Janet Braithwaite’s 10 Minute Interview with author Amal Abdalhakim-Douglas

Janet Braithwaite’s 10 Minute Interview with Amal Abdalhakim-Douglas about his newly released book: Seven Secrets of Successful Fundraising

Title: Seven Secrets of Successful Fundraising – A Handbook for the Professional Fundraiser
Publisher: Black Stone Press and DMC Books
ISBN: 978 0 9535993 4 9

JB: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK?

AD: One of the things was simply to coordinate all the notes that I use when delivering training. Another was to stop repeating myself every time people came to me for advice and I also thought it might be a useful tool in publicising my training events. But I have this habit of always trying to make things that I understand clearer for other people.

JB: WHERE DID THE TITLE COME FROM?

AD: Well, it’s the same title as the one day workshops I run, Seven Secrets of Successful Fundraising, and that came from a friend and associate of mine Khalid Mair who has a company called the Digital Lead. He’s one of my internet marketing gurus.

JB: HOW MUCH MONEY HAVE YOU PERSONALLY RAISED?

AD: From the book or as a fundraiser?

JB: AS A FUNDRAISER

AD: it’s hard to say really. It’s hard to know when to draw the line. If you count all the fundraising projects I’ve been associated with in any way, shape or form then it will certainly go into the millions of pounds, because that includes some big players who have come on my courses and some significant organisations that have called me in for advice or to run training days for their staff or their members. Then you have projects I’m more directly connected with. This might be raising anything from £500 to £1.5 Million. What I really do is help people become better fundraisers rather than actually doing it for them.

JB: WHAT’S YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?

AD: Professionally, I started out as a junior accountant in the City of London, but my family have always had business interests which I’ve always been involved with from a young age. After that I ran a travel and shipping agency in Paddington for a while and also distributed health products to shops and through mail order. And I did ride the telecommunications bandwagon for a while supplying 0800 and other services to businesses. There’s a lot more but perhaps another time.

JB: HOW DID YOU GET INTO FUNDRAISING?

AD: I got into fundraising really through necessity and trying to support projects I was personally involved with. So I studied the business thoroughly and as I learned things put them into practice and experimented. I mean everywhere I looked around me there was a project I could help. Later I joined the Institute of Fundraising just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and to see If I could hold my own with some of the really big guns and seasoned profesionals.

JB: AND DID YOU?

Oh Yes! In fact some of those guys even attend my events. I like having them at my events because it creates a great mix. You have people absolutely new and knowing nothing at all, and then you have guys who have done a lot, but they don’t know how to be flexible and so find themselves becoming irrelevant.

JB: DO YOU SEE YOURSELF MORE AS A TEACHER?

AD: I certainly enjoy teaching, both adults and children. If I wasn’t involved in some very important projects i could easily become a full-time, very specialist teacher. and I suppose I’ve shaped my business around helping, teaching and empowering people in some way

JB: WHAT CAN PROFESSIONALS EXPECT TO GET FROM READING THE BOOK?

AD: I suppose the very first chapter is a clue. it’s based around a working styles questionnaire I developed that I use in my workshops. A look at different personality types and how they relate to fundraising. So it not only involves a little self-analysis but includes breaking down every single type of fundraising into it’s four chief aspects, which we call the Fundraising Cycle. Anyone who goes through that process and even applies a quarter of what they learn cannot fail to see some positive progress.

JB: YOU SEEM VERY CONFIDENT ABOUT THAT

AD: Yes, that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to witness this time and time again, but I still get quite excited when you see people actually getting it. You see the proverbial penny actually dropping

JB: WHAT’S YOUR OWN WORKING STYLE?

AD: I can’t remember, but I can probably guess that you might be similar and I often predict what people will show up as in the workshops.

JB: SO YOU’VE BECOME AN EXPERT AT READING PEOPLE

AD: Not particularly, but I do know someone who has. In fact let me mention a book that some people might find useful if they like this thing of personality types thing. It’s called Know Yourself by Alex Carberry and it’s only come out recently but I was given an advance copy.I know it’s on Amazon because I wrote a review. It doesn’t do a questionnaire like my book but it goes much deeper into the whole thing of personality types.

But, the other things that professional fundraisers in particular might get from the book is a chance to examine a range of different fundraising techniques and methods that they may not normally use. It’s easy to get used to one or two types of fundraising, whether it be grants or fundraising concerts or membership fees. What I do in the book is look at about 15 or 20 methods, give each a bit of analysis and then give some tips on making the most of these methods. I think this will be a very popular section of the book for many people.

JB: SHOULD PEOPLE BUY THE BOOK OR COME TO THE WORKSHOP FIRST?

AD: Doesn’t really matter I suppose, but everyone should certainly have a copy of the book and it doesn’t cost much. The book’s on sale worldwide so I suspect not everyone will have a chance to attend one of the workshops.

JB: DO YOU EVER WORK OUTSIDE THE UK

AD: I have done bits of work in the States (USA), in Jamaica, in Nigeria, in South Africa and I have clients in these places and of course quite a few UK based clients also operate across Europe and other parts of the world. The latest serious enquiry I received was from India.

DID YOU TAKE THEM ON (AS CLIENTS)?

AD: I did what I normally do with all prospective clients. I ask them to send me all the information they have about the project, including legal status, finances, aims & objectives, current & previous support, projections and progress reports etc. I particularly try and find out as much about the motives and role of the person contacting me. I’ll have a look at that and make a few notes as to what I think I could realistically offer them. Then I ask them what exactly they’d like me to do for them and of course what budget they have to support this. If it all looks good and there is some common ground we thrash out a contract. if not I invite them to at least take part in one of my training sessions to get them up to speed.

JB: HOW HAS FUNDRAISING CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED?

AD: It’s not that things have really changed except perhaps for the emphasis and new technologies

JB: EMPHASIS?

AD: For example, some really big charities now make a lot from people giving £2 or £3 a month and have perhaps move away from things like big charity auctions. Or perhaps smaller organisations that used to rely on local corporate sponsorship now aim to get grants. So in that way some big players are not actually abandoning tried and tested methods, they are at least temporarily paying a lot of attention to what might have been neglected areas and developing new ones.

JB: WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS?

AD: Sometimes it’s just a way of attracting a new set of supporters and staying relevant. These new supporters might then be channeled into more traditional ways of giving. So if you have a sponsored bungee jump you may attract some young people who are initially only interested in the thrill not the cause, but through the event you educate and cajole them and the next thing you know they are a paid up member with a monthly direct debit coming out of their account, or they themselves organise the next event.

JB: AND YOU SAID NEW TECHNOLOGIES?

AD: Technology is primarily around the internet but also in things like call centres. In the book I talk about the Generic Fundraising Statement which is that short statement that let’s everyone know that you accept donations and just how they will be well spent. This is something that must be on websites and on the tongues of all trustees, staff and volunteers. So I talk about how to come up with an effective statement and how to use it effectively with new technology.

When I say Call Centres, I’m talking of the use of professional call centres to run fundraising campaigns. So like many businesses charities are finding it more effective to outsource some of their work. Similarly, websites like Just Giving and even Paypal and WordPress can take away a lot of the hastle of setting everything up from scratch yourself, but I certainly don’t recommend this for everybody.

JB: I NOTICE THAT ON THE BACK OF THE BOOK IT HAS THE PRICE IN UK POUNDS, EUROS AND AMERICAN, CANADIAN AND AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS, BUT YOU ALSO HAVE IT QUOTED IN ISD – SILVER DIRHAMS, ARE YOU PART OF THIS “SILVER IS MONEY CAMPAIGN?”

AD: I’m absolutely one of those advocating using gold and silver as currency for a number of reasons.

JB: SUCH AS?

AD: Such as combating injustice and poverty and transforming our societies for the better. To put it simply, paper money is banking money and people are waking up to the fact that banks and big multinational are not actually institutions of good, but If i start I could go on for hours about this.

JB: PERHAPS WE CAN DO ANOTHER INTERVIEW AFTER THIS?

AD: Yes, why not!

JB: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS THEN ON THE BIG SOCIETY?

AD: Well some of the things put forward as part of a big society sound very good but I’m not one that takes very seriously what comes out of the mouths of politicians. However, the book itself is all about helping people who have a worthy cause, or an organisation or a social, or charitable project and helping them move forward.

I’m very much for people having much more control of what happens in their communities and I believe the key to this is enterprise. What the government can do here, it’s the same as needs to be done in Asia in Africa and other parts of the world, is to support and build infrastructures that support enterprise. What I mean here includes air, road and sea transport links, high speed internet access, telephone access, and access to markets. In fact all the others are about access to markets. We don’t really need a fairtrade movement if so called third world producers are given easy access to our markets. In order to regenerate deprived areas of the UK you need to make it absolutely easy and free, without cost, for local people to trade. Either on the high street or in new locations that will attract and facilitate shoppers and traders.

JB: ARE YOU A SUPPORTER OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISES?

AD: In one sense all natural enterprise has a social element. Multinationals and banks take that away. Charities, local governments and political activists need to support initiatives that make it free and easy and potentially lucrative to trade. it would transform our inner cities in ways hard to imagine. So yes, I do support social enterprise in a very big way.

JB: OBVIOUSLY YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT ANY NUMBER OF SUBJECTS, SO WHY WRITE A BOOK ON FUNDRAISING?

AD: When someone approaches me seeking my help for a worthy cause or a great project I can often get more enthusiastic than them and give a lot of my time, often for free. it’s the advice I often need to give to these people that is really the stuff covered in the book. Building a Corporate Profile, Building and Exploiting the Database, Building a Team, Exploring Different Fundraising Options, Actually Knowing How The Fundraising Cycle Works etc. And of course, How to Submit Great Grant Applications. So now it’s all in one place. It saves me time, it’s laid out in what I’ve tried to make an easy to use manner, and of course I get a chance for some additional income and some publicity. It’s also, in my opinion, the exact material that experienced professional fundraisers need to remind themselves of from time to time.

JB: SO WHO SHOULD BUY THE BOOK?

AD: Well if everyone who bought a Harry Potter book would buy one that would certainly be a good start, but it’s obviously for anyone remotely connected to fundraising whether as a trustee, volunteer, paid staff or professional fundraiser. It’s for people who want to build a great team. It’s for administrators and those who have to prepare project budgets. It’s for charity and social enterprise managers, and I think it’s a very useful tool for small business owners and the self-employed.

JB: WHERE IS THE BOOK AVAILABLE?

AD: It’s available through the DMC website (www.dmcconsultancy.co.uk). It’s available through Amazon and through Black Stone Press (www.black-stone.net/books) It’s only £6.95 and is also available in various ebook formats. I think the Kindle version might just be about ready.

JB: THE BOOK IS CERTAINLY PACKED. YOU HAVE THE WORKING STYLES QUESTIONNAIRE AND PERSONALITY TYPES, YOU.VE GOT POETRY, YOU’VE GOT GRAPHICS, SAMPLE BUDGETS, ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS, LOADS OF TIPS. IT’S REALLY A LITTLE TREASURE TROVE THAT I CAN CERTAINLY RECOMMEND. WHAT NEXT FOR YOU?

AD: Well thanks for that ringing endorsement. It’s always good to know an interviewer has actually read the book.

We have a series of book launches to roll out across the UK. So far we are looking at Norwich, two dates in London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester. Hopefully we can follow that or mix it up with some of the workshops. I’m looking forward to having some people attend who’ve already read the book. And of course I’ll continue to be personally involved with a couple of projects that promote and support commercial and social enterprise.

JB: AMAL DOUGLAS, GOOD LUCK WITH THE BOOK AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.

AD: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure

The Big Question! Limited Company, CIC or Registered Charity?

Over the years I have helped set up and register a number of limited companies (both by shares and guarantee) and a number of registered charities and then on top of that countless voluntary organisations with no more than a constitution and a bank account. What is missing is a Community Interest Company or CIC. One reason for the omission is simply my own failure to grasp their benefit and the other is the wider ignorance concerning them which can prove detrimental to an organisation. The most common scenario being that potential donors are not sure about the eligibility of CICs to receive grants or other concessions automatically granted to registered charities.

Also the “asset lock” clause that seems to differentiate CIC is not actually that useful and can be accommodated within existing models.

However, in general terms that does often leave the question of whether a limited company or a charity (or indeed neither or both). For some smaller specific groups starting out I often advise setting up with a simple constitution similar to that of a registered charity, gather then trustees, get a bank account and then get going. This is more than enough for many groups who will never go beyond that even if there income exceeds £100,000. For me the natural progression here is straight to a registered charity.

If I have a group that has charitable aims but will perhaps make almost all of it’s money from charging for services then I will often prescribe a company limited by guarantee making sure that there are provisions allowing subscribers to also work and get paid through the company. When/if the need arises it will always be straight forward to add a charity registration and deal with that extra set of accounts and submissions that will now need to be lodged with Charity Commissioner.

In the past a limited company was used for just about everything else including partnerships, but I must admit that i’m now inclined to recommend the Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) as it does actually support the way most partnerships do (and perhaps should) work. Particularly as the partnership agreement is separate from the LLP registration.

This leads me to mention here one of the first questions I ask new clients which concerns “motive.” I ask why the client wants to set up a charity, especially if they are on their own. It often transpires that some indeed have a quite noble and charitable cause they wish to support. For some it is about getting employment for themselves. For others it’s about making money. So my advice varies. Sometimes the best thing someone can do is go and volunteer or fundraise for an existing charity. Others need to build a team before they do anything else. Another set I advise to spruce up their CV and stay away from the voluntary sector and simply get a real job. Most others can normally be facilitated through acting as either a sole trader or a limited company and then simply offering themselves and their services commercially.

The Generic Case for Support

If there is one lesson that…

In fact that’s not true. That’s why my popular training workshop is called “The Seven Secrets of Successful Fundraising.” I think there are actually about ten key points that have to be addressed for really successful fundraising and one of them (a very important one just like the rest of them) is to have a very clearly defined generic case for support for the whole organisation.

Out of the Generic Case for Support comes that almost magical generic fundraising statement that once heard, has donors scrambling into their pockets to donate to your organisation.

However, the the Generic Case for Support is a much wider and bigger document that sits next to the business plan. It spell out in no uncertain terms all the reasons why anyone should donate to your organisation or cause.

There are four aspects which I think are key to developing the Generic Case for Support, or at least these are the things it should convey.
(a) Beneficiaries (who benefits – (example: young people)
(b) Problem being tackled (example: poverty, isolation)
(c) Positive outcomes (example: Integration, wealth, education)
(d) Methodology (events, training, scholarships etc.)
(e) Geographical sphere of operation (where you operate OR where most beneficiaries can be found)
So in short, every possible reason why people should give you money.
In terms of the generic Fundraising Statement, it is a much shorter statement that should be on the tips of the tongues of every staff member, volunteer, trustee or supporter and on every webpage, letterhead and printed document.

Helping divorced men at risk of suicide through therapeutive cookery sessions in their own local pub

They don’t necessarily have to be as short or crass as that, but you want something that is memorable, has a strong impact and can be easily used on websites, stationery and all printed materials, and perhaps even as part of a logo.

The aim is to make sure that the person reading or hearing it is in no doubt that you are in need of donations, and that the money will be well spent helping others. So again, the key things to try and get into a statement are the benefits, the beneficiaries and perhaps how you work.

In terms of the length or size, I believe you need it in three. The first is like the above example, just a phrase. The second is 250 -1,000 words and is the type of thing that can usually be pasted whole or easily modifies when submitting a grant application for example. Then finally we have the heftier document that might be 10 pages or so and sits alongside the business plan. It is from this that the shorter two are spurned.

There are a few good examples and templates of cases for support available on the internet and of course we have produced a few of our own which we can sometimes make available on request.

One of the greatest benefits that stem from having a well thought out case for support is that it often produces what we call “unrestricted income” as opposed to restricted project funding.

This means organisations are free to use this money as they please, and this can only be a good thing.

I go into more detail about this in my book/ebook Seven Secrets of Successful Fundraising.