The Importance of Influence for charity fundraisers
My first job in the charity sector was for a small charity that supported isolated older people on low incomes. The cause wasn’t sexy, the charity was barely known by the public. Even the name confused people about what we did. We had no donor list and very little profile, even in our own part of the sector. One of my main roles (among several) was to be the fundraiser.
The challenges of the job quickly educated me about the problems of having little ability to influence the issues you care about and the need to grow a brand over time. Not only did I have to find a way to grow the brand of the charity but I needed to establish my own credibility as someone who could speak with a clear voice- to other charities, to funders and to the public- on the issues that the charity cared about. It wasn’t an easy road and of course I didn’t improve things on my own: we worked as a team of employees and volunteers to build up a small voice for our work.
As a fundraiser, you need to think so carefully about influence. The way you grow it and the way you use it to best effect. It doesn’t matter whether you are at a big or small charity, whether you have a specialist fundraising team or are the only person focused on it- more influence will help. Having more influence will help you to have more impact on the causes that matter most to you.
Here are three things I think you need to think about to increase your influence:
Your ‘Likeability’ - Do you take the time to stop and think how you are perceived by others? Firstly, on an individual level and secondly, in the context of being part of the charity you work for. When you pick up the phone do you leave any troubles behind and focus on the potential/actual donor you are talking to? Do you show a real interest in other people - whether they are a beneficiary of your charity, an admin assistant at a trust you work with, or a colleague of yours?
Your Authenticity - Are you being authentic? For example, is the cause that your charity supports and the way it supports it, in tune with your own vision of how things should be? If not, can you change it, or should you leave? Of course, everybody is not going to have their job designed perfectly around them, but there should be some congruence between your own beliefs and the shared beliefs of the organisation you work for. Otherwise, how will you ever be able to influence others to give their support for your cause?
Your Personal Brand - Do you have a strong brand that enables you to make a difference in the area in which you work? Are you considered as someone who has some expertise in the subject you fundraise for? If not, your influence is not likely to be very high. Equally as important in career terms- do you have a profile which extends outside of the immediate charity and cause area you are currently focused on? If the answer is no, what would happen if you lost your job or wanted to move on to experience a new challenge? I know that some people don’t like the term ‘personal brand’ but whatever you call it: we all have a brand even if we don’t want one or are aware what ours might be. If you meet someone in a business context it is very likely that they will have looked you up online before they ever saw you in person. Don’t you want to influence what they might think?
Good luck with increasing your influence and I hope that doing so helps you make more money for your charity, progresses your career and helps you enjoy your fundraising role more.
To find out more about these and similar topics, look out for my new venture, The Influence Expert which launches on the 29th February #influencelaunch
Alex Swallow, founder, The Influence Expert
He is also the Founder of Young Charity Trustees and the Owner of #SocialGoodSix and was previously the Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition