A couple of months ago, I presented a session at the National Association of Hospice Fundraisers conference on this question.
This aimed to be somewhat light hearted, but also with a serious side to it. Given that hospices rely on their fundraisers to raise much of their income – the vast majority if you include lotteries and retail – you might assume that the answers would be a positive one.
To find out, I asked the fundraisers present to answer Yes or No to 10 questions to see how their hospice scored. If you fancy a go, the questions are listed below. Some relate to structure or strategy, others to culture. Many of the questions are subjective, so try to be as honest as possible. You might even share it with your senior team – or the fundraisers themselves to get their view. There is a somewhat less than scientific rating system at the end for you to judge how your hospice scores.
I should add that the terms ‘fundraising’ and ‘income generation’ are used rather loosely and interchangeably. I used the first one in the title, not least because it was rather easier to find a suitable adjective to follow it with.
1. Do you have someone on your senior management team, or equivalent, who is solely dedicated to fundraising?
The latest Hospice UK Hospice Accounts report shows that in 2016, fundraising, shops and lotteries accounted for 73% of the total income received by hospices. So, however you organise your structure around these income streams, surely they merit someone strategically placed in the senior team to understand the challenges facing the hospice and how these impact on the money raising efforts? How many companies would not have their revenue earning teams unrepresented at the top table? However, I still hear of cases where this is not the situation; where the person in charge of fundraising is not on the SMT.
So, one mark if you can answer this with a Yes (still only one mark even if you have two income generation related Directors!) If you have someone who also has responsibility for Comms and or Marketing, then in my book, that does not count. Comms and Marketing should support the whole organisation, not just fundraising. But that’s a different article!
2. Are the income targets in your budgets based on genuine discussion with those fundraisers as to what they can achieve – even if you push them a bit sometimes!
Some hospices seem to ascertain their fundraising target by working out what the service delivery costs are, add all the organisational overheads, take off the likely statutory income and any other misc. receipts and the balance is the figure set. This explanation may be a little bit simplistic, but it is still sometimes nearer the truth than the process of sitting down with the income generation head(s) and looking at past figures and future and working out what is achievable and perhaps what is a stretch target. Would a hospice CEO agree targets for service delivery without involving the senior medics and clinicians? Probably not.
So, one mark for being fundraising friendly if you are nearer the ‘genuine discussion’ end of the spectrum than the ‘target imposed’.
3. Do you have an overall income generation strategy?
Whatever the structure around your income strands, there are clearly great synergies to be gained by integrating fundraising, shop and lottery activities. I will never forget the time – admittedly many years ago – when I asked a hospice lottery manager who was his greatest local competition. His answer was the fundraising department.
Hopefully this is no longer the case. However, raising money in this climate is hard enough as it is. If your various teams are not coordinating their activities and seeing how they can help each other, you are making it even harder. There is no end to such opportunities: staff from corporate supporters donating clothes for the shops, lottery tickets being sold in the shops, promoting fundraising events to lottery players, etc, etc. A day spent brainstorming such plans and building their execution into strategies and appraisal systems makes a lot of sense.
So, one mark for integration. No marks for silo working.
4. Do you have a Trustee who has him or herself worked directly in a fundraising role - as opposed to a businessman or woman who has an interest in fundraising?
Wanted – Board member to help oversee our income generation activities. No relevant experience or skills needed.
It would be unheard of to have a Board without a fully qualified accountant, ditto lawyer and a senior medic and nurse. But very often the ‘income bit’ is given to a senior business figure. This might make sense if there is retailer who can add expertise to the shops operation. But I don’t know too many businesses which are financed by donations or lotteries.
Having specialists with relevant experience in other areas is a given. But not so much, it seems, in fundraising. A recent survey I did of hospice Trustees and CEOs had financial sustainability at the top of their worry list. So why is this strange omission of skills on the Board so often the case?
Admittedly, finding someone with the right experience may not be as straightforward but, pleasingly, some hospices have managed to do so. So, one mark if you can answer yes to this. (But not if it only applies to the retail element of your income generation!)
5. Do you have a Board committee that exists to oversee fundraising operations?
Bit of a similar rationale to the last one really. Why wouldn’t you, given the importance of fundraising to any hospice’s financial model? Moreover, the increased regulation and public concern over charities in general, and fundraising in particular, means that Trustees should be monitoring such activities carefully.
So, one mark if you have such a committee. However, only having a sub-committee / trading company board only for retail and / or lottery does not count!
6. Are your fundraisers welcome to visit the ward and do tours under reasonable guidelines?
The relationship between care and fundraising interface is vital and perhaps a key barometer of the wider organisational culture. Hence the fact that there are a number of questions that touch upon this dynamic. Where there is mutual understanding, support and respect, this can make a huge positive difference to fundraising (and when this means more money raised, to care). Where it is absent, it can be a major barrier.
One intrinsic component of this is the ‘visiting the hospice’ question. All fundraisers will say that once you have got potential supporters into the hospice you are probably over 90% of the way there to securing their donation. But sometimes getting this far can seem the hardest part of the journey.
Obviously, there are sensitivities here and sometimes circumstances might mean a planned tour can’t happen. But a culture that views fundraisers as unwelcome and unwanted intruders in care environments is still not unknown. One that recognises how important it is to show people what hospice care really is and that provision of care relies hugely on the raising of money, will make a big difference to your fundraisers. One mark if this is the better descriptor of your hospice.
7. Do you have established ways that care and non-care staff can learn about each other’s roles and so spread cross-organisational understanding?
The day I left my first fundraising job in a hospice, a nurse said that she did not really understand why my role was needed anyway. Clearly, I had failed on this test! However, when I went on visits to hospices when I worked at Help the Hospices (the previous name for Hospice UK), it became clear that this was not unusual.
When I worked at Shooting Star Chase, all new non-care staff were given the chance to do a shadow shift as part of their induction and encouraged to do so annually. We also had a good record of care staff participating in or volunteering at fundraising events and a cross organisational social group organised various activities. I think this showed lots of positives in relation to this question. However, one regret I have is that we never really got a proper buddy system going, matching care and non-care staff. We could easily blame the shift system and issues around cover and agency nurses, but this was more of an excuse than a genuine reason not to establish this.
So, one mark if you can genuinely say you do have ways of spreading cross-organisational learning.
8. Do you have an organisational policy about how you communicate with in memoriam supporters in relation to fundraising?
In terms of fundraising, hospices have at least one major advantage over many other organisations working in the sector. Few other charities have a large potential pool of supporters who have direct, personal experience of their work, often in trying and difficult circumstances, and who become loyal supporters over many years.
As such, they are different from ‘normal’ supporters and so should be communicated with sensitively. Yet very few hospices seem to have a policy that explains how they will do this; one that respects their wishes and allows them the chance to hear from the hospice if, how and when they wish to. Irrespective of your approach to GDPR, surely the views and wishes of these supporters must be respected?
In some cases, it seems there is a blanket ban on any future communication because it has been deemed that the people concerned either would not wish to be involved in fundraising, or would feel coerced into doing so. In others, it seems they are treated in a standard, unspecific way, with no reference to their personal experience.
One mark if you have thought through this issue and come up with an agreed approach which puts the individual in charge, whether they be spouse, parent, sibling or a close friend. No points if you have decided on the no communication approach – or not even thought about it at all!
9. Can you use real case studies in your fundraising materials and media stories?
There still seems to be a belief in some hospices that it is wrong to ask patients and relatives if they will tell their story; it’s viewed as some kind of moral blackmail in that people will feel compelled out of gratitude, or even guilt, to agree. This runs counter to almost every family I have spoken to, in either an adult or a children’s hospice who are only too keen to share their story.
Of course, there will always be some cases where it may be too difficult to ask. But that does not mean you should never do so. You can’t invent or make up compelling case studies – nothing beats a real, genuine story. And 99 times out of 100, the patient, family member or friend telling it will benefit from doing so as well.
10. Are you allowed to do any fundraising promotion to users, e.g. fundraising noticeboard, promote events in user newsletters, etc?
A bit like the last question; any promotion of fundraising to users is sometimes viewed as a kind of underhand messaging along the lines of ‘we said that the care we give is free, but actually if you could raise us some money then that would be great’.
Yes, as with many of these questions, there is a need to be respectful and find the right tone and approach. But a blank ‘no you can’t’ approach is in itself disrespectful to people who might want to fundraise. Again, my experience is that many want, even need, to. The Sunrise Walk that Shooting Star Chase holds every year always has a large number of families walking in memory of their son or daughter, brother or sister, cousin or nephew. And these families tended to always raise the most money – because they felt so passionate about the work of the hospice.
One mark if you do allow promotion of fundraising in a sensitive and appropriate way. None if you don’t!
So, how did you score? The ubiquitous-end-of-quiz-how-did-you-do summary is below. Scores on the Hospice Doors:
|8-10||Congratulations, your hospice is fantastically fundraising friendly|
|5-7||Not bad you are fundraising friendly - but not yet fantastically so|
|3-4||Faintly fundraising friendly is the best description, much to work on|
|0-2||My advice is to flee if you are a fundraiser…….|
Thanks for taking part and I hope you found it informative!