by Nikki Bell
Christmas reminds me a lot of community fundraising. At Christmas we make time and effort to spend time in the physical company of the people we care about, there’s handwritten cards shared with people you love, and you think hard about the perfect gift that will surprise and delight the recipient to show how much you appreciate them; all of the wonderful things I like to do as a community fundraiser.
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Community fundraising is important to charities. It’s a way to stay connected with the individuals who give their time and money to help you succeed, it’s a way to understand why they want to support you so you can get the relationship right, and most importantly it’s a way to humanise an organisation to turn it from a brand you see in your inbox, to an actual person you can build a relationship with. Not only that, but a human touch can increase income for your existing fundraising methods and a face to face ask is 34% more likely to get a positive response than by email .

But simply deciding you’re “going to do” community and ordering collection tins isn’t going to bring success. It takes planning, preparation and perseverance; which area of community will you invest in first? Do you have the resource and people power to pull it off? And what journey will these supporters go on with your organisation?

And it takes time. Strong relationships are crucial for successful community relationships, and this can’t be rushed. Support your team with the knowledge and understanding so they feel free to approach community fundraising with a strategic aim, explore the potential of remote working to unleash fundraisers from their desks, and proceed with the confidence to spend your precious time strengthening those relationships that have the biggest potential. And hire the right fundraisers.

The pay off is absolutely worth it. During my time as fundraising manager for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) I chose to dedicate most of my time to corporate partnerships and voluntary groups, the biggest income drivers for us in the north east. An opportunity to speak with a potential strategic partner ended with a face to face meeting to discuss fundraising for the following year. For ten months we strengthened that relationship with calls and emails, meetings with staff and senior leadership, before finally pitching the BHF’s case to work together. They agreed, and within two months of staff fundraising they’d reached their £25,000 self-set target and continue to fundraise to this day. The projected income? Almost £200,000. Not only that, but the charity and business host skill sharing days, the media teams collaborate on joint marketing, and the staff will be taught CPR.

It wasn’t a quick win, it wasn’t a generic ask with a lucky result, and it required frequent one on one time with the people who would ultimately make the magic happen. And the final touch? A lot of thanking and letting them know exactly where that money was helping.

Great community fundraising makes this happen. It can happen for your charity too.

This Christmas we’ll all be adopting a little of the community fundraising ways as we re-connect with the people we care about, and it will warm our hearts to see joy on each other’s faces. Keep that magic happening after Christmas, right through 2019 and beyond, by making it a New Year’s resolution to take a closer look at your community fundraising programme; where do you see a bigger result if you focussed on strengthening relationships, and where could a swap from reactive to proactive see your income soar? Then get on it and do it.

We wish all of our fundraising readers a very merry Christmas, and hope 2019 is a fantastic year for you and everyone you know.