WILL YOU HELP SAVE FINZ? — A unique fundrais­er-to-fundrais­er (F2F) appeal, part two 

This week SOFII gives you an update on the matched fund­ing appeal, straight from the horse’s mouth. SOFII’s Joe Bur­nett talks to FINZ CEO Michelle Ber­ri­man (who of course is more of a swan than a horse, but you know what we mean!).

Written by
Joe Burnett
August 27, 2020

On August 5th, we were pleased to feature a case study on an important ongoing campaign - Save FINZ. In what may be a world-first, the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) has launched a superb matched-funding appeal to raise money and hopefully save the professional organisation for Kiwi fundraisers. 

At the half-way point of the campaign, I caught up with FINZ CEO Michelle Berriman (whom I’d already had the huge pleasure of interviewing as part of our WoW! project). I found out how things are progressing so I could update you, below, on their progress. You’ll see I have also included quotes from donors and Michelle’s very own personal campaign diary, to give you an inside look at each step of this crucial project.

JB: Hi Michelle, so, how is the matched funds appeal going?

MB: It’s going good. It’s been a really interesting experience for me, because it’s never been done here before. From an organisational perspective, it has been a struggle, because we’re not set up for donations. The second document I sent you, my diary of the campaign, gives some insight into that. But the worldwide support has just been phenomenal, that’s what has blown me away more than anything.

At this stage, the global donations far outweigh the Kiwi donations, which is interesting. We only just launched the official appeal over here last week and it appeared in a national newspaper the other day, so it’s starting to get some attention. Our board had some concerns when I said that we need to do an appeal, because we’re an association. But we’re also a registered charity, which I don’t think many people know. I understood that individual members maybe wouldn’t donate because they pay their membership fees but the organisational members get unlimited access to FINZ benefits that are paid by their organisations. And, taking that into account, we have about 2,000 ‘members’, so I’m hopeful. 

But without the matched funds it would have been very difficult. Although the other day a charity, not a member but an actual charity, gave NZD$1,000, which is incredible. It’s unheard of here.

NB: the questions and trepidation mentioned by Michelle are reflected in her personal campaign diary: This makes me nervous. I have great relationships, I have invested a lot of times building them over the last two years, BUT I don’t want to offend anyone by asking them for a gift.’

Maybe the best way I can show you the support, Joe, is to share with you just the tiniest tip of the lovely quotes we’ve heard from fundraisers across New Zealand and around the world, as they sent us their backing.

‘My first FINZ conference was in 2001/02, just after arriving in NZ. I met so many fundraisers who became my support network during my 5.5 years in NZ. Thanks FINZ.’ 

‘Great campaign! I’m giving this in memory of Kitty Hilton.’

‘You got this Michelle - wish I could give more. x’

‘I want FINZ to survive, that's why I'm here for FINZ.’

‘We ARE all in this together - nationally and globally. We must help each other get through this tough period.’

‘This is for the matched fund. GO FINZ! Thanks for giving fundraisers so much fun.’

‘We're proud and very happy to support FINZ, Kiwi fundraising and the incredible causes that benefit from everyone’s efforts - Much love.’

‘With thanks for all you do. Our profession is respected because of what FINZ stands for!’

Also, we got so many eminent fundraising figures around the world helping us and they said some pretty encouraging things too. Here’s one I really loved, from Fundraising Everywhere’s lovely Simon Scriver:

‘Fundraising is giving people an opportunity. Everyone wants to change the world, and this is one way to do it right now. We provide that opportunity. And we are all affected by this crisis. The world's most vulnerable are affected disproportionately. Now is not the time to feel coy. But nobody should ever feel obliged or feel guilty when they say no. That's our job: to empower and facilitate those that can give, while showing empathy and understanding with those who can't.’

JB: I know the campaign is still in its early stages, but can you give us some numbers?

MB: Yes, we only launched here last Wednesday, even if the matched fund has been going for a few weeks through Cory (ed: Cory Hall, managing director of The Precision Group, who created the campaign free of charge and took a lead in promoting it. As Michelle puts it, he’s a ‘true legend, friend and genuine human being’) and the global stuff. The actual appeal has only been going for a week. 

The target is NZD$70,000 and we’ve reached NZD$35,000. Most of that has come from the matched funds and those who have given haven’t waited until the money comes through, they’re just putting it in the bank. That’s the thing with matched fund appeals, you’re wondering if people are going to ask for their money back if we don’t reach our target (laughs). It’s a bit of a psychological tool with donors. I'm confident we’ll meet our target and we got some interesting donations the day the direct mail and e-mail went out.

JB: And these donations are coming from around the world?

MB: Yep! We’ve got a lot coming from Australia, and also Canada, the USA, Ireland and the UK. The Association of Fundraising Professionals in America got in touch yesterday as their chair and president want to do a Zoom meeting with me next week to see how they can help, so that’s very cool.

JB: So people have really rallied round...

MB: Globally, yes. The rest of the world has been incredible. Australia in particular has been incredible. Katherine Raskob, the CEO of the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), has been really leading this for us by going out to all her people and saying, ‘We really need to help FINZ’. The response outside New Zealand has really blown me away, which is interesting. I hope the Kiwi contingencies come to the party but right now 80 per cent of our gifts, probably, are from overseas.

JB: How much of a challenge was it to go to the board with this idea?

MB: When I first approached them I was told that it wasn’t an option but I was talking to Sean Triner and he said that I just needed to walk the walk. Charities are doing emergency appeals right now. On June 18th Cory Hall from Precision Group had confirmed that they would meet all the costs of launching an appeal. So on the 19th, I sent the board the memo below.

Excerpt of the memo.

They said yes, unanimously and very quickly. Here, slightly edited, are some of their responses:

· ‘I’m absolutely supportive – the groundwork you and your team have done is fantastic. I agree that this needs to be moved forward as soon as possible.’

· ‘The amount of support you’ve initiated for the sector has been phenomenal and mostly for free, so we need to strike while the iron is hot.’

· ‘I don’t have to think twice about this – go for it! Fundraising is performing well at present. With NZ now in recession there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future so like you I believe the right timing is now. Personally, FINZ holds a place in my heart, if other fundraisers feel that way about their professional body, then I am sure they will support this appeal – a great initiative.’

· ‘It’s a yes from me too!!  FINZ members think you’re doing a fabulous job & your comms recently have been great, so they’ll support you. The great thing about fundraising now is that you can remind them of all the wonderful things you’ve done for them!’

· ‘My vote is in favour. Thank you, Michelle, for your persuasive paper and it’s wonderful to see the support we are getting. Well done.’

· ‘Congratulations Michelle you've got all yeses!’

We were off!  Below is a live version of the first wave eDM that was sent out Thursday 20th August to fundraisers everywhere.

Click on the image to view the letter in full.

I also think the honest, open communication with the members about our situation was almost just as important as getting the money. 

JB: There’s still a long way to go - are you confident you’ll reach your target?

MB: Yes, for sure. I think one of the things I found difficult was getting gifts from people I’d had no previous relationship with, something I remember from my previous work as a fundraiser. How do you even begin to thank them? I almost always came back to the word ‘wow’. 

(NB: Michelle summed this up so well in her appeal diary - ‘I am trying hard to remember this and document what is going on BUT it's got arms, legs and tentacles now! It's morphing into a giant squid like creature, moving deep under the surface and then being caught in places I didn't imagine !🧞‍♀️ It's incredible ...$2,000 donations coming in from people I've never had a relationship with, on any level!!’)

It felt like a validation of what we’ve been doing. People have to have a reason to give, don’t they? It proved that they believed in what we do. 

About the author: Joe Burnett

Joe Burnett

Joe Burnett (he/him) cut his teeth as an intern at the Association of French Fundraisers, he then embarked on a career in advertising before returning to where his heart lay: in the charities sector. Joe is passionate about fundraising and how it can be a force for positive change in the world. 

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