Back in March, fundraising at NICE changed forever. We couldn’t fully understand how at the time; all we could sense was things becoming very different. At first it was scary and we had no idea what kind of path we would take. The recurring worry in my mind was “when will I be able to see our supporters again?!” This time of year, our team would usually be gearing up for our busy events phase, our office buzzing with the phones ringing, supporters visiting and families popping in to chat about fundraising. We’re now in our twelfth week of working from home and it’s by far the longest I’ve gone without chatting to supporters face-to-face! As a fundraiser, the challenge of this isn’t just devising a strategy and thinking about income streams – it’s adapting to a complete shift in mindset, connecting purely through digital platforms and preparing for a world of fewer face-to-face conversations with our marvellous supporters.
Fundraisers are wired to connect, deepen relationships and crucially, be there for our supporters. We’re people who experience genuine joy in rising super early on a Sunday to help a supporter with their event, in delivering talks about the charity to a crowd of people and busily zipping from one meeting to the next. But what I’m learning is that the essence of this connection is remaining unchanged. At times like this, I think there’s a temptation to try and ‘solve’ the situation and start thinking too big. While these are honourable intentions, I’m realising that what we need to focus on is quite literally at our fingertips.
Throughout the lockdown, we’ve chatted on the phone to supporters, we’ve sent letters to them, exchanged emails, met up on Zoom and connected on social media. We’ve had the confidence to go for it with digital campaigns and appeals, and got lots of people involved with our virtual events. We’re doing it: we’re making a digital shift. We don’t have the trusty safety net of our standard events calendar, but we have new tools, an eagerness to keep learning and exciting opportunities to innovate.
Fundraising at NICE may have changed forever, but the overwhelming sense of turbulence in being thrust towards the digital world is ultimately positive. Whilst in one way it felt like the floor was pulled from under us in March, it was also the beginning of adding immensely valuable strings to our bow. Of course, uncertainty still lies ahead. We have definitely learned a lot over the past few months, but there is masses more to learn. It’s a constant process and we’ll ride through the mistakes, we’ll feel like total beginners a lot of the time and perhaps as ultimate underdogs of the digital world for a good while. What I have absolutely zero doubt about though, is that we remain tightly connected to our cause and the families we work with, and our rock-solid dedication to our incredible supporters is untouchable. It’s a different way of fundraising to what we’re used to, that’s for sure. But with it, we’re getting to create our very own digital toolbox and we have a whole new world to explore.