Lynn Butteriss, Islington Giving, on building a successful fundraising campaign

Lynn's presentation on how a place based funder can approach building a successful fundraising campaign (taken from the London's Giving September masterclass on fundraising approaches)

Lynn Butteriss, Head of Development and Communications at Islington Giving, presented on how to start a fundraising programme for a place based funder. She has kindly provided the full notes from her presentation at London's Giving event in September 2015 in order to share learning with the network: 

 I’m here to talk to you about developing a fundraising programme for a place based funder.

My talk will cover the insights of our Board as they set up the programme and mine as I now look to build on what has been achieved to date, and how to take this forward.

Since its inception in 2010 Islington Giving has raised around £3.5m to support 3 main themes: Investing in Young People, Supporting Families and Confronting Isolation . All of these themes support our overarching aim of helping the residents of Islington overcome the effects of poverty.

Having set up the programme the Board felt that there were several key areas that anyone else wishing to set up a similar programme would need to consider. All of them are still relevant now in taking the programme to the next level, albeit with a slight tweak of focus.

1. Know your area
‘I would recommend the local model... there are advantages of being able to be flexible, meet the needs of the local area and not be locked into issues.’ 

The starting point to any place-based activity has to be an understanding of the place itself. This should include a review of local issues and the broader social-economic context, and the knowledge to identify the most pressing gaps in service.

The evidence will help to shape the campaign’s vision and action plan and will provide transparency to its objectives. An understanding of, and unflinching commitment to, place will help he campaign to keep its focus and avoid conflicting interests.

Your research should also include looking at local charities in your area, who are also running fundraising campaigns. What sort of programmes do they run? Looking at their annual reviews and accounts on the charity commission should give you an idea of the type of programmes they run, and which ones are the most successful.

2. Know what you want to achieve
‘Agree the aims and vision, then share priorities and build a blueprint – pick aims and don’t over stretch yourself.’

With your campaign’s vision agreed, establish a clear set of priorities and aims. Ensure that there is a clear programme, and that you can measure success. Focus on aims that are defined and realistic. These should be activities that can be monitored and evaluated to show what is working and what is not.

It is at this point you should also start looking at your communications. Who are your audiences? (ensure you also include your internal audiences) What are you going to tell them? How are you going to tell them? When, and through what channels? A question that I have raised a number of times since my interview and one which we are addressing now is our use of the word campaign. We call Islington Giving a campaign, but in the truest sense of the word is it? I have now gained agreement from the Board to look at this in more detail. What I have found since I joined is that within the placed based funding sector Islington Giving is relatively well known, but outside of that we aren’t. And it’s not just us, it’s the issue of poverty within Islington. Many of the people I’ve spoken to with whom we’d like to engage with further have no idea of what’s happening in Islington. In order for us to raise our profile and in turn increase our income, we also need to raise the profile of the issues itself. To meet this need we are likely to introduce an educating style of campaign, rather than one that demands changes to the system. That’s not to say we won’t in the future, but we have a number of people to take with us on our journey,  

3. Find a host
‘Have a strong local partner who has knowledge and standing in the area and the clout to open doors (like Cripplegate).’

‘Have a core partner like Cripplegate who you can trust to deliver quality’

Ideally, your leader will represent an organisation that can ‘hold’ the campaign, especially in the early set-up days. Islington Giving is a campaign of partner organisations and not a charity, although many of its partners are charities. As such, it is ‘held’ and costs are underwritten by Cripplegate Foundation. The benefits of this approach are that every penny donated goes directly to Islington Giving, the campaign saves on time, organisation and administration costs, especially useful during the set up phase, and Cripplegate Foundation lent immediate credibility to the new initiative and helped to open doors. For the model to work successfully the holding organisation needs to command high levels of trust amongst the partners.

From a fundraising point of view it’s an incredibly powerful position to be in. To be able to say to a prospect that 100% of their donation will go towards your areas of work, and that none of their money will be used to cover any fundraising or marketing spend is almost unheard of. In today’s climate, more and more donors are concerned about how their money is being spent. In my previous roles I’ve often had to spend a great deal of time working with programme teams to increase project costs to ensure we gained full cost recovery, otherwise many projects could not be delivered as the support costs would not be covered.  This in turn would result in many conversations with prospects explaining  why these costs needed to be covered. There has, and I’m sure will continue to be a great deal of debate about this issue. However, right now it is a real joy to not have to have that battle and the donors are responding positively to this. How long we will be able to continue this arrangement is a conversation yet to be had. As the fundraising and communications areas build and grow additional resources will be required. Will Cripplegate be able to fund all of this growth, or will a new arrangement have to be made.  Watch this space!

4. Choosing your tactics.
With your research completed and your host and partners in place you’ll need to decide on the type of fundraising tactics you’ll wish to employ. You will need to find ways to engage with those living and working in your borough, and the tactics you choose should fit well with your ethos, and fit the area in which you are working.

Islington Giving has trialled many different tactics, some have worked better than others, and some will be tweaked and continued and others will be dropped and replaced with something new. The focus for us now is about looking at those we most wish to engage with, who have the capacity (the cash) the propensity (history of giving) and affinity (do they care about poverty? Do they live/work in Islington?)

For example – I have concerns about running a direct mail campaign – traditionally these work well for older people, especially women, who are on mid-level incomes. However in Islington, many of those people are living in poverty, or are isolated from their communities. Both areas in which we are funding programmes. I therefore, do not feel it is appropriate to introduce this tactic. However, introducing a major donor campaign, which targets high net worth individuals which sits with our comms programme around education does work. More people get to know about the issues and we engage with more people who may be able to help. Additionally increasing our challenge events works well in engaging with our corporate partners who are always looking for ways to engage their staff with charities. Again for us another group of people we can raise money from, and educate at the same time.
In order to choose the right tactics go back to your research for the area and look at this against the type of campaign you will be working on. If your focus is dementia, the demographic in your borough for those who may be affected is likely to be quite high, so running a mass/community style campaign may be the best fit for you. Looking at what local charities, along with larger organisations such as the Alzheimer's Society and Dementia UK do to raise income will help to give you confidence in your tactics and give you an idea of the types of activities supporters are engaged with.

Don’t overlook any additional support your partners may be able to give in addition to their core grant. We are very fortunate to have some fantastic board members, among them the Macquarie Group. Not only have they made a commitment and sit as active members of the board, but they are able to introduce our work and in particular our fundraising activities, such as challenge events to their staff, we are now discussing cultivation events and how they may support those. When you start talking to your prospects such engaged and committed board members will make all the difference.

But bear this in mind also when choosing your tactics. People give to people. When giving to anything you need to trust the people who are asking you. When you look at organisations like Macmillan or Comic Relief, it is the brand that is the trusted, this then rubs off on those who are asking. When you starting out, the general public won’t know you. So building your brand will be a key activity, however you still need to raise income. You start with looking at your networks and those of your board. I’ve mentioned all of the other support Macquarie has given us, but without them our challenge event the Walk the Line team challenge would not be the rising star it is. All of the participants in the first year were either attached to the board, board members themselves with friends and family or staff from Macquarie. Now in its third year we have new employee teams taking part, those who we have gotten to know on our journey.  

5. Take time to get it right
‘My advice for someone else starting up:.... start with a partnership but spend a year building it before thinking of asking for money. You have to make it work – so get them in early and be genuine stakeholders in the whole operation’

‘Things work best with trust – this isn’t something you get off the shelf. You grow it through people working together. This is really important as you can take more risks, when things are a difficult you can lean on each other.’

Give yourself at least a year to set up the campaign, ensuring that all partners are on board and fully committed to its priorities.

During this year, along with developing your programme, bringing your partners on board, also start developing your comms and your fundraising, It’s  vital that you know what difference you want to make and equally as important to know who you want to know about, how you’re going to tell them, and how they can help you get there.


Lynn will be sharing some more information with the network soon, in the form of a 'top tips' document which will expnd on these points, and also give a good overview to fundraising and strategy development.