Profile of Elaine Miller - Fund Director of ‘Love Kingston’

Clare Thomas interviews Elaine Miller, Fund Director of ‘Love Kingston’

Elaine Miller - whose heart is in ‘Love Kingston’

Clare Thomas interviews Elaine Miller, Fund Director of ‘Love Kingston’- a Fund of The London Community Foundation (LCF), working in partnership with Kingston Voluntary Action. Elaine has a track record of successful fundraising with experience in communications and in sales and marketing. She was Head of Entertainment at Capital Radio Group and is fizzing with ideas of how to build a campaign and engage the local community and businesses.

Kingston Voluntary Action (KVA) won initial funding from BIG to set up a giving scheme.  They chose to partner with LCF who appointed Elaine to create the campaign and build momentum.  LCF is legally responsible for the fund and  provides fund management, receives donations, handles grant-making and supports with donor engagement.  Impact and outcome monitoring data is fed into the campaign as well as providing accountability to the donors. She provides a quarterly report to KVA but she is employed and line managed by Sonal Shah, CEO, at LCF.

When was Love Kingston set up and how much has it raised?
“We officially launched in October 2012 and we have raised over £300,000.  I always knew it would be a ‘slow build’. I liken it to building a pyramid and we’ve built a solid foundation.  It covers a lot of ground at first – and we won’t see the top for a long time. We are building the Kingston Legacy Fund for sustainable giving which will provide annual grants in perpetuity.  We’ve also benefitted from a recent 50% match to the Fund”.

you just have to be prepared to get involved in  everything

What does your role entail?
“Well, I wear all hats! I do two days paid work a week and volunteer for a further day. I do fundraising, marketing, some grants administration  and communications with admin support at LCF. You can’t be precious in this job you just have to be prepared to get involved in  everything and you learn other skills sets on the way. Take social media, I knew very little about it at the start but it is so interesting and what’s exciting is there are few boundaries”.

What is different about Love Kingston?
“With big national fundraising events it’s unlikely that people in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames see the impact of where their money goes, whereas with Love Kingston they can see their donations make an immediate impact benefitting five local organisations that help a wide demographic profile of residents and through the Kingston Legacy Fund has sustainable giving.
You need powerful local data to help build the campaign.  For instance, our borough is perceived as affluent but we have several pockets of deprivation like other communities, with the poorest 2% of people in the UK live on the Cambridge Estate right next door to the wealthiest 2%.  People don’t always recognise how diverse our borough really is with a significant BME and refugee communities. Love Kingston is working with all communities, from Muslim to Korean, uniting those from different ethnic backgrounds”.

I built relationships with local newspapers, magazines and radio. I went to them with a solid proposition and a clear message

How do you involve the media and use social media?
“Before the official launch I built relationships with local newspapers, magazines and radio. I went to them with a solid proposition and a clear message built on local evidence which highlighted the disparities between rich and poor, and how the smaller organisations are struggling with austerity and the need of the most disadvantaged is ever greater. The Kingston Guardian and the Surrey Comet both carried the story, as did Radio Jackie. Love Kingston is the only borough wide philanthropic platform where all the money raised stays local – with half of donations benefitting 5 local projects (these will change over time), and the other half invested in the Kingston Legacy Funding.  We’re building a legacy fund for sustainable giving. Our message is that money raised stays local and this resonates with the media and residents.  Around 85% of all charitable money raised in the UK goes to a mere 5% of national, household name, charities. Community groups don’t get a look in. There are over 400 charity and community groups working in RBK.  They are the glue in our society and need our support to help them to continue to make a difference. That is a powerful media story”.

What are your top tips when approaching business and retail?
“The borough has a large retail centre but they are approached continuously by schools and charities so you have to stand out. I recently heard that Manchester United gets over 400 requests a day for signed footballs. It is simply overwhelming.  My tip is to try and build personal relationships, sending an email request just won’t work.  Grab any opportunity you can to present your campaign to as many business forums, associations, assemblies, and council ward meetings.  Talk about building a long term partnership rather than simply requesting a donation.  Adapt your style of presentation accordingly and talk their language.  I emphasise that investing in Love Kingston is both efficient and cost effective.  We fundraise for the five organisations – currently working on Pathways out of Poverty.  We are their voice leaving them to get on to do what they do best.  This really appeals to business. I also co-ordinate fundraising platforms for local residents to get involved, including marathons, and securing 18 places for the Prudential’s RideLondon (through RBK), a 100 mile bike ride which follows the London 2012 cycle route from Central London to Surrey and back again. The Royal Borough of Kingston is the only borough where the riders will cycle through twice, there and back and this will be a real boost for our fundraising”.

Above all, research, research, and research some more.

How do you build partnerships and relationship with key individuals?
“With partnerships you can’t rush things - it is one step at a time. Start with people you know. Above all, research, research, and research some more.  Remember, people buy from people and your passion will engage.  Be clear of your ‘ask’.  Start with what people can offer and through your research you’ll have an idea of where you would like them to be.  Take it one step further, for example, a law firm has raised funds for Love Kingston and now some of the lawyers are volunteering with one of our beneficiary groups working with young people on the wider impact of knife crime. Building relationships with high net worth individuals takes time – invite them to targeted forums and site visits to projects.  Use your connections.  We now have five Patrons and eleven Ambassadors.  Their credibility, passion, enthusiasm, endorsement and support help to spread the word and connect with a wider audience”.

What are your future plans for Love Kingston? 
“Continue to build on the success of our annual flagship fundraising event – Love Kingston Day 14th February. But also focus increasingly on bigger gifts as we need to grow the longer term sustainability of the initiative. Love Kingston benefits from being part of The London Community Foundation and thereby part of UK Community Foundations. This means we can unlock skills, expertise and a track record which we would not have as a purely local initiative… dormant trust work and match challenges are just two things I am beginning to work on with the backing of LCF.

Finally what do you think are the qualities which make a good fundraiser? 
“You’ve got to be passionate about the cause, and have a clear proposition.  You have to be good communicator with drive in abundance”.

Elaine has all of the above and more besides. Check out how she does it in the Love Kingston marketing brochure