I really enjoyed Laura Perkins’ recent blog – Five insights into how to raise funds for your Unpopular Cause. A couple of years ago I spoke at a conference on this subject and here are a few of the ideas I shared in that session.
1) Choose your focus. Laura makes an excellent first point, that your attitude is incredibly important. And when life is tough, how can you increase the chances you will stay positive? My answer is, control your focus. What we allow ourselves to focus on determines how we feel. In courses people often tell me particular things about their cause which make it especially hard for them to raise money – yes, I have even heard this from fundraisers at large well known children’s and cancer charities. My response is usually to ask ‘in the last 12 months I have done workshops with around 30 different charities… how many of them do you think felt their cause was easy to raise money for?’
2) Talk to your front-line. Sometimes I also ask, ‘why is it critical that you find a way to believe wholeheartedly that your organisation makes a difference? People tell me that if they don’t believe in it, it will be pretty much impossible to persuade someone else to do so. And what is the simplest way to get more convinced that your charity makes a difference? Proactively take action to visit those delivering services. This is so obvious, but you know it’s true that the times in your career when you’ve been most persuasive followed the times you took action to get closer to the cause. Could you book a meeting / visit today?
3) Increased loyalty. Clearly some causes have less appeal to the whole population. But there are some advantages to selling a cause which has less universal appeal. The fact that a cause can be ignored or mis-represented by the media / the establishment act as a positive spur to some of your supporters, making them more loyal and passionate. If you help them make a gift, you ‘help them throw rocks at their enemies’.
4) Appreciate that you’re improving. Working for a less glamorous cause will make you a more skilful fundraiser, since your existing brand is not going to generate many easy gifts. Remember to appreciate the fact that your skills are growing faster than they would be elsewhere.
5) Giant-killing examples. Which charity would you put your money on to win a £1m Charity of the Year pitch for a bank – a famous hospital for very sick children, or one which helps former offenders once they come out of prison? (Not only did the latter, St Giles Trust, win but it was one of the best examples of pitch-craft I’ve ever of). If you work for a less popular cause, a great way to help colleagues ‘believe’, is to seek out these examples.
6) Stronger team spirit. The underdog factor stated above can work in your favour internally too. Time and again, sports teams who appear to have been unjustly treated by a referee, (and eg football teams down to 10 players) work harder for each other and perform better than when there was a level playing field. What’s critical is how you harness this psychological ‘us against the world’ edge for yourself and your colleagues.
7) Think like an under-dog. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating book about how underdogs always have some advantages which stem from their disadvantages, but only if they act differently from the main-stream, the Goliaths. David was not strong but he was nimble and he played to his strengths (ie fighting from a distance). What strengths does your charity have that you could make more use of? They are there when you look for them. My recent blog reveals three suggestions that help do this.