SOFII's Blog - interesting fundraising trends and ideas from around the world

SOFII is an online archive of fundraising best practice and creativity. It is filled with an ever expanding array of easily accessible exhibits, articles, videos, opinion pieces, hints and tips, book reviews and recommendations. The SOFII blog is a place for us to share some thoughts and ideas that might not have an obvious home on the SOFII website. It’s also a place for us to invite guest bloggers to share their views. If you’d like to contribute to our blog please get in touch with

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Getting along – conflicts among staff

By Kirsten Bullock

There seems to be an invisible line drawn between fundraising staff and programme staff, executive staff and frontline staff, support services, such as accounting and technology, and everyone else. It exists in some way in most of the organisations I’ve worked with in the USA and I would be interested to hear from readers elsewhere to see if this staff divide is universal.

As a lifelong student (and someone who tends to think too much), I have spent time trying to determine the root of these conflicts. It seems to me that they stem from three different areas:

1) A belief that everyone else is just like us.

2) A tendency to think that the area we work in is the most important.

3) Focusing on what we heard – rather than what was meant.

We are not all alike

I confess that I am not a detail-oriented person; however, I have the utmost respect for those who are. I must also confess though that I used to get really irritated with people who dwelt on details when I wanted to talk about the big picture (and still do occasionally). Over time, and through communications tests and profiles such as DISC and Myers Briggs, I’ve come to have a much greater respect for the importance of diversity on work teams. It ensures that we will be less likely to overlook items essential to the success of our project, among other benefits.

Marriage was a similar learning curve for me in this area. My husband and I folded our towels differently, put our toilet paper on the holder differently, squeezed the toothpaste differently and had very different cooking styles (it was a few years before we were able to cook together). It didn’t mean either of us, or our families, were wrong, we were just different.

We are equally important

While there could probably be some very energetic discussions about the most important part of an organisation (programmes, fundraising, operations), the truth is that none of them could be successful without the others. We need money to operate programmes, but we need strong programmes to warrant funding and we need good systems in place to assure that everything is operating smoothly.

Communication, especially listening, is the key

Communication is an on-going challenge for people, as evidenced by the deluge of self-help books covering this topic and the increasing number of coaches focusing on it. Two people might be using the same words but mean very different things. Add another culture, even a second or third language into the mix and it’s a wonder we’re able to communicate effectively at all.

Several months ago my mother had some friends from Denmark visiting her. They had gone on a trip to a store and while they were waiting to pay her two friends were having an animated conversation about something fairly mundane. The person behind the register expressed concern to my mother about the argument he assumed they were having because, based on what he knew from his cultural norms, he thought their animation was hostility.

Creating a collaborative environment

So, with these challenges (and many more that we don’t have space to cover here), how do we begin to create a more collaborative environment?

First, understand yourself (with a goal of helping to understand others). The things you find most irritating about others may be things you yourself struggle with, or could be the exact opposite to you. Spend some time thinking about your reaction to other people. If it’s a negative reaction, try to identify what’s causing that reaction and why.

Next, try to see the good in others. When you’re able to identify differences between you and others, try to see the benefits that those differences offer. If you’re like me and love to push forward on projects, it’s good to have one or two people on your team providing cautionary words about possible obstacles. If you’re the type of person who gets stuck because of all the obstacles, it’s beneficial to have someone on the team pushing to move things along.

Bring internal partners into the conversation early. Ask questions about how things operate in their department and understand the implications for their department of what you’re trying to accomplish. Bringing all the parties together at the beginning of a discussion can help avoid delays later on. The primary objective for this meeting would be to discuss what you’re trying to accomplish and then ask for ideas of the best way to get there. It does take longer, but there will be more support for the implementation phase – and you might be pleasantly surprised when a better idea emerges to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Understand your organisation’s programmes. Take time to learn about the programmes you’re raising funds for and what the hoped for outcomes are. This is a great opportunity to build bridges with programme staff. And remember, people don’t always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Listening goes a long way in helping to build a strong relationship.

Recognise programme and operations staff, talk about them whenever the opportunity arises. As fundraising professionals, we often have the chance to do so publically. Let your programme and operations staff members know how much you appreciate them.

Start a giving programme for staff so, just like donors, they can become investors in the organisation beyond the day-to-day work they do; in some cases, introduce them to the joy of giving. Perhaps in a small way it helps other members of the organisation to get a small glimpse of the way we, as fundraising professionals, have the privilege of helping our donors use their money to accomplish something that they care deeply about and would not be able to accomplish on their own.

So, to summarise, it boils down to being a strong partner by listening and appreciating the strengths each person brings to the table. Hopefully through this process mutual respect will develop and a fruitful partnership can begin. Please let me know how these tips impact your work.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The unstoppable rise of social entrepreneurship

By Noam Kostucki

You may know a charity that makes money from selling products and services. Maybe you wonder how you can do the same, but have no background or experience in doing so? Perhaps you’re put off by the idea that it might be risky? Don’t be.

I often meet people from charities that struggle through the process of selling goods or services as a way of raising income. So, to help all those looking to take their first steps in the social entrepreneurial world, I’ve put together a short guide to help you on your way.

You might be impressed to learn that, according to the Charity Commission, charities in the UK have raised over £52 billion, of which broadly five per cent is claimed to come from trading. On the other hand, I am amazed by the Hidden Social Enterprise report from Delta, which shows that ethical and social trading represents a staggering potential contribution to the UK economy of £110 billion.

It would seem that trading in itself is no longer the savviest option. Only the organisations that can adapt to this new ethical opportunity will see a growth they could never have expected under the old paradigm. So if profit organisations are starting to realise that it pays to be nice, then why can’t charities capitalise on ‘being nice’ as a way to boost their income too?

Here are three key things to think about if you’re looking to make the most of your assets. And I’ve provided some examples too, so you can get an idea about what other people are already doing.

1. What are you best at?

What is it that your charity does best? Is it a skill, an attitude or even a specialised knowledge you have? How do you help others and what helps them most?

For example, look at the cancer charity Odyssey. This charity gives a one-week course of activities to help cancer patients boost their self-confidence and rebuild shattered spirits, but they were facing an uncertain future because of a drop in their income. Thinking outside the ‘charity’ box and with the help of some social enterprise expertise they are now developing the same course for healthy people who are looking for an injection of positivity in to their lives and who are happy to pay for the service. Odyssey have also now tapped in to the corporate market and are tailoring their course for company team building days which has a huge potential for growth and a secure source of income.

This is a great example where using your existing knowledge and charitable services along with a little commercial thinking can mean finding new sources of fundraising for your charity.

2. What is your business model?

You need to find a model in which your beneficiaries don’t lose out. You should be making money from people who want the same benefits as the groups you help by tailoring your services and products to a wider audience that is ready to pay. Your customers can be individuals and/or companies.

My favourite example is TOMS shoes: for every pair of shoes you buy, they send a new pair to a child in need. So the more they do for a good cause, the more money they make. The more money they make, the more they do for a good cause.

It is best when your charitable purpose is linked to making profit, directly or indirectly.

3. Use technology to make your life easier

Don’t do it all yourself, you can’t be an expert at everything. Social media can be a great tool for charities to make the most of the chance for free publicity and be sure to use all the free services available.

In the UK, we have initiatives like This for-profit social enterprise helps you build your own bookshop online at no cost. They host the shops and manage all customer service issues. All you have to do is tell your supporters about the books. Every thousand visitors generate an average of £50, with so many charities having large donor bases it’s a great opportunity to generate new income for your charity.*

There are also a number of free services that can offer you a variety of help. Websites such as and can provide you with feedback from customers; and will help you manage your social media and you can even create your own social network for free at sites like Ultimately you need to explore what’s out there and make the most of the free technologies.

Seeducation is my own social enterprise company and we look to help individuals and organisations make money whilst having a positive social impact. Right now we are working on preparing a free eLearning tool called, ‘Making money from doing good’, thanks to a generous donation of a £40,000 eLearning platform by GrowthEngineering. We’ll keep you posted as soon as this is up and running.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for social entrepreneurship: a new era has definitely started.

NB: SOFII is not able to endorse or recommend the websites in this blog.