Maintaining a steady hand

british tinnitus association

"David communicates clearly, without using ‘fundraising-speak’, which helped our trustees to grasp the full fundraising picture. He delivered a strong interpretation of what was happening and was able to put across his candid views in a way that was considered and helpful."


The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is an independent charity and the primary source of support and information for people with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in the UK. The BTA advises medical professionals across the world and encourages prevention of tinnitus through an educational programme and medical research. In 2016, Chief Executive Officer David Stockdale asked Action Planning to carry out a review of the charity’s fundraising. Two years later, David Saint was asked back to assess the progress being made.

The BTA trustees wanted an external review of fundraising activities to assess whether the charity was doing what it need to. Major recommendations from the 2016 review included: being clear about the scale and nature of the ‘fundraising ambition’; developing a research strategy and an awareness strategy; looking ruthlessly at the range of fundraising activities and culling the poor performing activities; securing a direct debit facility; bringing in senior-level expertise in individual giving; and taking a more creative approach to corporate fundraising. Other recommendations included reallocation of senior time and adjusting targets for trust applications from quantity to value. The new review would assess whether these recommendations had been implemented and what still needed to be done.

This was a small-scale review, carried out over one day. David interviewed David Stockdale and two fundraising leads and looked through documents. From this research he produced an eight-page report in which progress on the 2016 recommendations was annotated in three colours: green for implemented or good reason not to implement; blue for making progress but still some progress to be made; and red for much still to be done.

The report gave BTA’s trustees a very clear assessment of the progress being made and the work still to do. It also offered reassurance that the speed of progress was not cause to change tack but to stick to the plan and keep working towards long-term goals. David Stockdale was able to present the report to his trustees and receive their approval to carry on along the course he had set out.

Consultant’s insight:
Fundraising is far from being an exact science and charities have to be able to ‘hold their nerve’ when trying something new – there are seldom instant results! But it is wise to keep a close eye on implementation, so that even if the outcomes (money) are slow to materialise, we can be confident that the outputs (fundraising activities, appeals etc) are being delivered as planned. This is sometimes helpfully described as ‘lead’ and ‘lag’ indicators. A ‘lead’ indicator is a measure of whether things are happening (like good quality trust applications at the right value) that are likely to lead to the desired outcome. ‘Lag’ indicators would include the money that has been raised, but also the number of positive responses etc.
So BTA’s trustees were wise to ask for an independent review to make sure all is well. We were pleased to be able to reassure them that, whilst there are a few ‘tweaks’ that could be made, on the whole the new programme is progressing well.

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