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News & announcements 5,098 views Oct 19, 2016
Good Things Come in Small Packages

When talking to smaller, local organisations the same problem seems to come up over and over again – ‘we haven’t got the budget and advantages that the bigger organisations have, and we are limited in what we can do’

Contrary to this, I believe that smaller organisations should stop worrying about what the large brands are doing, and take advantage of their ability to tap into, what is often seen by the public, as ‘the true meaning of charity’.

Be personal

Identify the specific ways that your supporters help you (this isn’t necessarily financial). Segmenting data by things that actually matter to supporters, and recognising that seemingly small things are special (they took the time, thought and effort to think of me); make sure your supporters know you’ve noticed.

An organisation that I worked with made a point of thanking the supporters who provided hand-made gifts for their gift shop. The re-sale value of the gifts wasn’t particularly high, but when writing to this group of supporters at Christmas, the effect of appreciating and recognising the contribution that their hand- made gifts made collectively, saw the number of gifts received (when compared to their response to the previous year’s Christmas mailing) double. The average gift amongst this group was also 60% higher. Extrapolate this effect across all the different groups of supporters on your database, and with a little work on a mail merge you could see a substantial improvement in response to your Christmas mailing.

Invest in training volunteers and staff

Volunteers and support staff come into contact with your supporters in the everyday context of their work and they can’t be expected to take on fundraising responsibilities without understanding the organisations fundraising goals, and having some investment in how to make fundraising asks. After all, asking for money isn’t easy. Proper training gives not only the fundraising context (breaking down the barriers that often exist between fundraisers and staff in other departments) but also delivers clarity around regulatory requirements, and confidence to know when, how and what to ask for (and equally when not to ask). Not all volunteers and support staff will be suitable, nor indeed want to fundraise -  but those who are, will enthuse supporters and they and their colleagues will feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

Share investments

If you can’t afford the proportionate cost of taking on a new member of staff, why not get together with other local organisations and share the cost? Choose an organisation geographically close to you, who share similar values and ethics. Sharing an employee can be rewarding and varied for the employee (especially if tasks are repetitive) and will give you the opportunity to attract a better calibre employee. For example, your telephone fundraising aspirations may be too small to use an agency, but a shared employee could make those aspirations a reality.

Equally, shared training cost when using outside trainers can make an uneconomic project feasible. Whilst this might at first glance make practical management sense, these are exactly the sort of common sense propositions that appeal to high and major donors. So it may be a scary prospect, but the concept for a supporter helping more than one organisation at a time and funding these kinds of initiatives can also be a distinctive and attractive proposition.

From the supporters’ perspective we should not forget that in fundraising terms smaller organisations often offer distinct advantages over larger ones – they can get closer to beneficiary and supporter needs more easily; with appropriate training and guidance they are often more flexible and capable of delivering a ‘real’ tailored supporter experience and they can cooperate with likeminded organisations to offer significant efficiencies in fundraising performance.


Jane Cunningham has been working in the forefront of fundraising for nearly 25 years. Known for the high quality of her fundraising practice and practical experience in segmentation and analysis, she has pioneered many new fundraising initiatives in the UK, Europe and the US.


In everything she develops, she believes that the starting point should be to take the donors perspective, which will ultimately lead to developing the most effective strategic and creative responses; resulting in donor satisfaction and financial success.


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