Keeping the spark alive – fundraising when you’re uninspired

Never mind the seven-year itch, apparently the average UK trust fundraiser stays in their post for only 18 months before moving on. I find this really sad (but I have been there myself and I do get it). Fundraising is a long game which needs consistent application over many years.  But how do you keep the spark alive  and what can you do about your fundraising when you’re uninspired?

I only stayed in my first two fundraising jobs for this length of time before moving on. My third however, I did for 8 years. During that time, I built some very close and productive relationships with trusts and foundations and really enjoyed the open and honest dialogue between us. My hit rate was super high towards the end of my tenure too…

One of the top reasons trust fundraisers give for wanting to move on is the need for a greater variety of projects to fundraise for. I totally understand this and can relate entirely. Here are some creative ideas for keeping things fresh when the spark has died:

1. Hang out

To reinvigorate your fundraising when you’re uninspired, I recommend getting out of the office and in front of your supporters.

How many of your trust donors have you actually met? How many do you know well? Could you pop over to their house for a coffee and a chat about the project they supported last year? Have you taken their grandchildren out with a Countryside Ranger to look for Barn Owl droppings (or equivalent)? Do you know the name of their spouse or what their favourite hobbies are?

The examples above represent a very close connection built over time and one where I could confidently answer ‘yes’ to all of the questions posed. Not all relationships with funders will ever make it this far (and nor should they). Regardless of your intimacy levels however, I believe that there’s nothing like a bit of face to face action to move a relationship forwards.

For your local trusts, it’s way easier to foster a face to face relationship, as it is with trusts who have been supporting your charity for many years. A cup of coffee, lunch somewhere nice combined with a visit to your charity or project will break up time spent in the office for you. An honest conversation with a donor may inspire a new slant on your next application and may well fire you up to return to your laptop refreshed and with renewed vigour.

Give it a try: Is there a local charitable trust who has given to your cause whom you have not yet met? Give them a call today and set up a meeting.

2. Change your view

I worked for the National Trust for 8 years, supporting their properties in Devon and Cornwall. As you can imagine, it was a total dream in so many ways, especially visiting properties with donors, which never felt like work.

Despite the rural idyll, there were still reports to be written, letters to be drafted and forms to be filled in. To help my motivation through the boring jobs, I would quite often excuse myself from the office and head down to my favourite café in Boscastle. Outside of tourist season, it was usually quiet so I could set myself up in my favourite window seat, overlooking the harbour. The variable weather meant that the view was always changing. This combined with the fresh air, my deliberate choice to not connect to the wifi and the promise of a teacake once I’d got through my to-do list gave my productivity an undeniable boost.

How lucky was I to work here?

Give it a try: Choose a favourite café, preferably during a quiet time and aim to start and finish one piece of work during your time there (by the way, working from home does not count, no-one is inspired by the sight of their own laundry or the prospect of having to whip up the kids’ tea).

3. Challenge yourself

This tip is a steal from the wonderful Beth Upton, CEO of Money Tree Fundraising. She described a tactic to me, guaranteed to help your fundraising when you’re uninspired, which went something like this:

“When I was head of a trusts team, I would gather my colleagues early on a Friday afternoon and ask them to pick the name of a trust (pre-researched and already identified as a good prospect) out of a hat.

Each team member then had an hour to write the best application they could, from scratch, using no existing resources, just their computer (disconnected from the web) and their imagination.

After we’d finished, we would review each other’s work before sending the proposals out. The competition combined with the lack of distraction would often lead to the creation of some fantastic new copy which we would then recycle for other applications.

This exercise was always a great reminder of how much you can achieve when you focus single-mindedly on one activity.”

Give it a try: Nothing to add – just give it a go. Team up with another fundraiser or two if you’re on your own.

Please share your tips for increasing motivation to improve your fundraising when you’re uninspired.

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