Critical support for a first-time fundraiser

Citizens Advice Craven & Harrogate District

“It’s always useful having somebody from outside looking at what you’re doing and David was very professional. As a training session via Zoom it was very good. He set us tasks, gave us time to respond and having particular pieces to focus on was what we needed.”

Nanci Downey, Treasurer, CACHD

Our first encounter with Citizens Advice Craven & Harrogate District (CACHD) came earlier this year when they won a Fundraising Strategy workshop delivered by David Saint in our Pearls of Wisdom consultancy giveaway. The organisation’s funding from local councils had been severely cut back but there were cultural obstacles to launching a full-scale fundraising operation.

David’s objectivity helped to bring the Board along in accepting the need for a fundraising strategy and he left them with a plan of action, which enabled them to draft a new fundraising strategy. Treasurer Nanci Downey asked David if he would take a critical look at the strategy.

To run a workshop for four of the CACHD leadership team to review the new fundraising strategy and make suggestions for improvement.

The process was quite straightforward. Ahead of the workshop, David studied CACHD’s fundraising strategy document along with their business plan and made notes of any suggested amendments. He then went through his notes in discussion with the CACHD delegates on Zoom.

The points arising were more complex. The discussion focused largely on the issue of clarity over who was going to carry out the various actions, such as recruiting volunteers, a fundamental part of the strategy. David suggested that this should be the sole focus for the time being, with a deadline set for volunteer recruitment and an acknowledgement that if they failed to meet the deadline, the next consideration would be employing a part-time fundraiser instead.

These were big steps for an organisation that had never had to rely on fundraising before, so David’s approach had to be both understanding and candid. Being an independent party certainly helped in this regard.

Another aspect of the discussion was the possibility of a merger with another Citizens’ Advice district in North Yorkshire, as had been proposed by North Yorkshire County Council. This would mean a possible sharing of resources with a different district, which would help, but it was important to consider all the implications of a merger and David helped them to do that.

The key takeaways reported by Nanci were the need to create a five-year plan, the importance of being clear about the details of what’s involved in fundraising and the resources required, consideration of potential funding sources and an analysis of a financial year.

CACHD secured some COVID grant funding to pay for a training manager to spend six months following up people who have expressed an interest in volunteering. They have appointed Trustee Tim Tribe to take the lead and they have a volunteer fundraiser writing bids.

In short, the workshop set out what needed to be done, poked at a few unresolved issues and underlined the importance of addressing some difficult questions, like when might be the right time to employ someone rather than relying on volunteers.

Consultant’s insight:
It is probably to be expected that an organisation called Action Planning is rather keen on action plans! This is a crucial part of the strategic planning process, where the rubber hits the road. It may be a beautiful plan, but who is going to carry out the necessary actions to deliver it? Most plans fail not because the plan itself is intrinsically bad, but because the right human resources (capacity and skills) are not in place to make it happen.

CACHD are commendably keen to focus as much of their reduced income as possible onto front-line services, so the fundraising strategy is heavily dependent on the recruitment of volunteer fundraisers. If such people can’t be found, the charity may have no option but to bite the bullet and employ someone – albeit part-time perhaps. Having worked with CACHD before, I understood some of the sensitivities, but also felt that it was right to ‘hold their feet to the fire’ on this particular issue. I was greatly encouraged by the thoughtful and receptive way in which these challenges were taken on board.

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