Equipping volunteer fundraisers to up their game

Friends International

“David is good because he listens and he has good things to offer. He hears from us what we think we need and has skills to share.”

Alan Tower, National Director, Friends International

Friends International is a Christian charity that provides hospitality for international students coming to study in the UK. The charity has 40 centres in university towns around the country and over 60 people working full-time or part-time. Back in 2019, Action Planning worked with Friends International to develop a fairly radical fundraising strategy to fund 20 new centres. Since then we have maintained an ongoing relationship on fundraising.

In 2022, Friends International National Director Alan Tower asked us to run an online fundraising workshop for around 20 of his colleagues located around the country. Some of them were staff but most were volunteers running local branches, and Alan could see a need for upskilling the volunteers in each centre.

David discussed with Alan what he wanted from the workshop and then sent out a questionnaire to the 20 or so attendees, asking for their top topics to explore. From the responses, he crafted the content for the workshop.

David presented the workshop live via video conference and recorded it, so that those who were unable to attend could watch it in their own time. Having already canvassed their views, he was able to ensure that he addressed the subject in a way that made everybody feel engaged and heard.

He talked through the principal components of a fundraising strategy, such as building a case for support, identifying funding sources and deciding on the best approach, as well as efficient use of resources, budgeting, financial reporting and performance monitoring.

The aim was to leave all attendees, especially the volunteers, with the knowledge and tools to approach their fundraising challenges with renewed confidence and vigour.

The volunteers who attended the workshop, or watched the recording later, were left with a greater understanding of the principles of fundraising and how they could apply them to their own specific task. In Alan’s words, “I think we’ve got better informed volunteers as a result. They understand the challenge and feel encouraged that they have the tools available to do some local fundraising. People went away encouraged to have a go.”

Consultant’s insight:
When people are asked to engage in ‘serious’ fundraising for the first time, they often approach it with one of two misconceptions: either “This is going to be difficult” or “We need to start planning coffee mornings”.

What I hope I was able to convey in this workshop is that fundraising is simple… but it’s not easy. At its core it is about sharing something you care about with other people and offering them an opportunity to get involved and make a difference. So it is simple. But it is not easy because we have these hang-ups about “asking people for money”. Once we realise that we are “presenting an opportunity to give”, and that it’s OK if people say, “No thank you,” it becomes so much easier.

Friends International does great work. I really hope that this workshop will encourage and inspire their branches to raise the money they need to fund their ambitious expansion plans.

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