Reshaping a nuanced fundraising strategy

Africa Inland Mission

“David’s help overall has been really critical to us moving forward in a structured way and one that feels safe for the organisation. He listens well and doesn’t rush in with his perspective, which instils a level of confidence.”

Tim Matthews, EU Mobilisation Director, AIM

Africa Inland Mission (AIM) is an evangelical Christian mission agency, founded in 1895 and now serving in over 20 African nations. Like many Christian charities, AIM’s approach to fundraising has historically been a passive one, preferring to let supporters know what they were doing and leaving it to them to decide whether or not to support, rather than asking directly.

As a result, the charity had become more and more dependent on legacies and was in danger of becoming financially precarious, prompting the Board to press the leadership team to adopt a more proactive approach.

AIM’s EU Mobilising Director, Tim Matthews, had attended a live presentation at a Stewardship workshop, led by Action Planning’s Chairman David Saint. Tim felt that his fundraising experience, and particularly his experience of the nuances of fundraising for Christian organisations, would make him the ideal consultant to guide AIM in this cultural shift.

Tim initially asked David to carry out a half day review of AIM’s fundraising strategy, which then led on to a request for a more thorough fundraising review and report to the Board and Fundraising Working Group.

The half day fundraising strategy review enabled David to develop a clear understanding of the challenge facing AIM and its leadership team. Some of the Members were very uncomfortable about moving from a faith-based approach to a fundraising-led approach, but there was a palpable need to increase income. Therefore, David needed to propose an approach that would give everyone concerned the confidence that this could be achieved in a way that was in keeping with the charity’s ethos.

This involved a certain amount of “forcing us to have a think through the issues”, as Tim put it, but gave them a framework within which they could reshape their fundraising strategy.

The full-scale fundraising review highlighted a shortage in resources – both in overall capacity and in experienced fundraisers. The appointment of a specialist fundraiser would help to alleviate both these problems, albeit with a cost implication that needed to be carefully considered; this was left as a recommendation for AIM to consider in due course.

David also recommended ways in which budgeting, financial reporting and performance monitoring could all be enhanced, essentially by keeping it simple, focusing on a total net income figure across the board and working hard at all the income streams to deliver that overall total.

David has helped the AIM Board and leadership to formulate their ideas and understand the rationale behind a new approach to fundraising. This, says Tim, has given them more strength to change attitudes to asking for money – “that it is not as cold and hard as it might first appear”.

David’s recommendations for financial management have been written into the latest iteration of the fundraising strategy document and there are moves being made towards hiring a fundraiser.

David has been asked to continue to give quarterly input to the Fundraising Working Group, to make sure they are staying on course.

Consultant’s insight:
​​​​​​​Culture change is always hard to effect, perhaps especially when it has to do with money! In the case of AIM we were pushing at an open door, because they knew they needed to change, and wanted to do so, but were unsure how.

So we were able to have honest conversations about how people really felt about these issues, and by unpacking the concerns into specifics, we were able to demonstrate that some concerns were simply imagined or assumed and, where there was a genuine foundation for a concern, to find a work-around.

Organisations without a history of proactive fundraising often see it as a ‘dark art’ that must be really complicated. By breaking it down into small, simple elements we can demystify a great deal – and make it much more acceptable in the process.

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