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Lessons learnt from Lockdown

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

December's First Thursday was a collaborative event between CIoF South East & London and the CIoF Community SIG. Three fantastic speakers, including Clara from Marie Curie, Sean from Alzheimer's Research and fellow freelancer Leah, shared their advice and top tips learnt "on the ground" during lockdown. If you missed it, no problem - it's on YouTube!

During Lockdown, I took on an interim role as Head of Fundraising at a Hospice. At the event I also shared a little about the learnings from my team, and I'd like to share these with you too.

1) Know the value you have to your supporters

We all know the value our supporters have to us, and how important maintaining those relationships are. But don't forget that you have value to your supporters too. For a Hospice, your events and community activities can be a really important part of someone's grief journey or remembering a loved one. You may host an event that has become a family tradition to take part in.

Your supporters may need you just as much as you need them.

Giving to your cause says something about who your supporter is, their values and what they believe in. For some charities where the beneficiaries and supporters may be the same groups, you provide community and connection, Your charity has value to your community and your supporters. Never forget that when times are tough. And to find out what your supporters value...ask them. Pick up the phone, seek feedback after events and find out what means the most to your communities.

One of the team told me a beautiful story about the Santa's grotto they hosted one year. A mum said that her little boy - about 8 or 9 - was starting to lose the magic of Father Christmas. Mum asked my team member if it would be possible to give this little boy's letter to Santa so when he went in to meet him, he would see Santa had his letter and keep hold of the magic just a little longer. The team made it happen and the joy on the little boy's face, and mum's tears meant more than anyone could ever hope for.

2) Reach out to those who can help

Our team had phenomenal knowledge of who within our staff, volunteers, or

supporters had certain skills that could help. We had very limited digital knowledge in our team, and no MarComms team to help. But the team found videographers and streaming experts who could help us move our events to virtual. The next step is getting all of those skills and expertise recorded on our database. How amazing would it be when we need to raise the call to arms and find people with certain skills, that we have that information at our fingertips?

3) Reach out and collaborate

Our team worked together, and that's something I always advise all teams. Break down silos and use each others knowledge and expertise. Chat to your Individual Giving Manager. Ask for their top tips on how to maximise a campaign landing page and use tried and tested language and case studies to help inspire people to donate. All those little community pots of money held by supermarkets or local groups? If they're asking for a formal application, chat to your Trusts Fundraiser. They can help with wording (especially where word counts are tight) or advise on restricted projects that need a top up to help secure that bid.

And outside of your organisation, reach out to networking groups like Fundraising Chat, the CIoF Community SIG group and more. Find your Fundraising Squad and support each other. Many of my team did that for the first time this year, and are now thrilled at the networks and support they've found in the wider fundraising community.

Bonus: A very practical top tip for 2021

When you're testing new things...done is better than perfect. For example we took Open Gardens virtual. Our website wasn't capable of hosting large amounts of video and doing what we needed it to do. One of our Trustees had someone build us a simple Wix website ("microsite") that we used. It did what our supporters needed it to. It wasn't 'perfect' but it did what it needed to because we moved fast. This year Open Gardens raised more than ever before because people could visit as many gardens as they wanted and donating online meant the average gift was higher.

The same was true for our Virtual Light up a Life service. People gave more generously on the day than we've ever seen before.

For next year, we want to look at blended events. How can we run them in person, but also offer a virtual option? It'll be more accessible, 'external factors' proof and will raise more. What's in your 2021 calendar could you run in multiple formats?

And finally.... be brave

The biggest thing that struck me about our team was how fast they moved. They had the freedom and drive to not cancel events, but change, adapt and evolve them to the new world we found ourselves in. Some things worked, some things didn't, but by keeping the objectives at the front of mind and being brave enough to try, they've smashed our reforecast budget, and are actually not a million miles off of the original years budget. In this year, that's a huge accomplishment.

I always love chatting all things fundraising. If you want to chat more, please do get in touch on or come and chat on Twitter @FundraiserSarah I'd love to hear from you.

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