Succeeding as a 'Lone Fundraiser'
by Amy Appleton
Are you the only fundraiser for your organisation? Maybe you are part of a wider team spread across the country, or fundraising may be a small part of your role. Being solely ‘responsible’ for your organisation’s income can be a lonely and stressful place to be. The fiscal year can feel like an uphill battle and explaining the ways of the fundraising world may feel like you are talking a different language to your colleagues.
Have you recently stepped into a role where you were provided some handover documents on your first day and expected to ‘just start raising some money’? With a list of trusts you need to apply to, events you need to organise and few nudges that you should find some major donors.

It can seem overwhelming to pick up the fundraising mantle and particularly difficult to prioritise strategic fundraising when the day-to-day operational pressures begin to stack up. We’ve pulled together five top tips to help you succeed.
1. Get a system:

One of the perks of being a lone-fundraiser is that you can organise your way of working to suit your own style. Whether you have inherited a system, or are starting from scratch, make sure that you spend time setting-up a system that works for you.

Adapting or setting-up your own system is a great way to familiarise yourself with the charity and the needs of your role day-to-day. Most of all, your ways of working need to be clear and efficient. You need to be really clear of your deadlines, targets, calendar of activity and anything else that needs doing. Are you more of a visual worker? Do you need tables and colour-coding? Have you developed your own portfolio of resources over the years? Review the documents, do your cases for support need refreshing? Do you need to adjust your databases and spreadsheets to suit your needs? This is your license to go wild.

Just remember to be clear with your manager about what you need and how long it is going to take.
2. Focus your time:

There is only so much that one person can achieve, so it is vital that you prioritise your time. Think about what you would do if you only had two hours a day, and begin there. Assess your income streams, what activities generate the most return on the smallest time investment?

Develop your fundraising strategy accordingly. Focus time on the activities that will help you achieve your fundraising targets whilst freeing up some time to concentrate on areas for development. Do you think that your charity could benefit from adding a new element to your fundraising mix – if so, look into the feasibility. For example, if you think your organisation should explore trusts and foundations, do some peer research to see if it is a viable income stream for similar charities and, if so, make your case to your Senior Management Team (SMT). If this would require additional resource, such as an additional team member or support from a consultancy, then make this clear.

Similarly, as you are your charity’s fundraising expert, you need to be clear when you think that your SMT have unrealistic expectations. Some buzzwords may be thrown around, your colleagues may think that there are major donors around every corner, or that legacy income is a ‘get rich scheme’. You need to explain that exploring unrealistic growth areas is not a good use of your time, but remember to explain why!

Also, prioritising certain areas means not prioritising other areas. Don’t be afraid to say no! Doing an hour round trip for a ten minute talk in a church hall my not be the best use of your time, and whilst it may be hard to say no, you have to think about what is best for your organisation.

If you would like to learn more about productivity, check out Alex Blake’s article: 15 Ways to Become a Productive Fundraiser.
3. Increase your capacity:

Just because you are the only fundraiser, you do not have to do everything alone. Find ways to ask for support to increase your capacity. The chances are, your charity already has a wealth of resources that could contribute to successful fundraising. Think about who you know. Have you had a conversation with your Trustees about how they can support fundraising? They may have connections that may be willing to support your efforts, or they may know a CEO of a business that you would love to partner with, sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Voluntary support can make a huge impact to your fundraising. Make the most of your current volunteers or any volunteers that may be available to you through corporate supporters. If you don’t have any available, then put out a request via your website or social media. Volunteers can ease so many roles from running a raffle to regular support with day-to-day tasks like data-entry. Plus, a volunteer with a particular skill could breathe new life into your fundraising. Just think for example, how much your work could be enhanced with some great fundraising-focused videos or a marketing specialist creating templates for your proposals and presentations.

Also, it is definitely worth asking your colleagues when you need a hand! You don’t need to be a martyr to your cause, all of your colleagues are invested in the success of the charity, so if you need some people for a cheering station or a member of the operational team to meet with a funder, then make your requests – just remember to give plenty of notice!
4. Offer your help;

If you are going to ask for support, it is important that you show that you are a team player too. Make sure that you don’t just communicate with the team when you want something. Actively respond to requests for support, ask the team for input and ideas to make sure that you don’t isolate yourself in the office.

Plus, getting involved in your organisation’s delivery can be a great way for you to gain perspective and in-depth knowledge that you can build in to your fundraising. I have always found that direct examples of your organisation’s work that come from your own experience, can be the most compelling to potential funders.
5. Champion yourself:

You are responsible for making sure that you are not isolated as a lone fundraiser. You need to be your own champion and, as cheesy as it may sound, this could be one of the most crucial tips to success.

Make sure that you celebrate your achievements. If you secure a new funder, exceed targets, or begin to build a relationship make sure that you shout about it. It is really important that your successes do not slip under the radar.

Part of championing yourself, is ensuring that you get the personal development that you need. Identify areas that you would like to explore and ways that you can get there. Sit down with your manager and set-up a personal development plan. Identify any training opportunities and make sure that you attend any useful events – it can be helpful to register for local fundraising newsletters to make sure that you are aware of upcoming opportunities.

A great way to succeed as a lone fundraiser is to create your own support network. Join your local networking events (and actually attend!) ask for help and problem-share. Definitely consider getting a mentor, they can help ‘talk fundraising’ when you feel like no one around you understands, they can offer advice and be a sounding-board when you need support.
So, to sum it up, you may be your organisation’s only fundraiser, but you don’t need to be alone. There are lots of ways that you can make the most of your capacity and resources, develop your ways of working to suit your own style and develop your skills and abilities to be a great all-round fundraiser.

This article was written by Amy Appleton in January 2019. If you would like to discuss or comment on the content please feel free to get in touch at amy.appleton@kedaconsulting.co.uk or https://twitter.com/KEDA_Consulting