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“If you don’t have great people with you, it’s going to be difficult no matter how brilliant your strategy is.”

“If you don’t have great people with you, it’s going to be difficult no matter how brilliant your strategy is.”

Susan Williams, NATIONAL CAMPAIGNS AND COMMUNITY FUNDRAISING MANAGER, HEART FOUNDATION

 

“There are not many people like Susan I have come across. Someone who is laser focused on data and results no matter what the circumstances,” says Susan’s colleague, National Virtual Campaigns Advisor Kelsey Hake. “She has taken old fundraising products and brought them back to life, while also developing new products for the Heart Foundation to diversify our product portfolio.”

But before joining the Heart Foundation, Susan had another career as the owner of an outdoor personal training business.  “I was serving largely corporate clientele. To get those clients, it was my role to go out and cultivate those relationships, sign those clients, and then deliver that service offering along with a team of contractors who worked for me.”

While running her business, Susan undertook  a Master of Public Health and became a volunteer at the Heart Foundation. “I had an interest in the not-for-profit space, and I was weighing my options around how I was going to transition into an organisation whose mission was in the public health space.”

Meanwhile, the Heart Foundation’s flagship Jump Rope for Heart, a school-based fundraising program established in 1983, was experiencing a year-on-year decline in revenue. Change was required.

“Up until very recently, the Heart Foundation was a federated charity. It was an umbrella group of nine different company entities. At that time the Jump Rope for Heart program was being operated by all of the companies, but program delivery was inconsistent and there was little in the way of value-based segmentation in place,” Susan says.

Once the decision was made to centralise the venerable program, the organisation created a new position to oversee the program’s strategic direction, implementation and evaluation. Susan became the National Manager of Jump Rope for Heart in November 2013.

APPROACHES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES

Susan’s first task was to redeploy the business- to-business  sales  and  team  management skills she acquired in the corporate sector to reinvigorate the program and boost revenue.

Susan’s skills and experience paid off. From 42,000 online donors in 2014, Jump Rope for Heart is currently on track to exceed 99,000 donors in 2018, and online income has grown from $1.1 million to more than $2.3 million over the same period.

In mid-2015, Susan took on her current role and a year later she was tasked with diversifying the product portfolio by implementing a new campaign that spoke to the Heart Foundation’s core community fundraising audience – women aged 30-55.

“At the time we were operating with limited marketing resources within our business.  This meant an internal product development process wasn’t really an option to get to market within the required timeframe. We quickly realised the best option for us was to licence a product,” Susan says.

“We then undertook a review of aligned charities, including other heart foundations around the world and similar charities, such as cancer charities, to see what kinds of products they were running and what was performing well. We were lucky that the British Heart Foundation had launched such a product the year before.”

The Heart Foundation struck a licencing arrangement with its UK counterpart and launched MyMarathon in mid-2017. The idea behind the campaign is that over the month of October people can raise money by running a marathon (that’s 42.2 km) at their own pace in their own place. In its first year, MyMarathon attracted more than 8,000 registrants and raised $575,000.

Susan’s success in developing the strategy for Jump Rope for Heart and MyMarathon comes down to her skills in “knowing the right questions to ask” says Hake.

“I start with the organisational goals,” Susan explains. “What’s required from the fundraising result to support the organisation’s mission?

From there, I look at the existing products and how those products need to be enhanced or perhaps retired, and then look at all of the products across the portfolio and how they fit together. Do they work in isolation? What opportunities are there for cross-pollination?

What are the opportunities for alignment with the mission? Is there an example of where an existing product or service on the mission side of the business could be repositioned for fundraising purposes?”

In executing the resulting strategy, Susan built a strong team with a laser-like focus on data, analytics and results.

“Attracting, recruiting and developing great fundraising talent is critical if you’re serious about turning your fundraising strategies into quantifiable results. If you don’t have great people with you, it’s going to be difficult no matter how brilliant your strategy is,” she says.

“All of the decision making and strategy has to be data, rather than preference led. One of the great things about fundraising is that there’s lots of insights, lots of testing, reams of information about what constitutes best practice and it’s always evolving.”

Having just launched a new crowdfunding product (Give with Heart Day, which raised over $800,000 from more than 4,200 donors), Susan’s efforts over the next 12 months will be around keeping her team focused on the priority products and how to take these to the next level.

“My approach with the team is to stay really focused on our immediate goal, to make sure everyone has quantified goals, and ensure there is a regular dialogue about how people are tracking to reaching and exceeding these goals.”

THE BIG PICTURE

“Being proactive in anticipating where the team might be at risk of falling short, and then taking steps to mitigate against that happening is the role of a good leader,” says Susan. “Your role is to cut a clear path so your team can get on with doing great work, and not get caught up in background noise.”

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