that so much of progress, 70 to 80% of it is really about finding a way to get yourself to do the things that you sort of know anyway. And many of my listeners have said, even just that element of it, they find they’re more likely to follow through in a week in which they heard that it paid off for someone else. I think when you emailed, you mentioned that one way that that’s more likely to happen is that you don’t just listen on your own necessarily, that you found that if you and a colleague both listen to an episode and then discuss it, that helps?

Rachel:

Yeah. So it was actually something that you’d mentioned at a conference I attended with the colleague. And we just thought it was a great idea, so we’ve started to do that, just once a week we listen to an episode and then we just talk about it and just think about the different things that we can actually, that one idea that we can take forward. So yeah, now we’ve got another colleague who’s joining us to take part in our little podcast club and it just helps us to action it really, rather than being on your own.

Rob:

Yeah. And again, it sounds so obvious, but years ago when I had just become a trainer of fundraisers and they sent me on a course, this train the trainer course for how you learn, how to help others learn effectively. And the fundamental model they showed us is so obvious in a way, but Kolb’s learning cycle talks about, what you need to learn or make progress in anything isn’t just the technique or the new idea, it’s a chance to reflect on that and then decide whether you’re going to use any of it and if so, which bits.

 

And before going on that course, there was plenty of times I would read a book, or go on a course, or go to a conference and thought, “Oh, that was quite interesting. Wow, I’m wiser now.” And I would often, obviously intend to make some decisions about how to use it. But probably the listeners are well aware how hard it can be sometimes to get around to that, so you just left with this sort of slight sense of guilt of these various good ideas that haven’t quite got implemented.

Rob:

I think Episode 26, way back early in the podcast with Stevie Nicholson from Diabetes UK, who during the pandemic, what she had started doing was, each week, during lockdown, she would choose an episode which she thought would be helpful to many of her colleagues. They’d all listen to it at the same time, even if all from home. And then they’d have an extra 20 minutes after the listening in which they’d just have a chat and see if they could decide something they’d like to implement in their charity based on that episode. And Episode 26, she talks about some really interesting things that got done in the charity because they’d listened together and then scheduled to have that chat. So, thank you for reminding me of that as a technique, however obvious it might be, maybe we’ve got some listeners out there now who’d enjoy it, but sort of can see how scheduling to listen and then discuss with a colleague might make all the difference in terms of managing to implement things.

Rachel:

Yeah. No, exactly. And they talk about that a lot, in terms of accountability as well. Because once you tell someone else that you’re going to do it, then it means you’re more likely to do it as well. So, it’s not always things that we’re going to do together, it’s just, I’m telling her what I’m going to do and then she can follow up and it is that, it just pushes you to do it more.

Rob:

It totally does. And so many of these things, they are really very doable, but you just need that last 10% of encouragement from the other person saying, “Well yeah, good idea Rachel. Yeah, do that.” And as silly as that sounds, I have often found that makes all the difference, if I’ve talked it through with someone, it’s just, a barrier is removed and then I’m more likely to take the big bold step or sometimes just a small step that was very doable. It is just more likely to happen. So, I love that as a habit you’ve been using. In terms of specific things that you could point to or fundraising stories you’re proud of over the last few months, what’s an example you might like to share?

Rachel:

Yeah. So the example I have is, so one supporter had a directive about for £50 a month, but he also gave a £1,000 twice a year. He donated a £1,000 in December, 2019. It wasn’t long after I’d started at CHAS. And so I’d sent him a handwritten thank you, which I normally do with all my donors. Then the pandemic hit and he donated £500 in that March and I called to thank him. And the next day he donated a further £500 pounds. Then over the course, over the next 12 months, I just continued my personal communications with him, in terms of stories and impact updates and few phone calls. Until last May, in 2021, when out the blue he contacted us to say that he was canceling his £50 a month donation and he was changing it to a £1,000 a month, which was just absolutely incredible.

Rachel:

It was just in January this year that I managed to meet with him face to face for the first time. And I asked him why he supported CHAS, but he answered the question with why he changed his giving and he said that he’d never received a handwritten thank you letter before. And that you’d even called his wife in, from the room next door to show her because he was so surprised. And so, the lesson I learned from that was, that for me a handwritten card is a simple thing to do and I don’t think about it that much, it’s just what I do. But for him, it was massive. And those simple things that we take for granted, actually on the other side mean so much more.

 

I mean, you talk a lot about wowing your donors and I had wowed him without knowing that I would. So we don’t always need to be doing the big fancy sort of stewardship things. I think we’re always thinking about, “Oh, what new creative idea can we do?” But actually, it’s just about the basics that will wow you’re a donor. And that’s where the podcast helps, is because, it just as those reminders of those tiny habits that you just keep doing every day or every few days and you think, “Is this helping? Is this making a difference?” And actually then, when you get those conversations with your donors, you realize it does. And so I think it’s just, yeah, the podcast helps me just to remind to keep going and do those basic things that we should be doing for our supporters.

Rob:

Congratulations, Rachel. I mean, it all adds up though, doesn’t it? The discipline to take the time, because one times you might try and call in and it there’s just no answer. That might happen three times, wouldn’t it? To keep plugging away, being organized and caring and doing it for the right reasons. All of that, actually it’s not easy. And many relationship managers don’t quite get round to doing it very often or at all.

 

So even though the idea sounds obvious and most of us would hope we would do it, in practice I’ve found it’s, it can be really quite hard to really follow through on that and everything that is required to do it. So congratulations on treating your donors in these really warm, proactive, appreciative ways. And thanks for sharing this particular example that just reminds me and our listeners of just how massively it can also pay back for your charities ability to secure funds as well. It’s such an excellent example of what becomes possible. In terms of any other things, Rachel, you’ve mentioned you’ve been listening to quite a few of these episodes. Are there any other things that you do that may have been inspired in part by any of our guests?

Rachel:

Yeah, there’s been a few things. And I think it’s trying to take at least one thing away from each podcast. So for me, Louise Morris, I think it was a couple of years ago, talked about her five step guide to major donor relationships. And that was really useful for me to then block out time in my diary, so that’s now what I do for those kind of key areas. And I block out about an hour and a half each day and that’s my focus. And then again, that’s all about building relationships. Then with Cleo’s episode, talking about the first anniversary gifts, I thought that was a brilliant idea. So now when a new gift arrives in, then I actually add an action onto [inaudible 00:13:10] edge for a year’s time, that will remind me to send something out a year from now.

Rob:

Yeah. And just on that one, in case the listener wants to go and listen to, one of my all time favorites of the kind of things that Cleo and her team at Shelter Box have been doing over the last two years that has led to really fabulous growth in high value income and the top line idea, again, it’s kind of sensible and obvious in a way and yet I know various listeners who’ve started doing it. Is to, like Rachel has been doing, on the anniversary of a donor making a gift to the charity, Cleo’s team have been finding out when those are and scheduling so that they can proactively, either make a thank you call or send a proactive extra thank you card or note, just saying what a wonderful thing they did a year ago and thank you for these kinds of wonderful results it’s achieved.

Rob:

I really recommend, if you haven’t heard it already, hearing Cleo explain the kinds of results that have ensued from that habit and it’s in Episode 88. But thank you for reminding us of that, Rachel. It’s such a strong habit that most of us could add in if we are in this field of fundraising of trusts, corporate, major donor fundraising.

Rachel:

Yeah. Another one is, it was Richard Turner talking about the cards that he created. And I know a fundraiser at the charity WaveLength and she created some cards. Simple cards on Canva, on her laptop and then got them printed and now she uses them to hand write thank you letters to her donors. So, it’s just, I think the podcast for me, is hearing from people from smaller organizations and it’s just simple ideas that we can take forward. And then the last one is, Laura Croudace was talking about mentoring in one of your podcasts. And so, it encouraged me to reach out to her. And actually now through that, she told me how she did it. And so now I’m mentoring two people, which I’m really enjoying.

Rob:

Hi, it’s Rob. And I wanted to jump in really quickly to let you know about our two flagship courses designed to help you grow high value fundraising results. That’s the Major Gifts Mastery Program and the Corporate Partnerships Mastery Program. Rather than have me describe it, I thought it’d be most interesting if you could hear from someone who’s experienced one of these courses. So here is Rihanna Jarvis from Sustrans who took part in the Corporate Mastery Program. last year.

Rihanna:

I did the Corporate Mastery Program in April till September last year. And it was great. It taught me some awesome techniques about how to negotiate existing partnerships and win new ones. And specifically, it really helped me bring onboard a brand new partner from cold to sponsor a project that we’ve been doing for years for the first time, which is fantastic. They have been really supportive and they’ve given us 30 grand to deliver that work, which is really exciting. And I definitely wouldn’t have gone about it the way that I did if I wasn’t following the techniques that are on the mastery program. So, if you’ve got the time and you can find the budget, I highly recommend doing it.

Rob:

The next programs will begin in the autumn of 2022. If you’d like to find out more about either the Major Gifts Mastery Program or the Corporate Mastery Program, go to brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services. For now, let’s get back to the episode.

 

My second guest is the excellent Phoebe Cooper, who works in the donor development team at the RSPCA. I really enjoyed hearing how Phoebe uses the podcast to stimulate ideas. And in this section of a longer conversation, she talks about what she and her colleagues have been doing to respond to how the cost of living crisis is affecting their supporters. Phoebe Cooper, welcome to the podcast.

Phoebe:

Hi Rob, thanks for having me.

Rob:

You’re very welcome. And thank you ever so much for reaching out. I put out a call the other day, saying I was really interested in hearing from listeners and ways that they’ve used ideas from this show in their fundraising. And you very kindly got back in touch pretty quickly on LinkedIn. And I was so intrigued by some of the things you were saying. And I had a feeling our listeners would like to hear some of these. Before we get into that, remind me, what’s your job title and where do you work?

Phoebe:

So, I’m currently the Committed Giving Senior Marketing Executive at the RSPCA in the donor development team. And I oversee our regular giving, sponsorship and mobile giving programs.

Rob:

Great. And I gather you’ve done a couple of different roles over the last 12 months or so. I think you said in your message to me, that you came across this podcast within the last year or so and then you’ve listened to quite a few since. When do you tend to listen to it?

Phoebe:

I am completely hooked on your podcast. I listen to your podcast, kind of whenever I’m on the move, if I’m in the car, on a train, on a plane, out for a walk. So, whenever I’m on the move and it’s kind of become this tiny habit. The idea to help me, help me grow and continue thinking outside of the box and hearing what other charities are doing, what else is going on in the fundraising world. Whenever I hear a particularly good idea, if I’m driving, I just make the mental note that I want to listen to the episode again or I may replay that section a couple of times, so get it drilled into my brain. But yeah, and then I’ll get home and I’ll write myself an email or write myself a digital note to help me remember the idea and see how we can incorporate it at the RSPCA in our fundraising activities.

Rob:

So Phoebe, in a moment I’d love to hear some specific examples of things that you and your colleagues have done, in some way potentially sparked by this show. But just before that, you were saying to me that, overall your approach is a bit different since listening. And if you were to try to put that into words, I wonder what you’d say.

Phoebe:

Yeah. I think it’s really helped me to think outside of the box and be more courageous in the workplace, presenting my ideas with more confidence. And having that confidence within myself to pitch an idea and follow through with it.

Rob:

Yeah. Great. And you mentioned to me, there’s a couple of really interesting ways that’s panned out actually. If you were to give us a particular example of one of the themes that you found helpful, what would that first one be?

Phoebe:

The first theme is definitely, the obstacle is the way. It’s become a bit of a mantra for me. It’s kind of stepping back, looking at internal and external environments and identifying the challenges or obstacles ahead and finding opportunities around them. So, one that stands out with the cost of living crisis for example, we… One of the podcasts you talk about how much it helped you to be able to call a charity and they offered you the opportunity to downgrade your direct debit, your regular gift. So with that at the forefront my thoughts, I had some chats internally and we worked with the support services team to incorporate the payment holidays and options, so that when someone calls to cancel now, our sports services team are able, we built those processes in, so they’re now able to offer these payment holidays for alternatives, downgrade, or an alternative to help the supporters still be able to be involved in a way that is manageable for them.

Rob:

So that is really interesting, Phoebe. And just for today’s episode to recap, in Episode 83, I think it was, Ben Swart and I talk about the concept of, the obstacle is the way, whereby of course, a pandemic, or a cost of living crisis, whatever challenges there are, of course there are really tough things about those difficulties. Nothing we can say can deny that, but the truth is, even in really tough things, if you search for it, there are often some opportunities, actually for some other benefit, but only if you’re really keen to seek it out. That’s something that Ben and I talked about in Episode 83.

 

And in Episode 82, I think Jenny Crabtree was talking about this concept of being proactive in offering payment holidays and other such tactics, coming from the belief that, if someone supports their charity or originally wanted to give you £10 a month, they probably don’t want to have to call and say, “I’m really sorry, I can no longer afford it.” Because even if money is tight, they are still someone who cares about your issue. They still hate cruelty to animals and that’s part of their identity when they’re originally set up that gift, to want to stand up and be counted as someone who’s doing what they can to manage that. So the idea that they have a problem in calling you, potentially, with the idea of canceling that direct debit.

Rob:

And I said to Jenny, an occasion when I had made just such a call a few years ago and how grateful I was when the person at my favorite charity actually said, “It’s not all or nothing. Is not give or not give. Actually, we’d love for you to carry on just doing whatever you can, even if for instance, you take a payment holiday, or even if you just, for now only contribute £2 a month.” And I talk on that, Episode 82 I think it was, about how happy I was, that they’d helped solve my problem. So, it sounds to me like you and your colleagues, I guess in the supporter care team, have worked really hard to implement those kinds of solutions.

Phoebe:

No, exactly. And it’s about having that supporter led approach, isn’t it, and thinking, “What’s best for our supporters?” We want them to able to keep their identity as RSPCA supporter, lover of animals. And while it sounds really obvious to have payment holidays, but actually, all the processes and the backend functionality that needs to be built in and set up for that to be possible meant it was quite a lot of work. And hats off to our supporter services team, who made that happen in record time, made it possible so that they could start these payment holidays and be able to offer that to our supporters and give them that way of being able to keep their RSPCA supporter hat on, which is fantastic.

Rob:

Yeah, really well done to everybody concerned. And it seems to me that while some charities are really organized, having already got those kinds of processes in place and solve those kinds of challenges, in terms of functionality, to make this something that can happen. The truth is, for many charities it’s not all plain sailing. And also, the truth is, where are we now, we’re coming up to the summer of 2022, I think this is a really important theme and challenge for many charities to get solved now as this theme of the very real challenges of the cost of living crisis. It’s tough times and the more organizations can get this solved so that their supporters can still do their part, even when times get financially tougher and tougher, I think it’s a really important theme. So thank you for reminding us of it.

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed hearing from both Rachel and Phoebe in today’s show and that maybe their examples have in turn spark some ideas or motivation for you. If so and you’ve not yet subscribed, please do subscribe today so that you don’t miss out on all the other episodes we’ve got coming up, including the second half of my chat with Phoebe, which has more great ideas. If you’d like a full transcript and a summary of the episode, go to the podcast section of our website, which is brightspotfundraising.co.uk.

 

And if you’re interested in finding out more about our flagship courses starting this autumn, the Corporate Mastery Program and the Major Gifts Mastery Program, then do check out the information about this blend of master classes, individual coaching and other resources on our website at brightspotfundraising.co.uk/services.

 

And as I said at the start, what I’m trying to do with this podcast is to help as many fundraisers and good causes as I possibly can. So if you enjoyed the episode, then I’d be incredibly grateful if you would take a moment to share it on with your colleagues or on social media. Thank you for your help. And we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. We are all on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, Rachel is @r_ketola, which is K-E-T-O-L-A and I am @woods_rob. And if like Rachel and Phoebe, you’ve found other episodes of this show helpful in your fundraising, then I would always love to hear from you and congratulate you.

 

Lastly, thank you for listening today and for continuing to make time for learning on top of all your other commitments. I know it’s not always easy to maintain a growth mindset, but I congratulate you for keeping going. Best of luck and I look forward to sharing more bright spot ideas and examples with you very soon.