What daffodils taught me about fundraising

19 April 2021 | By Edward Drew

 

Of all the things daffodils could possibly teach someone, you’d think fundraising is pretty unlikely. But on a cold February evening in 2019, four strangers and I at the Charity Fast-Track bootcamp in London were given a £1 coin and challenged to turn it into something much, much more.  

 

For me, fundraising is aspirational. It means seeing the potential in something small, and finding a way to double or triple its impact. So when our team was given a pound coin, we had to get creative with what we spent it on (I’d heard of shoestring fundraising budgets before, but this took the biscuit). 

Standing outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, we surveyed the scene and saw bunches of daffodils for sale inside an M&S on the corner. From there our strategy began to emerge. 

“For me, fundraising is aspirational. It means seeing the potential in something small, and finding a way to double or triple its impact.”

With the pound we bought a bunch of daffodils and decided we would give them as a thank-you to anyone who donated to us on the street. After a few awkward approaches, we found that the hardest challenge was getting people engaged and listening, and realised that a collective, confident approach needed to be set. 

So together we set our pitch: that we would explain to passers-by that we were taking part in a challenge, that we were raising money for charity, and that we reallyreally needed their help to win. After a few rehearses, we went back to the passers-by and began to find some success with this approach. 

We soon discovered that if we decided to focus on building rapport with people that showed a strong interest in what we were doing, we could make a bigger ask. People give to people after all, and through this we received two £20 donations just for talking with people and getting them on ‘our team’. 

At the end of the evening, with our daffodils in the hands of new strangers, our team had raised £78 (pretty good considering Oxfam aims to raise £5 for every £1 spent!). It was the most ever raised by any team at the bootcamps, and we went home with new learnings on fundraising than when the evening began:

 

Get entrepreneurial 

Fundraising is only as good as its return on investment, and finding a way to utilise limited resources for maximum benefit requires creativity and collaboration. 

 

Set your case for support

Working up a strong case for support is an iterative process, and underpins most successful fundraising strategies. 

That evening we set out as a team and agreed on what our pitch would be to passers-by, and after rehearsing this, testing it out, failing and reframing it, we found our winning strategy. 

 

Diversify your income

Successful causes tend to attract a wide diversity of support, and the daffodil experience was no different. From the outset we had ‘corporate’ support by negotiating with the manager at the M&S to sell us the bunches of daffodils for half price, getting 40 for £1 instead of 20. 

Additionally, over half of our fundraised income came from two ‘transformational gifts’ – one who was engaged by building on shared experience as an immigrant in London, and another who I engaged by doing a challenge. When people feel like part of the team, they also feel invested in its success, and that’s the moment when you ask them to turn that feeling into an action. 

 

Surround yourself with the right people

Another lesson I learnt was that fundraising relies on people. 

The challenge was optional and was set after a long day of fantastic guest speakers and training sessions. So when it came to 5pm and the challenge was offered, I was admittedly more interested in finding the nearest Wetherspoons. But the people in my team saw the fun in the challenge, and helped motivate me to commit to it. 

Fundraising can be disparate, and personal resilience can only get you so far. Surrounding yourself with dedicated people who will help motivate and energise you when times are tough is perhaps the most important lesson I learned. Without them in those first moments I would never have learnt a thing that evening. 

 

So yes, daffodils have in fact taught me a lot of things, but really it was people all along. Now every spring I’m reminded of what I learnt that evening, about fundraising and people, and the power that they both possess. 

 

What’s your daffodil story? Join the conversation @OfficialCause4 #ConversationsThatMatter

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