Following the fold

Written by
Lyndall Stein
Added
May 17, 2016

There is a big poster outside my local tube station – actually I believe it is an artwork – which just has a line of text saying, ‘If history could be folded, where would you put the crease?’ It got me thinking that we need a bit of ‘folding’ in the world of fundraising. Us ‘oldies’ learning from the ‘youngies’ and maybe we do have something to offer them. 

If fundraising could be folded where would you put the crease?

Yes! An ‘old dog’ can learn new tricks. I have just benefited from the talents of young Ingrid Merkel at Care International who gave me a workshop in how to improve my Twitter practice. She was such a good teacher, so calm and patient, then I remembered that she used to work for the Elders so is used to the strange ways of us slower silver surfers.

I was so proud when Ollie Gell, the talented head of major giving and trusts at Save the Children UK, showed me how to do a proper smiley face in my emails ­– oh the empowerment, the sense that now I was on the bleeding edge of hipster communications, yay! In full control of my emojis, I sent one to the CEO soon after – Ollie did not entirely approve. 

So I know I have loads to learn from young people – those digital natives, the brave hearts wrestling with the terrible complexities of the modern mix of channels.

View original image
The first edition and the last of the ‘elegant’ Independent where, if they fancied an adventure, the African National Congress placed their ads.

In my early career raising money for the African National Congress in the bad old days of apartheid it was warm mail, cold mail and the Guardian, maybe even the Independent if we were feeling really adventurous. Sadly that elegant newspaper is no longer available actually in print. We made many millions, cheques poured in every day. I would record all the results in an exercise book and somehow we would analyse and plan from my scruffy scrawl; everything was added up on a calculator, not even a computer in those early days. In fact we didn't even have a filing cabinet, I used old boxes for filing – do you have a tear of sympathy in the corner of your eye yet?

So what do I think I can pass on? What have I learnt from those giants who have already gone before us – the late greats – George Smith, lovely Lynn O’Donoghue, or Tony Elischer?

And always be bold, fundraising isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Be bold – fundraising is not for the fainthearted, you will get a lot of refusals before you get those precious funds.

Be brave – your cause, whatever it is, deserves it, no one responds to a feeble request. However it is delivered, face to face, on paper, or through the wonders of the worldwide web, it must be urgent, packed full of feeling, authentic and vivid. 

Be a leader not just a follower – all good work is teamwork and all mistakes are too. If you want to be a leader give away the credit and take the blame, understand risks and take them. Defend your profession against the snipers, be proud of our collective skills, integrity and commitment. Gently remind those that would under-mine us that fundraisers have choices – most could make more money using their skills to make a profit, we all make a positive choice to work for the greater good.

Any channel can be used for good or evil – you must keep an eye on them all.

Any channel is a tool that can be used for good or evil and you need to keep your eyes on them all – if you walk away you cannot easily get back in. By all means do a honourable retreat for a while, but do not turn your back completely on what is happening across the full and complex range of the channel mix.

Your preparation is your result. Ok yes, I know sometimes you need to ‘wing it’ but you also need to make sure you do enough ‘try outs’ and rehearsals.

Research is your friend, but do not be its slave – let the UK general election in 2015 act as a dreadful warning, people do not always do what they say, what’s more they sometimes say what they think sounds good, such as ‘I don’t need emotional messages to give’. As my old mother used to say ‘Ha! Bloody, ha!‘

By the way is there an emoji for that?

About the author: Lyndall Stein

Lyndall Stein

Since her amazing entrance to fundraising, Lyndall Stein has, perhaps not surprisingly, become a leading authority in campaigning, fundraising and communications. She has worked for a variety of organisations, including CARE International UK, VSO, the New Economics Foundation, the Resource Alliance, ActionAid and the Terrence Higgins Trust. She was responsible for launching the charity Concern in the UK and developed the founding board of trustees. She was the first fundraising director for the Big Issue Foundation and is founder editor of Positive Lives, a photographic project showing the global human response to HIV/AIDS, an exhibition seen by over two million people worldwide. She is chair of the board of trustees of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation and is a trustee of Reprieve.

Related case studies or articles

How often in life do you have total satisfaction?

This remarkable article from Lyndall Stein that describes the fundraising campaign she and other volunteers organised for the African National Congress when South Africa was in the grip of apartheid.

Read more

My big mistakes – and what I learned

When Lyndall Stein’s article on the ANC first appeared on SOFII it prompted the comment: ‘This is a great piece! Wow, the power of fundraisers!’ However, one part of an ANC campaign had a serious flaw. Here Lyndall owns up to that mistake, and others, and tells SOFII users what she learned from them.

Read more

It’s the picture not the frame

‘When I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified. [He] ... was lying lifeless face down in the surf, in his red t-shirt and dark blue shorts folded to his waist. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard.’ Nilufer Demir, photographer, on why she released the photo.

But was she right? Read Lyndall Stein on why we fundraisers shouldn’t shrink from the challenge of using powerful images to change the world.

Read more

A fundraiser’s alchemy: turning tears to gold

In this new article about her time with AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, Lyndall Stein says, ‘…I have learned that it is a privilege to be a fundraiser. When you are working on the toughest issues in the hardest times, you know that your blood, sweat and tears will be turned to gold, that your work will be meaningful, relevant and will matter…’

Read more