Superb donor stewardship is about consistency

Stewarding your donors makes sense

Fundraisers often say every little bit makes a difference. This philosophy should be more than a message – it should drive your organisation’s culture. Why? So many reasons! On numbers alone, the lifetime value of a regular small donor can be immense. It costs much more to recruit a new donor than look after a current one. You never know which modest gift could be a donor’s way of ‘testing the water’ when they have much more to offer. Creating raving, loyal fans among your donors is a simple way to build wider support.

Start with a stewardship plan and stick to it

Consistency is critical. The most important thing you can do to retain and steward your donors is to have a plan that you measure and follow. Think of it as a ‘service agreement’ with your supporters. Hold yourself to account with clear, regular measurement. Funding HQ helps you build an achievable plan to care for your donors and provides plenty of templates to get you started. If you have easy metrics in place, then you’ll have a framework to follow, so no donor gets left behind. For example, you might plan to have a board member get in touch with every donor of a certain level once per quarter. You can note these interactions and see your stewardship performance with a glance.

Put your donors first in communications

Whenever you’re communicating with your donors – individually, as a group, or in general, it’s vital to get the message right. Usually, this means keeping it donor-centric rather than organisation centric. You want to show that donor support matters and how it makes an impact. Our blog on storytelling has some ideas. 

To keep your communications truly donor-centric, make sure you understand how often they’d like to hear from you, and how. The best way to do this is simply to ask. Funding HQ will help you build a system that captures this information when you bring your donors on board.

Genuine gratitude is the greatest

Saying thank you always matters. And it’s much more important than glitzy donor gifts or splashy merchandise. Your thanks should be as emphatic as any request for a donation. At the very least, you must make a prompt thanks for every gift. Then, you can get more inventive. Below, we’ve listed a few ideas for stewarding donors. We regularly add the most inspiring case studies to Funding HQ too.

Have fun and get everyone involved in thanking donors

Donors rarely like to see too much money spent on them instead of the cause. This removes pressure and gives you an opportunity to be creative. Think about money-can’t-buy opportunities that are personal rather than elaborate. Surprising donors with something small and unexpected can mean a lot. For example, scholarship students or travelling sports teams could send a postcard to donors. Arts organisations could invite donors to watch a rehearsal.

Below are a few ideas we’ve seen that capture donor’s imaginations. We’d love to hear what special things your organisation does to recognise and care for its donors.

  • Personal notes, calls or cards from your team, your trustees or your community
  • Engagement without an ask attached, such as a birthday wish, recognition of milestones or successes
  • Creative naming rights such as ‘Tania’s roses’, Sean’s team buffet’
  • Opportunity to volunteer or get closer to the cause – a behind-the-scenes visit, hold the drink bottles, help with the costumes, capture ‘crowd view’ selfies etc
  • Something small and personalised such as autographed practice notes, a signed team shirt
  • Access to discounts or special offers from within your sponsor network
  • Public acknowledgement such as a post on Facebook, your website, a programme or display at a venue

Funding HQ has many more ideas and gives you frameworks to help you succeed. Find out if it’s a fit for your organisation here


Finding Stories that move people

What could you do if you captured the hearts of supporters, funders and your community?  You could change the world! That’s why telling the right stories is so important, and there’s potential everywhere.  

How can you find the best stories to show your impact?

A trick is to look at the types of stories that have always captivated people. These three stand out for their fit with showing impact.

Character-driven stories are fascinating and help build empathy. Who pops into mind when you think about the people who you help?

Stories with a central conflict are enduring and work well for organisations addressing a problem or need in the community. They’re great at building tension in a narrative, and that’s what captures attention.

And lastly, stories about a hero’s journey have always inspired people. Do you have a donor or staff member who fits this bill? We bet you do!

Structure your story for maximum impact

The ‘beginning–middle–end’ structure of stories is pounded into all Kiwi school kids. As adults, we can see this as a narrative arc.

To hold your reader’s attention, keep building the tension throughout your story and then wrap up with some kind of resolution.

Your aim is to hook your reader and emotionally transport them. This response is tied to oxytocin release. You should read the story about that research! Oxytocin helps unlock people’s empathy, compassion, and their likelihood to give. Keep your ‘call to action’ until after the final resolution – you want to save it until the full power of your story is flooding your reader with emotion.

Authenticity and detail help make stories compelling

You only need to watch a child relate their day’s activities to see that humans have a natural inclination to tell stories. But good technique makes your stories more interesting.

One tip is to be specific, not general when you’re telling a story. Search out details that make your reader feel as though they’re there in the moment. For instance, it’s much better to talk about a ‘scratchy woollen blanket’ than ‘bedding’.

Authenticity is vital in good storytelling. It might be tempting to make up ‘typical scenarios,’ but your integrity is just too important to risk. We know it can be tricky when privacy limits what you can say.  Sometimes, it’s better to forgo a story rather than compromise someone or your organisation.

Your community is rich with potential stories. In fact, setting out to discover them is like going on your own ‘hero’s journey’.  Hunt down stories that show your organisation’s impact and how others can help. Tell your stories well and you’ll be successful…you’ll move people’s hearts, minds, money and more.


Funding community art projects for connecting communities

Helping people raise funds for art projects has always bought me great joy and pleasure. With my work at Giblin Group I have helped bring to life places like the Len Lye Gallery and the Sargeant Gallery in Whanganui.

These were big projects, but the methodology for raising capital and helping fund projects is the same no matter how big or small your ask is. It’s about having a clear plan and ensuring a diversified income stream, and that’s where Funding HQ can help. The platform is designed to help community groups to access the funding they’d need to make a real difference and help build vibrant communities.

Focusing on connection

Staying well and connected has become even more important. One way we do this in our communities is through the arts. Public art spaces, museums, galleries, and exhibitions help people have a sense of caring and belonging in their communities.  

Communities will play a big part in our recovery from this pandemic. The arts will be an important lever to provide not only employment and economic growth but a sense of wellness and inclusion, bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to enjoy experiences and celebrate what makes our communities unique and different.

There’s been a fair amount of commentary around the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing. New Zealand is at the world’s leading-edge in the way it integrates ‘wellbeing’ as a priority for its work and funding strategy. When you think about what you do and what you want to achieve, it helps to think about how you contribute to wellbeing in your community. What are the benefits and outcomes you deliver to your community?

Ensuring a clear vision and plan

What is also clear is the need for community groups, artists and organisations to have a clear vision and plan. Whether it is for a new building, a creative design project or transforming cultural organisations into vital, cherished hubs you’ll need to know how to make a compelling case for investment focusing on what the outcomes will be for the community.

At Funding HQ we help you formulate a plan while looking also looking at the various funding streams that are available for your project. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Will your project create opportunities for local communities to engage with, and participate in local arts activities?
  • Will it support the artistic cultural traditions of local communities?
  • Will it create jobs for people in your community?
  • Will it help regenerate urban spaces?
  • Will it add to or complement the distinctive natural environment and built character in the community?
  • Will it attract people to the community?

If you feel your project answers some of the above questions have a look at Funding HQ and start building your compelling case for funding.


Setting yourself up for sports funding victories this summer

If you’re in sports, you know that preparation is the key to an excellent performance. When it comes to winning the right funding, the approach is the same. It’s all about doing the work, building your skills, and getting a good game plan. And Funding HQ is on your side! Here’s what you can be doing in your off-season to make sure your team is ready to win on the funding front when the new season comes around.

Focus on reconnecting

Get in touch with your existing supporters and funders whenever you get a breather from competition. Covid-19 means this is more important than ever because so much has changed.

You might find the situation has changed for the better. Companies you’ve worked with in the past may now want their support of the local team to be more visible – sponsoring you could be an effective way for them to show they back their local community. Think about how you can help and start the conversation now.

Corporate sponsors may not be able to offer you the same support as they have in the past. Either way, they’ll still appreciate you reaching out and checking in. Care makes an impression. You want to be remembered for the right thing when the pace picks up again.

Plan to diversify away from gaming trusts

You should expect a reduction in any funding you’ve traditionally received from gaming trusts. Gaming trust funding has been slowly decreasing over the last few years and the lockdown has meant an even sharper decline as gaming income has been interrupted. Even if you’ve enjoyed a good relationship with specific gaming trusts in the past, there will be less money available from them for distribution for the time being.

During this off-season, you should look at how you can diversify your funding streams. Think about it as cross-training for your balance sheet! Start by considering what untapped channels are available to you.

The Funding HQ platform guides you through a ‘fitness’ test for funding diversification and uncovers new opportunities. We’ve built it specifically to help organisations like yours to help with the challenge of becoming more financially sustainable.

Update your plan

A rounded and well-executed game plan makes the difference to your game readiness in both sports and fundraising. Because so much has changed, now is the time to get creative.

To think ‘outside the box’ while also staying true to your identity, try starting with the vision and values of your organisation. Next, prioritise the needs you want to meet within your sports community. For example, you might decide the most important thing is to get your young elites to a national competition and inspire the generation that follows them. Alternatively, you may want to concentrate on attracting more first-time players to the game. Being able to express such goals clearly and share your aspirations will help cement the support you need. You might just need to adjust how you go about things until the pandemic and its effects have passed.

Creating a detailed plan in the off-season helps you in a couple of ways. Most importantly, you can make sure you have the right people and resources ready. You’ll also be able to capture all your victories – on and off the field – to report on to your funders.

Funding HQ has tools, templates, and techniques for each stage of your funding journey. In sports, a player has the best chance to excel when they have a strong team and a coach who puts their success first. In fundraising, you have Funding HQ to play this role.

We’ve created this Funding HQ because we know that sports bring together vibrant communities. We’re on your side, so let’s get you in good form.


Diverse sports funding wins post-Covid19

It has been great to see the Government support local sporting organisations with interim funding, however many of these grassroots clubs and teams will need to take the opportunity to look at how they access and achieve sustainable funding and income streams.

Play in the whole field of funding

There has been a strong reliance on the gaming trust sector, and for many it has been the sole focus of funding precluding a diverse approach. Going forward sport organisations will need to have a wide range of funders, and the tools to plan for this diversity, be strategic, and sustainable. It’s time to start to develop a long term plan.

This post-Covid19 environment is an opportunity for sports clubs to look at how they can rebuild themselves into more efficient organisations and how they can diversify their income stream. It might be time to get a group of supporters, team coaches and committee members together and explore why a funder should invest in your team or club.

Rally your team by talking about what counts in sports funding

Organisations will also need to change the conversation they have with businesses, corporates, and philanthropic funders and be really clear on what they are asking for in order to support their community. You’ll need to focus on the outcomes you deliver back to your community and be prepared to measure them. Then you’ll need to show funders how their investment has helped deliver the outcomes.

Collaboration for the win

It’s also time to look at how different clubs and organisations can collaborate with each other. Despite the usual competitive nature of the game how can different groups come together within a community to build a sustainable future for their club or sporting code. There will be partnership opportunities that can be developed, however the way organisations look to these partnerships for support could be quite different.

I am a big believer in grassroots sports; with five children I’ve travelled the length of the country supporting them across many codes. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a little bit competitive but more than that it is a gateway for connecting people in the communities, and ensuring we continue to build vibrant communities.


Three things Boards should expect from fundraisers

The most successful organisations have a team approach to fundraising. As a trustee or board member, it’s vital you are involved in fundraising. Your fundraiser should make sure everyone knows how they can help the organisation succeed. 

Expectations for your fundraiser should centre around three things.

  • A clear and compelling case for why funders should invest in your organisation or programme
  • A plan to attract and retain funding from a diverse range of sources
  • Empowerment for you to play a role in fundraising that includes the use of your networks

You need a compelling case for why funders should support you

The case for funders to support your organisation is the basis for every piece of work your fundraiser does. All trustees and members of the board  should be familiar with your organisation’s ‘case for support’. You should feel comfortable talking about it. A good case for support will capture your imagination and passion so much that it compels you to give something yourself!

Your case for support gives clarity on your values, objectives and purpose and how your work meets a need in the community. It should show how your intentions align and how you’ll make a difference with their help. Funding HQ takes you through the process of building your case for investment which uses Giblin Group’s deep expertise.

Fundraisers must have a strategy to attract and retain a range of funders 

Diversification in funding sources has never been as crucial as it is right now. 

Your fundraiser should share a strategy that: 

  • explores a broad range of funders
  • identifies funders who are most suitable because they share similar objectives and values
  • plans for funding applications 
  • sets out how you will retain and steward your funders. 

This fundraising plan will outline key milestones so you can monitor progress. It should also lay out how funders will be looked after by your organisation. It’s likely to include some tasks for you, such as writing personal letters to very generous donors or hosting sponsors at events. 

Funding HQ provides a pack of templates so your organisation can build their own first-class funding plan and retention strategy.  

You should have a clear role that includes using your networks

Good fundraisers will empower board members to play a role in engaging and looking after funders. They’ll also recognise that you have much more to offer than time. 

Influence and networks are one of the biggest assets you can offer a not-for-profit organisation. Your fundraiser should ask you to help open doors to potential donors and funders. They might set a time with you do discuss this every couple of months, or before key events. If you know the organisation’s donors, you may be able to share insights to help build existing relationships.

Helping look after donors can be one of the most enjoyable parts of being a board member for a not-for-profit. Expect to be asked to help, thank or host important donors. 

A good fundraiser will understand trustees or board members can be effective role models for philanthropy by making contributions themselves. Let’s face it; no one really likes asking for money. But, it’s going to be hard for a fundraiser to ask people to give if the organisation’s own board won’t. You can help by making a donation, even if it’s a modest one.

We’re in a period of rapid change, and those who adapt quickly and thoughtfully will succeed. A good fundraiser will understand this and be ready to make the most of the team around them – especially the board. You should be given a clear understanding of how you can help with their plans and what support they need.


Navigating your fundraising events in 2020

Fundraising events are fun and highly visible but they can be hard work. For many organisations events are a key date on the calendar as a vital income stream. However, we’re all having to rethink things in light of Covid-19. If you’ve had to cancel your event, hopefully your broader strategy means you can move to create smaller, simple fundraising activities or approach your donors in another way. Don’t be afraid to rethink how you want to personally engage with people and potential fundraising opportunities.

If you did have an event planned you’ll need to ask yourself some key questions.

  • Are you still in a position to go ahead with the event this year and is it critical to your fundraising income stream?
  • Can you move it to later in the year or early next year without having to incur cancellation fees?
  • How is your target audience placed right now and what will their circumstances be when you do decide to hold the event?

Keep communicating about your fundraising event

Be open and transparent in communications around your event.  Make sure you contact everyone to let them know what is happening.  Personal engagement with your big ticket donors is essential at this stage, especially if they have already contributed to the event with money or product. When speaking to them remind them why they are supporting your cause, and talk about what it is you have been doing during this time. Let them know about the increased need for your service, and the impact your cause is having on the community. Ask if they would be willing to redirect their donation to directly assisting with your services or programs or to another part of your operations. Be transparent.

At the same time be sensitive to your donors’ circumstances and offer to refund any monies you might have received.

Remember also to consider your partners. Let them know what is happening with your event as early on as possible in the decision-making process. Event venues are facing hardship too at this time, so be upfront, and give people plenty of notice. It’s better to over communicating and focus on maintaining good relationships. Take the time to personally contact partners if you do cancel and let them know.

Use technology to be effective with your fundraising event

You may have postponed your event but be facing some logistic issues, such as lack of resources to produce the event in the way you’d originally planned or uncertainty about attendance due to changed circumstances. Don’t let this put you off. Consider running a virtual event instead of your planned event. In some instances virtual events can require less planning cost less and if you’ve lucky raise just as much revenue.

Keep your fundraising event focused toward your mission

Advancing your mission and raising money to support your cause should be at the heart of your event strategy. People understand the difficulties and changes that are taking place as we navigate the next few months. Share your mission and keep your donors, guests, partners, and stakeholders informed with honest and authentic communications – you may find they will still donate to your cause without attending that black tie gala or music performance.


June 2020


Keep your funding team motivated – it matters

When money is scarce, it’s tempting to put all your focus on building income and cutting costs. Yet, taking time for your team can help you achieve all your goals and truly thrive. Keeping your funding team motivated matters now more than ever.

Talk to your team to empower them

Good communication in a team is fundamental. Being transparent is critical when you need everyone to work together. If you’re genuine about preserving jobs in a struggling organisation, then sharing targets and progress allows your team to back you in tough decisions. You’ll empower them to share a sense of responsibility for success. We heard of one leader who explained the organisation’s challenging situation to her team. The ideas and commitments the staff offered were plentiful and creative. Importantly, they took ownership of cost reductions and income growth.

It’s vital to show your employees you care about more than their work outputs.e For instance, let them know you appreciate their ready smile or movie recommendations. Little things can make a big difference to people’s energy levels. Check they’re comfortable at their desks – a draft can make an employee miserable. Simply being polite and friendly can go a long way.  

Celebrate your team’s wins

Celebrating wins within the team has plenty of benefit. According to a Westminster College poll on employee motivation, 69 percent of people surveyed would work harder if they believed their leaders appreciated their work Why not build some ‘rituals of recognition’ into your workplace culture. Your team could make nominations for ‘weekly wins’. A well-deserved round of applause is motivating and memorable, while spontaneous celebrations allow you to be sincere and more personal. A note of thanks on someone’s desk can make a daunting task feel worthwhile.  Never underestimate the power of chocolate!

Have fun at work with your team.

Finally, get creative and invite others in your team to contribute ideas. Imagine the positive impact on your organisation if each of your employees is excited about coming to work every day. Even small things can lift people’s spirits – fruit in your break area or fresh flowers in the bathroom. A shared soup lunch is easy to organise. Imagine how the smell of fresh bread and warm tummies would bolster your team’s morale.

There’s nothing like a strong team working together to take you from surviving to thriving. More than ever, care counts. 


June 2020.


Enjoy funding success with these six top tips

If funding can help you realise your vision for 2020, then it’s time to put everything in place to win. 

Here are our six top tips for funding success.

1. Be strategic with your fundraising.

Take time and care to build strong relationships and understand your funders’ needs. Also, keep your focus on showing the value the funding will provide to the community at a variety of levels.

2. Have a plan and get organised.

Fundraising is a big job! Planning well can smooth out the workload and identify areas where others in your organisation can help. Define roles, responsibilities, timeframes and most importantly – action! Everyone in the team should play a part. Together, you can keep fundraising high on the agenda so you’ll have the funds in the bank when you need them.

3. You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket when so many funding options are available.

Explore local government, central government, trusts (community, gaming and private trusts), business sector/philanthropic sponsorship and community fundraising opportunities.

4. Engage others through compelling stories.

Having a strong case for investment and why someone should fund your project is critical to attracting funding. In a nutshell, this should:

  • Focus on how your organisation contributes to improved social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes.
  • Explain the difference a funder’s support would make to community wellbeing. It’s important to show how funding will meet the needs of the community because funders focus on the impact and benefits of their investment.
  • Demonstrate that you have the support of your community – funders want to know that the community is behind you.

5. Keep your focus.

Tailor your applications, so they are relevant to a funder’s requirements. It’s just not worth copying and pasting the same material to do things faster. Funders will see that you haven’t taken their specific priorities into account. 

6. Look after your funders.

Creating truly sustainable partnerships means looking after them purposefully. Be clear about their own vision and how they measure success. Ensure they keep getting value from their partnership with you.

Make sure you follow us for all the latest ideas and tools from our experts.  Let’s make 2020 your best year yet!


April 2020


Planning for the next 12 months

Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball right now? Planning ahead and for longterm sustainability has never been more crucial – or more difficult. I’ve been talking to people in both the public and private sectors about what organisations can do and it’s encouraging. Despite the uncertainty, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic.

The good news is funding will be available – especially for those organisations who have a compelling case for investment and can clearly demonstrate they’re meeting a need.

Plenty of government funds are offering immediate help to get you through. Keep your ears open for these, but don’t stop there. To be truly sustainable, it’s vital to take a diverse approach that broadens your funding streams.

Covid-19 is likely to exacerbate the decline in gaming funding availability. If you’ve been slow to step back your reliance on these funds, then now is the time to move quickly. If you are going to apply to gaming trusts, remember competition will be fierce. Target your applications where there is real alignment – sending in lots of generic applications is unlikely to be successful.

Don’t be afraid to review your strategy and get creative. For instance, are there opportunities to collaborate in new ways to deliver on your vision? Look out for other organisations with shared values and complementary strengths.

Impact investment is one funding stream we expect will increase in this new environment. Have a look at those companies that have adapted fast to the new norm and recovering in an agile and expedient way. Identify businesses whose sense of purpose aligns with your own. Once again, a match in values is essential.

All funders will want to understand the impact their funds are making. You can help them by communicating regularly and effectively. Make your impact easy to understand and including numbers, measures, feedback and individual stories that showcase your work.

Don’t forget to make the most of your expertise when you’re planning. You know better than anyone how the Covid environment will impact your community and services. You’ll also know what they need most to recover and thrive. This is a great place to start when you look ahead.

If you’d like more insights on the future of funding, and some help making a plan, then check out our website for our latest thinking. Give us a call if you prefer to speak directly to our team. We’re here to support you in helping build vibrant communities we all love.


May 2020