Activity-based fund raising can take many forms, from ambitious sporting endeavours to treks across hostile terrains, to a humble bake sale or local fete. Clarity of vision and purpose is key to building engagement and momentum.
While there is no formula for success, there are five key elements likely to ensure a major project realises its goals.
The word passion is over-used, but it is clear that anyone committing to a purpose-based fund-raising activity needs to care deeply about the cause and the stories of the people whose lives it will change.
That passion and conviction needs to run through the whole team. Activities are often volunteer-led, and it is necessary to create momentum and enthusiasm from top to bottom. These projects often involve significant preparation, sacrifice and resilience, while also generating sponsorship and media attention. The energy this requires can only be created from real conviction around the project.
Any charity must harness that passion, says Mark Norbury, chief executive of charity UnLtd, understand where they can help, and where they need to get out of the way: “We may engage a few early supporters who can be really generous, for example. That creates momentum in the fund-raising. It also builds trust and partnership between the charity and those volunteers, which is vital for a successful project,” he says.
Trust is made up of two things, says Norbury: competence and integrity: “For competence, you need to do what you say you’re going to do, and if you can’t, you need to be clear about why. Integrity comes from a project you’re undertaking for all the right reasons and where you respect the other partner. Establishing chemistry and rapport underpins the whole project.”
This is not always easy to do in a volunteer/charity relationship. Often, no-one is ‘in charge’, and it is a relationship of equals. This requires different skills and each side needs to be clear about their roles and responsibilities, trusting that they can depend on the other.
Clarity of communication is vital in building broader trust in the project. If the various parties are not telling same story about the cause, or about the challenge, or about the people involved, not only does it threaten the logistics of the project, but sponsors may also lose faith. Within a project, Norbury says, everyone needs to be doing the same thing for the same reasons and to understand why.
He adds: “It is important to minimise friction and inefficiency as much as possible. Any project involves dozens of conversations with potential supporters, with platforms that are going to host fund raising, with journalists and partners. It is vital to have the same messaging running through all of that.”
Every project will have specific milestones, and these can be important for communications. If it is a sporting endeavour, Norbury suggests looking at training-based milestones for fund-raising and communications. Organisers can also build communications around new sponsors, or participants. Promoting each milestone brings trust from those who are backing the project, building legitimacy and authenticity.
At each step it is vital to sell the vision of the project. Norbury gives the example of the parallel between entrepreneurship and sports-based fund raising: “There is that clear human ordeal, getting through the long nights of doubt and despair. Entrepreneurs also say, “I’m going to start something and make a difference”. That takes courage, resilience and generosity.” Finding echoes between the activity and the cause can help build engagement.
Each project brings its own lessons and success can generate significant momentum long after the activity itself has been completed. Norbury says: “We have used funds raised to support projects led by diverse entrepreneurs, who have gone on to set up new social investment businesses, helping improve the lives of thousands of people year in, year out.”
Instead of looking for a toolkit for activity-based fund raising, focusing on the organic strategic and relational elements of how to make a fund-raising challenge work with senior volunteer leaders can be just as effective. It’s an emergent process, evolving with each volunteer and each challenge event, but the same underlying elements should be in place to ensure success.
When you’re thinking about your next charity activity, no matter how big or small, start thinking about the fund-raising elements at the same time – these two really do go ‘hand in glove’ and will help you squeeze every penny out of the team’s efforts.
Issued by Evelyn Partners Investment Management LLP, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority