Reinforcing a CEO’s bid for better fundraising

Age UK Cheshire East

“Graeme was lovely. He was very professional, very quick, he cut to the chase, asked the right questions and knew what we were talking about when it came to the intricacies of being part of a national organisation. I’m really pleased with the outcome.”

Lynne Elliot, CEO, Age UK Cheshire East

Age UK East Cheshire is a local partner of the national Age UK organisation, serving a small, largely rural community. When Lynne Elliot took over as CEO in 2021, following eight years as CEO of the Vegetarian Society, the charity had no dedicated fundraising function other than its shops. It had also lost its Local Authority and NHS contracts, so the shop income was funding core costs and the free Information and Advice service, which is a stipulation of being part of Age UK.

With fuel bills soaring, the shops were no longer in a position to fund these basic needs. At the same time Lynne, who has extensive fundraising experience, recognised that the lack of fundraising activity had caused the charity to lose connection with the local community and was missing an opportunity to raise local awareness of the charity’s activities and impact, which in turn would help to fund more activities, such as befriending services to tackle social isolation in the area and a scams awareness pilot project.

To achieve this, Lynne needed to convince the Trustees that investment in fundraising was necessary. She knew that she would stand a better chance of making her point if it came from an external expert, so she approached Action Planning, having attended one of our fundraising talks at ACEVOFest 2021.

Brief:We put Associate Consultant Graeme Neale on the case. Graeme live in the North-West and has extensive knowledge of the Age UK structure. Lynne asked him to look at fundraising opportunities and provide a prioritised fundraising plan, identifying immediate priorities and where to invest longer-term.

The structure of Age UK gave Graeme confidence that there would be no conflict of interest and he was able to bring his wealth of professional experience and his inside knowledge of the Age UK network to help Lynne produce a fundraising strategy and implementation plan. One of the priorities in the strategy was to employ a fundraising team in order to devote more time to bid writing – something that had fallen to the Chief Executive in the past.

Starting with a blank canvas actually made this work quicker and easier to complete, taking only five of the 10 allocated days, so there was time left in the budget for Graeme to offer further support. Writing the Case for Support was one option but Lynne felt confident that she could do this herself and instead asked Graeme to write a funding proposal to the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Lynne was delighted with the strategy and implementation plan, which enabled her to convince her Board to agree a new approach to fundraising and recognise the communications benefits of such activity. The Board agreed a new strategy for 2024 that includes employing a fundraising team, and moves have already been made to realise funds from the charity’s assets, such as its building.

The charity also received a £40,000 grant from Garfield Weston Foundation thanks to Graeme’s proposal. This has helped to fund core costs. Lynne’s ambition to grow and expand the charity’s activities in the area, particularly around loneliness and isolation, now look achievable and the long-term outlook is much more positive.

Consultant’s insight:
​​​​​​​When a new charity CEO wants to bring about major changes, the support of an external expert can be invaluable in lending credibility and authority to their vision, as well as saving valuable time. This was something that Lynne recognised and it was inspiring to work with somebody who had such clarity of vision and determination to effect positive change.

The success of the grant application from Garfield Weston shows that Age UK Cheshire East has a strong case for support and is a strong endorsement of the recommendation to properly resource fundraising for the charity in future.

It was a pleasure to work with Lynne. She knew what she was talking about and what she wanted but had the humility and good sense to see the benefits in delegating the work externally.

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