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Fourteen specialists from The Xfactor Collective’s social impact community consider the challenges the sector must deal with and offer some quick-fire tips on how to overcome them in 2020.

Capacity building strategies

Julia Keady, CEO and Concierge Services Director

The biggest challenge we see is leaders wanting to build capacity into their teams, without knowing how beyond more upskilling and training.

We hear a great deal about capacity building in our sector, and at the Collective we often talk about capability building being the sister of capacity. Capability is the extent to which someone’s abilities can really thrive, and investing in capabilities (knowledge, skills and confidence) can indeed be what leads to greater organisational capacity.

But bringing out the best in an individual’s capabilities often comes back to the ability to make good decisions, and an environment in which good decisions can be made. Not just the big ones, but the micro decisions that we make every day that become our organisational culture.

Often we see that individuals will thrive when they are provided with a strategic coach or mentor (strategic sounding board) who is available to them a few hours each month. The relationship enables the individual to test ideas thinking, strategies and approaches with someone who has been in their position. But the coach or mentor exists outside of the environment, so as to provide a level of independent support along with ideas from other environments and workplaces.

Increasingly, we are seeing more capability coaches and mentors setting up shop (as opposed to consulting), aiming to offer this role to three to four organisations to provide a stimulating and rewarding exchange. This will be of great assistance as we find better ways to be a more capacity- and capability inspired sector.

Refining charity and events strategy

Liliana Sanelli, Events Fundraising Specialist

One of the challenges I am seeing for organisational leaders is the impact on fundraising when there is a major national crisis such as the ongoing bushfires.

The support of the Australian public has been terrific and heart-warming, with millions of dollars donated flowing to a number of charities.

This necessary focus on the bushfire appeal through the generosity of the Australian people (and also philanthropic trusts and foundations, and corporates and their foundations) may naturally lead to a decrease in donations and funding for other charities over the next two or three years.

I would encourage charities to adjust their thinking on fundraising and review how they can substitute their projected funding needs. Charities may also consider partnering with events organisations to boost their earnings.

It’s imperative that we all keep working together to renew our community after this unprecedented tragedy and that the wheels keep turning for all organisations.

Organisations that have yet to think about where events and activations could fit into their fundraising strategy might want to revisit the effectiveness of events for their organisation in the coming years.

Putting your peers on your stakeholder agenda

Renae Hanvin, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist

Do you ever wonder about taking a new approach to your stakeholder engagement initiatives instead of doing the same thing for the same audience groups year after year? What if you wanted to spice up your engagement approach? Who could you engage with?

It might sound strange, but stakeholder engagement can be lonely sometimes. Constantly ensuring that you are effectively reaching out to engage with your board as well as existing and new members, donors and employees often doesn’t give you much time to reflect.

In 2020, put your peers on your agenda too. “Why?” you ask. Because you would be surprised at how many like-minded specialists from within and outside your industry are facing the same issues as you or have engaged differently for great results.

By connecting and learning from others, you will be able to take what’s relevant to you, your role and organisation to build a flowerpot of new and engaging initiatives.

Engaging Gen Y and Gen Z volunteers

Matthew Boyd, Online Volunteering Specialist

We’re living in a world where the gig economy rules and it affects the way we live our lives, from how we order food to how we watch movies to how we get home from a night out. It colours the lifestyle of Gen Ys and Zs to a pretty fascinating degree – and most industries have caught up. Most.

Young people want to make an impact – they’re passionate, driven and care about creating real social change. The way we interact with them and create channels and funnels for them to enact that change is what needs to be aligned with today’s expectations.

Open up lines of communication with young people and hear them out. Really pay attention to what they have to say and what they have to offer. Let them contribute in their own unique way – you’ll quickly find the difference they can make is limitless.

The changing landscape of working with influencers

Jodie Artis, Media Relations and PR Specialist

Are you finding it harder to connect with influencers to promote your cause pro bono? The days where influencers would happily promote products and/or services without payment are slowly coming to an end.

Despite the altruistic nature of the sector, influencers wield an incredible amount of power with a very captive audience – what was once beer and skittles is now a high-volume, revenue-rich opportunity for people who have the right cohort group, and a great opportunity for organisations to reach new demographics.

The opportunity this presents is for paid influencers to provide post measurement and insights into their audience demographics.

From an agency side, stringent vetting is paramount to ensure that the influencers recruited on behalf of brands are authentic and value-aligned.

An organisation that takes the time to plan and treat this as a key part of the marketing mix for any project, and couples this with a robust contract for partnership rather than ad hoc outreach, will see it pay dividends.

Eradicate email and increase productivity

Roland Maxwell, IT/Web Specialist

We see a lot of leaders perplexed around productivity. What might be a simple strategy in 2020 that helps lift productivity and perhaps also improve culture at the same time?

One of the approaches we have fostered is eradicating email from our workplace. Email is a weapon of mass distraction. It:

  • gives no sense of the relative importance of any particular mail – spam is sometimes more prominent than work correspondence
  • puts the focus on emptying your inbox, rather than doing work
  • is a threat as it is the primary means by which hackers breach security
  • can cause discord and accidental disclosure when someone replies without assessing tone of voice or without realising who is copied in on the email
  • may go to an individual when the team needs to know and vice versa
  • is a medium in which important things can get lost.

We use project management software for all project correspondence and an internal messaging system to ask colleagues for help, without resorting to email or phone – an instant message provides a nice intermediary.

My colleagues no longer send me emails. These changes have boosted our focus and our productivity.

Changemakers don’t wear capes

Jodie Willmer, Changemaker Coach and Governance Specialist

The Christmas and New Year period is a blur for most us normally. But this summer in Australia was different.

The bushfires in many parts of regional Australia are unprecedented on scale, severity and loss of natural habitat, farmland, assets, homes and people’s lives. Whether you live in a bushfire affected area, were holidaying in one or know or love someone who is, we are all affected.

As a changemaker coach and governance and strategic planning specialist, I have completed scenario planning with boards and senior leaders about all sorts of natural disasters, and what they mean for communities, organisations and for their fundraising.

The biggest challenge for organisations is changemakers – mainly small business owners – who do things at lightning speed. Social media and Facebook groups now enable people to identify a problem, crowdsource solutions and use technology to activate giving of time, money and items.

Now is the time for your organisation to harness the power of people who don’t give money or time regularly and re-think community education and engagement strategies with changemakers.

Boards, we can’t do it without you!

Teisha Archer, Major Gifts and Campaign Fundraising Specialist

For-purpose organisations everywhere are pursuing the philanthropic dollar. No longer can our board members meet quarterly to discuss governance alone. Fundraisers expect much more, including active participation in fundraising.

So what can you do if your board is not engaged and how do we give them the best chance at fundraising success? We educate and train them.

Many board members fear fundraising because they don’t understand it. But by understanding the work you do, they will feel confident that their peers will be treated with the utmost respect, regardless of the outcome.

Educate them on how you find a prospect, undertake research and cultivate a donor. Discuss the process through to the point where they will make an ask.

Teach them your fundraising elevator pitch. Break it down for them. Outline your vision, mission, goals and examples and help them practise. Give them the tools and, soon enough, you will be reaping the rewards.

Roadmaps for organisational growth

Kate Buxton, Organisational Strategist

There is good reason for organisational growth being on many to-do lists: improved resilience, increased impact and a healthier balance sheet are all potential benefits.

But (and this is a big ‘but’), organisational growth can create significant challenges for organisations that are not well-prepared for it.

Understanding where we are now is a vital first step in getting to where we want to be. A critical part of creating a roadmap to a bigger, stronger organisation is evaluating our organisation’s current capabilities and its capacity for growth (the people, systems, partners, funders and donors that we need to achieve and support growth in the short, medium and longer term).

These are the vitally important foundations for organisations that will support and sustain growth. Ultimately, purposeful, intentional growth that is driven (and, as importantly, constrained) by mission-driven strategies is much more likely to be sustainable.

Drowning in corporate partnerships

Tanya Hundloe, Partnerships and Fundraising Specialist

Are you barely keeping your head above water because you have so many corporate partners? While a dream for some, I often hear charities lament, “We have too many partners and spend all our time servicing them.”

This challenge can be overcome with a diligent review and planning. Consider all the hard costs it takes to deliver tangible benefits and calculate all the staff time applied to it. Also think about the opportunity costs – if you had another partner who was better aligned would it be worth more?

Opportunity cost aside, you may find some of your partnerships are in deficit. In this case, understand what could make it a more valuable proposition for both parties. Then, plan a polite and respectful conversation with your partner to discuss leveraging for mutually beneficial outcomes. Lastly, be prepared with an appropriate exit strategy if you don’t see a way forward. Less can be more.

Finding and retaining great talent

Michelle Varcoe, Recruitment Specialist

With recruitment, the challenge we see leaders facing is in finding and keeping great talent. ‘T’ is the letter to remember to combat this one:

Talent If you haven’t already, it’s time to implement your recruitment plan for 2020. What skills do you need in your team to thrive in 2020? The fundraising sector has experienced a candidate-short market in 2019, so attracting, securing and retaining people will be extremely important.

Time Recruitment is time-consuming, with interviews and processes to consider, but dedicating adequate time is vital. Recruiting typically takes six to eight weeks from advertisement to signing of contracts, and then extra time for notice periods, holidays or a well-earned break before your new recruit officially joins your organisation. Plus, there’s extra time for their induction and getting up to speed to make an impact.

Tenacity Determination, grit, persistence and creativity will be needed this year, especially if the competition for funding and talent continues to be so competitive. Be tenacious and think outside the box.

Solving problems differently

Kristi Mansfield, Predictive Data Specialist

There will be 163 trillion gigabytes of data in the world by 2025 but just 3% of it will be analysed, according to analyst firm IDC. Most not-for-profit leaders and fundraisers are drawing on a tiny fraction of that 3% to meet their mission and build relationships with supporters.

What could we achieve together if we used the vast amount of data available to us in a smarter way? Sharing data will enable us to look at complex social problems differently, and in turn develop stronger relationships with supporters.

Data collaboratives are a new form of collaboration, beyond the public-private partnership model, in which participants from different sectors, including not-for-profits, exchange or share data to support their delivery of public benefit.

What if local organisations could understand the drivers of children’s well-being or educational outcomes in low income communities? What if local organisations could use wealth transfer data to understand the capacity of their community to build endowments?

We’re working on creating data collaboratives and in 2020 this shift will empower smarter decision making, more effective responses and, in turn, better relationships for fundraising.

Return to sender mail – an ongoing pain point

Stephen Mally, CRM and Fundraising Specialist

Your appeal raised lots of money but you received too many return to sender (RTS) pieces. The problem will not resolve itself. If we don’t deal with RTS mail, history will repeat itself. We risk mailing to these same addresses during upcoming appeals and in between.

Following are four steps to clean data:

  1. Hire an intern or volunteer to code each address in your CRM system as RTS and to code the deceased.
  2. Engage a firm to standardise/assign a delivery point identifier to each address then match your data against National Change of Address data, acquire new addresses, provide a code for constituents who moved/opted to not provide their new address and import changed data into your CRM.
  3. Conduct these steps routinely.
  4. Measure the impact this data management exercise has on your fundraising. The exercise will cost but consider it an investment in your donor retention.

Take action today. It is less costly to clean data for existing donors than it is to acquire a new donor.

Difficulty influencing others to acknowledge shared outcomes

Elaine Hendrick, Outcomes and Evaluation Specialist

Are you having difficulty engaging with partners and stakeholders? Facing a brick wall when trying to have meaningful conversations with them about the work you do? A common sense approach to segmentation and targeting decisions can help solve this dilemma.

Due to the complexity of the needs of people and communities that we work with, honing in on their specific needs provides an inroad to speaking a similar language. Developing a common language supports effective communication about the means (the activities) to achieving the ends (the people and community outcomes).

Conversations that begin with outcomes, tend to move forward. When common ground is established then collaboration tends to follow. This provides a safe platform for everyone and encourages healthy debates about the contributions that you are making towards achieving identified, shared outcomes.


The Xfactor Collective is where sector CEOs and their teams go for trusted support and advice during times of change, challenge and transformation. The specialists in the Collective are independent, highly experienced and pre-vetted, and CEOs can also access a sector-first help-desk to triage short- and long-term resourcing needs.

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