Six words away from free money

once upon a time

Ernest Hemingway was once bet that he couldn’t tell a story in 6 words – he took that bet and won with this short sombre story…

 ‘For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn’

This summer RNIB asked staff to draw on their own life experiences and enter a six word story into their very own storytelling competition – ‘keep calm and carry on storytelling.’ I was proud to be asked to help judge the winning entries. Here are my top five;

  1. Sight lost, RNIB found, future reclaimed!
  2. I never saw ‘till I couldn’t.
  3. Helping people see those who can’t.
  4. Slight sight gives you insight.
  5. Two kidneys. One brother, one each

What’s your story (your’s, your beneficiaries or your charities)? Can you sum it up in six words? If so tweet us your story to win a donation for a charity of your choice! Best story and winner to be announced this Friday!

If you’re not inspired then nor is your supporter

Here’s a recent news story showing how storytelling changed an organisation and the lives of the people it served.

Far too many people using Manchester’s mental health and social care services weren’t getting the help they desperately needed.  Complaints about care, communications and staff were massive but nothing was changing.  Each month the board met, looked at the numbers, did the maths and carried on as before.

nhs image

Until the Head of Patient Experience took action.  He made a series of short films of service users telling their story, and took them to the board. In his words “…there was pure silence in the room. We saw people rub their eyes, and look around the room awkwardly. It was clear then that we’d made the emotional connection between the service user and the board.”

These films are shown once a month at board meetings and throughout the organisation. Since they started they’ve seen a massive 45% reduction in complaints about care and a 20% drop in complaints about both communication and staff attitude.  Hearing the stories behind the statistics galvanized the board to take action.

Our sector needs to do the same. The ‘Great Fundraising’ report issued by Clayton Burnett earlier this year found many organisations had failed to meet their fundraising targets for several years.  It had got to the point that it was now assumed the target would not be met and that it was acceptable not to meet it!

Acceptable not to hit target?!  Look into the eyes of your beneficiaries and say that!  The trouble is too few of us do.  Let’s learn the lesson from Manchester’s mental health and social care services and stop hiding behind statistics, mission statements and jargon.  After all, if these things don’t move us how are we ever to move the public?

A day in the life of a telephone fundraiser…

danny image

Recently Danny Whiteside, Direct Giving Fundraiser and telemarketing specialist at Marie Curie spent a day at our Fundraising Academy. Even better, he kindly agreed to do a guest blog about his experience…

 “As a charity fundraiser specialising in telemarketing, I thought it would be useful to look at how Pell & Bales use their academy to attract new fundraisers, instill the core values and fundamentals of telephone fundraising, and what makes an effective telephone fundraiser.

Feeling apprehensive, I walked into a room full of budding fundraisers and received a warm welcome from Jill Patterson – trainer at Pell & Bales. From the start, it was clear to see that Jill was enthusiastic, passionate and very knowledgeable about telephone fundraising so the tone was set for the day ahead – which, I later discovered, is integral to every telephone conversation.

Here are three important points that every telephone fundraiser must remember:

1.‘Never assume anything’ – It is dangerous to assume when talking to donors on the phone. If you ring ‘Mr X’ and find he is angry with the call and interrupts by saying: “I give to charity when I can and I’m on a pension!” it is wrong to assume that he won’t go on to give a regular gift. It is equally wrong to believe that the sweet, talkative ‘Mrs X’ will give to you because you’ve had an engaging conversation about her garden or dogs. The fundraisers were given random call samples to listen to which demonstrated why it is wrong to assume, but more importantly, why it is important to read a script from start to finish.

If you stick to the call guide and add-in some good ol’ fundraising by listening to the donor, demonstrating that you have listened to them, and then suggest something that is more suitable to their needs then alas!the begrudged ‘Mr X’, who you assumed wouldn’t give a regular gift, agrees to give at the first ask.

2.‘Think about how you speak’ – Albert Mehrabian, a Professor in Psychology at UCLA in the U.S, is best known for his publications on human verbal and non-verbal communications – particularly the 7%-38%-55% rule. When you speak to someone face-to-face, the receiver judges you by the words you use (7%), your tone of voice (38%) and your body language (55%). Therefore, people pay more attention to your non-verbal behaviour than actually listening to the words you say. On the phone, the receiver is unable to assess your body language as they can’t see you (obviously!) so this is redistributed into your tone of voice. This means that 93% of the conversation depends on how you sound on the phone and 7% conveying the message you put across.

So, make sure you pace yourself by talking slower than in natural conversation, heighten your pitch to empathise those thank you’s and lower it when describing an emotive story, use punctuations such as full stops and commas to pause between lines, and most importantly adapt or change your tone to meet the donor – if the lady is softly spoken, then speak in a soft tone too. Mirror their voice

3.‘Keep it WARM’ – This fitting acronym helps new fundraisers deal with donors’ responses and interruptions during a call. It stands for:

W – Welcome

A – Active Listening

R – Respond

M – Move On

demonstrate warm

Trainers Ileia & Jill (LR) demonstrate how to use the ‘WARM’ technqiue using a tennis ball. Once the fundraisers catch-the ball they should WELCOME the supporter response, ACTIVELY listen, RESPOND and MOVE ON

Donors often wish to talk or interrupt during the conversation so it’s important that the fundraiser acknowledges this, and listens actively to what they have to say. Listening well gives the fundraiser an advantage as they can gauge the donors interest, personalise the conversation and ensure the ask is tailored to their needs. Once you have responded, it is also important to move on quickly.


…. and here is the training group doing the response handling ball exercise!

The day has changed the way I work and approach our telephone fundraisers. Usually, before any given campaign, I brief them on our charity, throw in some emotive stories and testimonials for good measure and declare it ‘job done’. But that’s not enough – I should do more to talk about our fundraising and also reward them for their efforts. Telephone fundraisers are an added front-line for charities, just like Supporter Services and Regional teams, so we need to treat them well and arm them with all the knowledge they need to make a successful call. At the end of one of our recent campaigns, I sat down with the fundraisers over a pizza and helped hand out awards for the most successful telephone fundraiser by campaign – and you could tell they really appreciated it. If they feel appreciated, then they will appreciate your work and your donors in the way you expect them to, and ultimately you will have a call that leave your donors feeling appreciated too.

Before I attended the fundraising academy weekend, I used to refer to the fundraisers as callers, but now I call them fundraisers.

Pell & Bales Culture and Values

Jill teaches Pell & Bales core values and principles to the training group

They are taught to think and speak like fundraisers – they understand the donors they are talking to, they use emotive stories, they give compelling and tangible reasons for giving, and always talk with the donor in mind i.e. donors are the beneficiary, not the organisation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and would encourage other charity fundraisers to spend a day at the academy too. My thanks go to Bethan and Meena for the kind invitation and Jill and Stuart, who were so welcoming and put on a great day.”