“David has a helpful, friendly manner but is not averse to asking probing questions. He has a good analytical brain and is quick to pick up on the issues. His criticisms were helpful and there were some good suggestions in his report, which we are implementing.”
Ian Buchanan, Director of Supporter Engagement, Wycliffe Bible Translators
Keeping a Fundraising Plan on Track
Wycliffe Bible translators
Wycliffe is a Christian charity, founded in 1956, which builds partnerships with local language groups, translators and literacy experts all over the world in order to provide everyone with the Bible in a language that they understand well. In 2016, Wycliffe’s new Director of Supporter Engagement Ian Buchanan asked Action Planning to carry out a fundraising review. The resultant report contained 21 points for consideration and, where appropriate, implementation. Two years on, Ian asked David Saint back to review the progress made since the previous review.
We were asked to carry out the review with three questions in mind:
1. With unrestricted income increasing faster than project income, should Wycliffe realign income targets away from the emphasis on increasing project income by 2020?
2. Is the current set-up for managing major donors and trusts conducive to maintaining growth, given the shift to more unrestricted growth?
3. With a blank sheet of paper, where should Wycliffe be spending its money for the next five years, especially in relation to how to recruit new donors?
David spent four days carrying out an overview of Wycliffe’s current fundraising operation, reviewing documents and conducting interviews with Ian and other relevant personnel in person and via Skype. This enabled him to look back at the 21 points in the 2016 review and evaluate the level of achievement in implementing the suggestions set down.
The tone of the report was important. While acknowledging the significant work that Wycliffe had achieved since 2016, it was quite frank in pointing out areas where improvement was necessary. The 17-page report provided detailed responses to the three questions in the brief, identifying opportunities for strategic adjustments, highlighting areas for improvement, and putting forward a list of proposed areas of investment.
While this was not a root and branch review but a top-level response to the three main questions, with some tactical observations added in, the report was well received by the Wycliffe board. The report observed that the charity had achieved a notable change in attitude to fundraising since the 2016 report, now displaying a far more positive approach. A similarly positive attitude was taken to the proposals in this report, with plans promptly put in place to restructure where possible, eg bringing trust fundraising in-house, improving the reporting mechanism, and developing the expertise behind the charity’s magazine. Wycliffe’s fundraising strategy is continuing to bear fruit, with further changes planned to increase income and to spend more effectively.
It is said that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, and it is certainly true that culture is the dominant force in most organisations. As a strongly faith-based organisation, Wycliffe’s culture was at best indifferent to fundraising – but could at times be quite hostile to what were perceived as coldly commercial fundraising practices. Over time, and with strong and effective leadership from the evolving Board, Chief Executive and Senior Leadership Team, the charity has recognised the positive benefits of a strategic approach to fundraising (those benefits being far more than just ‘more money’!), and has positively embraced good fundraising practice.
It can be particularly helpful to use an external consultant in a process of culture change such as this – the consultant can illuminate discussions with examples from other organisations and challenge received wisdom and group-think. The consultant can say things that staff (or management) may find it difficult to say. What was particularly good about this process was being asked to return after 18 months or so to help make sure that progress is being maintained. I do hope I’ll be invited back in another couple of years’ time!