Gaining support from your local community

A blog by Gill Jolly, Director of Achieve Consultants Ltd

Gaining support from your local community

Having started my professional fundraising career in community fundraising 30 years ago it is interesting to see the peaks and troughs in the popularity of this area of fundraising.

I feel that community fundraising really is the heart of gaining support and income for an organisation. I see it very much like an octopus with its tentacles stretching out into other areas which can raise you funds.  This is because community fundraising is the most dynamic and diverse type of fundraising because through it we work with such a wide range of people and income sources.

One of the things I’ve realised over the years is that in order to be successful raising funds from your community don’t ask for money, you ask for help or support to change something or make things better.  Basically one of the key motivators for people getting involved and supporting a charity is to make a difference.  Another strong motivator is that people want their own community to have things, be a better place, etc. So whether you’re raising funds for a children’s play area or a community space part of the message is how it will be good for them and their local community.  Don’t try and convince people that they should give money to have a slide in the playground but explain what it will mean to families and children to have a slide and a play area where perhaps previously the space was an area where youth gathered to do drugs!  Think about the ‘before’ and ‘after’ and the immediate but also wider benefits to the whole community.  Potential supporters, either consciously or subconsciously, ask themselves, ‘what’s in it for me?’.  So to get them to become involved and support you, they need to know the benefits to themselves.

How can they get involved?  Your supporters don’t always have to part with their cash to help you out.  Community fundraising is very much driven these days by enabling the supporter to do what they want for you or choose to join in with a range of things you may be able to offer them. 

It’s about individuals coming together in their communities – and this can be where they live, work, socialise, etc so think widely on the different communities that you can tap into. Then, on the whole, it’s about them generating money or as some call it ‘third party’ or ‘supporter driven fundraising’, rather than giving cash direct.  Some organisations may have a ‘pot’ of money which, when approached, will make a donation from this.  However, on the whole we are looking to tap into the human resources and for them to help generate money. 

For example they may provide the collectors for a street, supermarket or tube/railway station collectors or will hold a cake bake at work and give you the proceeds.  If the latter it’s always worth checking with any work-based community activity if the employer does ‘matched giving’ whereby they match the amount of money raised by an employee thereby doubling the funds raised! Could they donate a prize?  It may be that it’s a venue that they can give you or access to their networks and or members.

Individuals who support you via a range of community based activities from shaving their hair off, wearing a silly jumper or doing a sponsored slim may then over time decide to donate to you in other ways.  This could be via a regular direct debit payment, donations received in lieu of gifts at a celebration or even a funeral to nominating you as ‘charity of the year’ to their employer.  Therefore, one of the key elements to successful community fundraising and getting the longer-term benefits is to have a superb system of thanking and updating supporters on the change they have helped bring about and the benefits of these.

So some final pointers to help:

  • Audience understanding is vital to success. Rather than trying to please everyone, focus on those who really matter!
  • Make a plan. Objectives are essential as they keep you focused and enable you to measure your results.  Ensure your plan has an appropriate budget too.
  • Think about who you know and what doors they could open for you
  • Give your supporters something for their money. You can often get a better response by giving people something. This could be as simple as offering balloons or stickers when out collecting or on a larger scale putting on an event.
  • Use events in the calendar to time your fundraising. Certain events work better at certain times of the year, and help you to capture people's enthusiasm. Valentine’s Day is great for an event aimed at couples – or getting people together.
  • Take advantage of something that already exists. Make your fundraising just that little bit easier by using something that already exists. Does your local pub already have a quiz? Might they be willing to donate the proceeds? Does your workplace already have a dress down day? Will your local church do a collection for you?
  • Use the media. Besides generating money, community fundraising is all about raising profile and awareness of your cause so you need to tap into local media to do this as well as face book, twitter, etc.
  • Make it fun and enjoy!

GILL JOLLY BSc (Hons) FInstF (Dip)
Director of Achieve Consultants Ltd

Gill has been involved in fundraising all her professional life.  She joined Help the Aged as a new psychology graduate and eventually headed up its fundraising when it was one of the top 10 income generation charities in the UK.  Having worked on a freelance basis, Gill formed her own company, Achieve Consultants in 2008 and works with a wide range of charities and other organisations in the not-for-profit sector across the UK, Europe and beyond.

Having many years’ hands-on experience as a successful fundraiser as well as a trainer, manager, director & consultant, Gill has been awarded a Fellowship of the Institute of Fundraising as recognition of her contribution to fundraising. 

Experienced in working with charities of all different sizes, shapes and causes, Gill loves the challenges and thrills of helping organisations achieve their fundraising goals. She has also sat on a number of grant-making boards.

Besides her consultancy work and training, Gill regularly speaks at seminars and conferences.  She has also written a wide range of articles, been on editorial panels and has contributed to a number of books on fundraising. 

When not working, Gill enjoys attending live music events, being with friends and walking her two chocolate Labradors in the Suffolk countryside where she lives with her husband Keith, an IT professional.