IoFFC 2019; Session Skipping, Mental Health & Good Humans

How was IoFFC for you?

It was a different vibe for me this year. I don’t know if it’s because it was my first year on the Convention Board so I’ve been involved in the planning, or because I finally succumbed to the flu my three-year-old has been kindly offering to share for the past week, but it was definitely a calmer and more mindful IoFFC than I’ve ever been to.

This year I skipped the Tweeting and need to be in a session AT ALL TIMES and focussed my (ever decreasing) energy on people; meeting with them, listening to them and really connecting. I listened to my body when it was struggling to keep up and was able to find a quiet spot or a comfy beanbag to chill out before I could re-join (if anyone saw me getting up off one of those bags you better not tell anyone how ungraceful that looked…).

The theme of connection, vulnerability, and self-care ran through a lot of IoFFC this year even though the subject made up only a handful of the session content. In my catch-ups with fundraisers, we discussed burnout, being treated badly in jobs and the impact on mental health and the ever-increasing pressure to nail it when the odds are stacked against us. This openness led to my own vulnerability and I surprised myself with being honest in conversations about my own thoughts and failures and reflecting on how that shaped my relationships with peers and what was to come next in my career journey. This self-reflection actually made me feel empowered to cut out the fluff and just be direct about what I need and expect to be able to succeed, which is especially helpful as I head out solo with my own freelance work!

The topic of wellbeing was definitely highlighted in Neil and Jonny’s Tuesday plenary

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Jonny & Neil share their story

when the subject of mental health and suicide was in the spotlight for the most-packed out IoFFC plenary that I’ve ever been to. The online response was phenomenal, but how do we keep that conversation going in our teams and with each other when the shine of the hashtag has faded?

The open conversations helped set the stage for the final Wednesday session when Pizza for Losers made a brief, one hour return with Danyial Gilani, Lizzi Hollis, Emily Petty and Ben Swart sharing their personal experiences of failure and how that’s shaped their current-day success. Two of those talks were super personal, and I could sense that appreciation and connection in the room as the speaker let go of their story and the audience took it on and heard they weren’t alone. It’s easy to feel like you’re failing if you’re not coping but needing to reset, recharge and sometimes even quit is definitely not failing. Looking after yourself is NOT a failure. It’s not easy standing up in front of a room of over 60 people and say, ‘this didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but it’s ok’; but I think the speakers took more from that than the attendees did, proving that talking and opening up is the first step to moving forward to be in a better place.

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Pizza for Losers takeover at IoFFC 2019

Joe Jenkins asked me in an interview for IoF something along the lines of ‘are organisations doing enough to look after the wellbeing of staff?’, my answer was ‘no’ (it was actually a lot longer than that but Monday feels like it was a lifetime ago). We talk about it a lot with each other, but there lacks a proper understanding and “process” where employees can actually get support. I wonder if organisations are reluctant to open up too much about this for fear of a mass-staff sickness, or if it’s a genuine ‘we have no idea where to start’ kind of thing.

As a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA), and someone who experiences related issues, mental health is massively misunderstood. There’s the idea that if you’re not in bed alone in a dark room then you’re not struggling, but poor mental health and wellbeing looks and feels different in different people. This can then be hard to spot when someone’s struggling, but also some people are pretty awful in talking with people about mental health and knowing how to support them – and it’s easy to quickly retreat again if you’ve finally opened up and it’s going terribly, terribly wrong. And whilst MHFA training is important, my worry is that once again it puts the emphasis and responsibility on peers supporting peers when the guidance has to come from the top down; and to be honest the MHFA trained people I know aren’t really the people I would go to for help, and they may say the same about me, so what good does it really do apart from tick a box?

I’d like to see more discussions around this on a more prominent platform next year and some sessions from charities and companies who have managed to put good support networks in place that we can learn from. I’m in a fortunate place on the Board that I can make that known, but I need to know what good things are happening out there so I can bring it into the picture (and also learn from it). I don’t want this to just be a, ‘Wow, that was an amazing experience!’, flash in the line-up so please let me know what’s happening out there so we can do more to help people who are trying to change the world.

So my biggest takeaway from IoFFC this year wasn’t a big ‘EUREKA’ moment in a session or a soundbite from a speaker that made me realise what I need to do to succeed, it was the individual conversations and connections with other fundraisers that made me feel supported, reinvigorated and part of a crew of caring and wonderful people who are all human, just like me. I’ll be trying to package this into something more for the IOFNW conference in September where I’ll be delivering the opening plenary and a session on learning from failure – hopefully I’ll see you there to tell you more and we can continue the conversation.

What was your experience of IoFFC like this year? Tell me at hello@charitynikki.com or on Twitter, @CharityNikki.

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GUEST BLOG: How Do We Know If We’re Nailing It? Updated Fundraising Ratios COMING SOON

caroline
Caroline Danks

I’m ending November and a temporary return to non-#donorlove celebration updates with a guest blog from Caroline Danks; fabulous fundraiser and owner of the most dazzling jumpsuits I’ve ever known; and she has an exciting request.  I met Caroline at #IoFFC and I’ve been fan-girling ever since; a delightfully talented fundraiser and big believer in self-care, how could you not admire what she does?  Caroline’s launched a research project looking at up-to-date fundratios for the UK’s charities, but we need more participants.  Can you help?

 

As a fundraising consultant, the first question I get asked by a potential client (the direct ones, at least) is ‘how much money can you make me?’

My response is usually rooted in my own achievements; my own hit rate and a little about the organisational contexts relevant to those with whom I’ve been working.
I may also quote from the Fundratios 2013 survey, a study which looked at the return on investment of various types of fundraising for 17 different charities.

For obvious reasons, I am more and more hesitant to quote from this study. Great as it was, it is now hideously out of date and (for small / medium sized charities at least) there has been no follow up study since. This year, I have been working with colleagues in the sector to remedy this (thank you Tobin at AAW Partnership and Nick and Symon from the IOF Insights SIG).

Fundraising is changing rapidly. The competition for funds is greater than it has even cookiebeen before. Philanthropists, foundations, communities and companies are feeling the pressure to fill the gap following a reduction in statutory contributions.  Rather like the world of ‘Pinterest fails’, it’s messy out there and I for one am not 100% sure I know what ‘good looks like’ any more.

The excellent news is that a new study is live. We just need a few more participants to enable a big enough (and therefore meaningful) sample.

Getting involved is easy, simply email me fundraising@carolinedanks.co.uk and I’ll send you the link to the questionnaire along with instructions on how to interpret each question. You’ll need to know how much your charity spent on each area of fundraising and how much you raised.

I’m not interested in perfection. I understand that people may interpret the questions in slightly different ways and I agree that three years’ worth of data would be better than just one but everyone’s busy and in order to fill this void of information, I’m willing to work on the principle that something is better than nothing.   The final report will include case studies from different charities and will give context and meaning to the figures to help fundraisers and sector leaders set their own benchmarks within their own contexts. What’s not to love?

All participating charities will receive a copy of the report for free. Results will be anonymised.

I’m pretty confident I’m nailing it (most days!) and I’m sure you are too. Now’s our chance to prove it.

Caroline Danks is a fundraising consultant, bullet journalist, aspiring yogi and fairweather mermaid. Her website is www.carolinedanks.co.uk and you can tweet her @cdfundraising

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Social Media & Professional Development; Little Digital Steps to Make Big Career Moves

As I sat in the Amsterdam sunshine, recovering from a week of speaking at the CEEFC in Slovakia and enjoying a moment of calm before IFC Holland, I couldn’t help think that without social media I wouldn’t have had these amazing opportunities.

I’ve written recently for Lightful on how to get started with social media for fundraising relationships, but social media has also played a HUGE part in my professional development too.  Without Twitter and LinkedIn I wouldn’t have built a relationship with co-speaker, Viki Hayden-Ward, that led to my first international speaking gig.  And without using social media to share fundraising best practice I wouldn’t have been invited to write and speak about my fundraising experience, which led to my involvement at IFC (and I would have definitely missed the Tweet advertising the opportunity!).

Social media enables you to connect and network with those beyond your immediate fundraising circle, be exposed to the brilliant ways of working from other charities and fundraisers, and gives you a platform to promote your charity and yourself to be noticed amongst those who are making big waves.

Interested?  Read on…

Getting Started

  1. I’ve mentioned this before but think about the social media platforms you can add the most value to and focus your energy here.  I’d rather do a couple of things absolutely mint (that means ‘awesome’ in Geordie) than be mediocre at everything.  Twitter and LinkedIn are the obvious ones for professional development, but with Facebook groups like Fundraising Chat, you may find that Facebook works for you too (I’m back on so be sure to say hi!).
  2. Be you; perhaps THE most important advice on getting started is to not be afraid to twitter2have your personality come out through your posts.  I met the lovely Joelle recently and was delighted when she said the person sitting across the table from her was exactly what she’d expected from my online presence.  Relationships mean human to human connections, get it started on the right foot.
  3. Find your tribe; fundraisers and leaders are increasingly active on social media and through their posts you will learn who is doing amazing things in charity, how they’re managing to do it, and what jobs they’ve got going at their organisation that might be your next big role! (thanks Emily for the tip!).  Search for fundraisers you’ve heard of and check their posts; following the fundraisers you like the sound of, and going on to check their own posts for more people to follow.  To get you started I massively recommend Joe Jenkins and Michael Sheridan (you can follow me too if you aren’t already).
  4. Connect with new connections; met someone at an event? Follow up on LinkedIn and/or Twitter to keep the conversation going. I 100% recommend personalising your LinkedIn invites or getting involved in online discussions with your new connection within the fortnight to keep you front of mind.
  5. Bonus tip: your timeline is getting pretty hefty now.  Use Twitter’s list function to keep your Twitter users in mini categories so you can find them, and their tweets, easily.
  6. Post! Much like a conversation, if you don’t engage, ask and contribute you’re not going to attract any attention or response.  Be sure to keep your timeline filled with relevant content about you, the work you’re doing with your charity, and get involved in conversations to entice people to follow and connect.

Getting Going

  1. Ok, you’re posting regularly and building up a bit of a following; go you!  Now we can step it up a notch.  Photos, and especially videos, are a key to online engagement; they get more preference in the social media platform’s algorithms and statistically users engage with these posts more.  Next time you post ask yourself, ‘can I add more value by adding a photo/video?’.  The answer is probably, ‘YES!’ – so do it.  Not comfortable with video?  I run a training session and/or workshop to help you so get in touch.
  2. As with supporters, the best way to spark a relationship is face to face.  If there is twitter3someone online that you really admire and you’d love to know more about them, ask to meet them for a cuppa the next time you’re near their office or at a work event together.  Show genuine interest, be prepared with the questions you’d love to know the answer to, and be sure to say thank you for their time.
  3. Stay in touch! Once you’ve built that connection, don’t let it fizzle.  Keep in touch with your new fundraising friends through, you guessed it, social media; get involved in conversations, drop them an occasional message when you see something that reminds you of them, and get involved in online conversations when you have something positive to add.
  4. Celebrate and return the favour;  it’s tough sometimes as a fundraiser so a little kindness goes a long way.  I love using social media to celebrate my fellow fundraisers and the amazing work they’re doing. And I’m always keen to repay the support shown to me through my career and pass it on to the newer ones starting their own.  Pay it back when you can.

Expert Level

  1. Wow, you’re a social media superstar now!  What next? After around two years of tweeting best practice I knew the next step to furthering my career was to start blogging but my gosh, was it terrifying. Would it be well received?  Did it make sense?  What if they don’t like Prince?!  Luckily I had some very supportive friends and an exciting idea, so ten drafts and a New Year’s Eve celebration later, my first piece was up!  Blogging is a fantastic way to elaborate on your tweet ideas and reach new audiences.  Get in touch if you’d like to guest post on here to get you going.
  2. Another way to progress and get in front of the right people online is to feature ontwitter1 other fundraisers’ online platforms; sharing relevant content and being retweeted is great, but guest blogs, featuring on podcasts and webinars show that you have something great to say, and that you have the backing of the host.
  3. Don’t be shy!  Once I started working remotely for the BHF I started to use Twitter to shout about my work; partly because I was excited and proud of what I was achieving, but mostly because I knew my bosses were on there and it was a great way to get noticed from so far away.  If you have a great fundraising success, share it!  It helps other fundraisers do better work and promotes you as a brilliant fundraiser that another charity would love to have as part of their team.
  4. Take it offline; since starting to speak for national, and then international, fundraising conferences I’ve noticed a big difference in fundraising opportunities.  It’s a big step but with practice, preparation and confidence it has a huge impact on what you can do professionally.  Couple this with ongoing social media sharing and watch your fundraising networks increase, alongside exposing you to greater and better ways of fundraising to improve the work you’re already doing (and giving you new things to post about!).

Development for fundraisers is a hot topic right now but it can be difficult to get started when looking for added value.  I hope these social media tips have a positive impact on your development but it’s important to use alongside traditional progression methods for the best results (networking, secondments, and putting in the hard graft for your work to speak for itself).

Get signed up, get posting, and get moving on up; see you on Twitter!

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‘Fundraising for Introverts’; Tips For When You’re Shy, Anxious or Just Not Feeling Up To It…

I have this podcast/Youtube video that I’d like to share with you which I recorded recently with fundraising friend, Simon Scriver.  We were chatting about how early experiences shape your approach to fundraising, and I shared how being bullied in my teenage years had a big effect on my confidence.

Fundraising actually helped me through it but sometimes, even to this day, it can be quite difficult to muster the energy or mental power to get me through certain tasks.  I’ve had to learn tricks for moments like these and I share some in this recording.

Fundraising for introverts, people who get a little anxious, and even just people who find it a little overwhelming at times…I hope you enjoy the listen.

 

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The Time I Got it Wrong; Getting the Right Work Balance

I got a text late one Saturday night from one of my closest friends.  It said, ‘…I haven’t seen you in ages and I’m worried we’ll drift apart.’

I felt two things; I was so sad that one of my best friends was feeling this way, and secondly I was ashamed.  I was a fundraiser; relationships are what I do, what I’m brilliant at…so how did I get this wrong?

Fundraising is a tough game.  There is no ‘9-5’, you need to remember hundreds of names, stories and appointments, and you have a rolling target that starts again the moment it’s reached.  Add to that a desire to absorb as much learning as we can, volunteering to support other fundraisers or charities, the habit of always saying, ‘yes!’ – oh, and a life outside of fundraising, and you’ve got about ten minutes left in the day.

My mind was so full of work that I wasn’t nurturing my personal relationships with the same attentiveness as I do with supporters.

I’m not alone.  I know fundraisers who work through their lunch because they have loads to do in very little time, the belief that working late is the only proof of working hard, and a fear of saying ‘no’ resulting in a weekend of doing laps around Scotland.

Fundraising is a wonderful profession and I adore every minute I get to work with the supporters and colleagues who make it so.  But it’s so important to have a balance.

We need to chill.  Take a step back, look at the bigger picture and re-approach our fundraising with a vibe of calm and mindfulness.  Not only that but we need to carve out time for ourselves in the day to appreciate the goals we’ve already achieved and take time to do things that we love.

If we’re good to ourselves we can be better in our work; we’ll feel less pressure, get to appreciate the smaller accomplishments that lead to bigger goals and we’ll be better fundraisers – imagine how well we’ll build relationships if we’re always fully present in the moment.

How can we give 100% to supporters when our cup is half full?

As well at that, we’ll be looking after our mental health, personal relationships and be able to focus on what matters when it matters.

So how do we manage it?

  • Take your lunch break.  Already eaten?  Go for a walk, and take someone with you.
  • Block out your lunch break in your calendar.
  • Social media curfew; if you use social media for work, log off when your day is done and turn off your notifications.
  • Use ‘airplane mode’ for a total digital detox.
  • Block out ‘you time’ throughout your week.  Go to the gym, read a book or get some air.
  • To-do list done? Log off, go home.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ and turn it into an opportunity.  Would having volunteers make it doable?
  • Be strategic; always saying ‘yes’ to extra opportunities?  Think of your end goal and the path you need to take to get there.  If this won’t add value, let it go.
  • Work from home; less distraction, more comfort and increased productivity.
  • Turn off your email notifications.  Choose set times each day to check and respond – add this to your ‘out of office’ and manage expectations.
  • 3 minute rule; if a task takes less than three minutes to do, do it straight away. You use more energy putting it off and remembering it.
  • Speak up.  Don’t be afraid to say when things are getting too much or you need help.
  • Help someone out you think might be struggling
me and max

By having a healthier approach to my work time balance, I’ve been able to pursue my rock star dreams

 

I’ve been doing this a lot more recently and have felt a MASSIVE change.  I have more time for the people I love, freed up time in my day to devote to improving myself, and have felt more in control at work with the goals I’m aiming for; and been able to dedicate time to achieve them.

Today marks the first day of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.  Try it now; log off, go home, switch off and take some time for you – because you matter too.

what tips can you share that help you have a healthy approach to your working day?  Tweet me @CharityNikki.

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FREE Skills Training for North East Charities

Are you a fundraiser looking to develop skills outside of your role?  Are you a manager who’s interviewed the most wonderful relationship builder, but they’re not Microsoft savvy? Or perhaps you’d like to keep your learning sharp but your organisation doesn’t have the budget to support this?

Then I have good news!  My pals at Gateshead College have £7.5m of funding to provide local organisations with skills training & courses such as:

yoda

  • Events Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Data Analytics
  • Project Management
  • Team Leadership
  • ICT skills
  • plus much more!

Visit their website to find a course that’s right for you and register your interest.  Classes can be scheduled for your charity if you have more than 10 people you’d like to send along.

There’s no catch; Gateshead College provide the venue, training and trainer so we’d be ackas* to miss it!

Funding is available until July 2018 so act today.

Be sure to sign up to the North East Institute of Fundraising newsletter to be kept up to date with regional fundraising training, and North East Fundraising Conference news!

 

*ackas – daft