We need to upskill the sector

Yesterday was the last day of Fundraising Convention and before I delve in to what I learned, I just want to say a big ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to everyone involved – from IoF staff to the Convention Board, Chairs, Speakers and all the amazing volunteers!

For me, the recurring theme of the day was the need to upskill – whether that’s personal development or building  and developing your colleagues’ skills.

Digital leadership

My first session of the day was on digital leadership and it was great to see three female speakers: Clare Moriarty,  Permanent Secretary at Defra, Claire Horton, CEO at Battersea and Lara Burns, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Age UK.

Clare talked about how digital is about people and connections and connecting them to services. She talked about all the digital changes happening at Defra because ‘that’s the world we live in now’ where people expect to be able to renew a licence online.

Claire talked us through how important it is that everyone at Battersea understands the role that digital plays and how technology can improve efficiency, help them reach more people and better serve their beneficiaries.

She shared their virtuous circle of insight, innovation, implementation and impact and talked us through each stage.


The virtuous circle

Insight is about the value of context – both inward and outward. It’s about how you bring people together and how everyone works towards the same goal. Everyone really needs to understand the strategy, challenges and landscape.

To innovate, you need to be an organisational change agent who sees talent in people and pushes them to be brave, agile and adaptive. But innovation mustn’t be for Innovation’s sake. It must have a real purpose.

The implementation stage is about connecting ‘digital natives’ with ‘digital immigrants’ to get buy-in, understanding and trust. And digital must always be linked back to strategy goals.

To create impact, you must be rigorous in what you’re measuring and use that insight to feed that back into your strategy.

Claire then ended with 5 Golden Digital Rules:

  1. Go where your audience is
  2. Invest in digital skills (incl people)
  3. Aim for quality
  4. Plan ahead
  5. Track performance

Last to speak was Lara who talked us through how digital innovation kick-started service delivery and fundraising at Age UK.

At Age UK, digital is not a bolt-on. It’s fundamental to how they are changing service delivery and enabling conversations with older people. Together with CAST, they developed an app called Steps, which helps them create action plans with older people. The success of the app, as a proof of concept, has led to 3 funders now funding digital transformation.

But a step-change in service delivery has not been without its challenges, one of which was the gaps in infrastructure that were exposed.

Step change in service delivery

The Steps story opened up lots of questions, such as how to secure funding for digital innovation at different stages and can we collaborate on funding tech solutions across the sector?

It was a fascinating session.

Click to read my Twitter thread of the session:

How to develop a personal brand

For my second session of the day, I went along to hear Joe Jenkins, Director of Supporter Impact and Income at The Children’s Society and Liz Tait, Director of Fundraising at Battersea, talk about building a personal brand.

Joe started with saying that your personal brand is what people think about you, not what you think about yourself.

Liz shared some top tips:

  • Daily interactions – be kind, it’s a small sector!
  • Spread the kindness
  • Start close to home – what opportunities are there at your own charity?
  • Volunteer – put yourself forward to volunteer for an IoF regional group, for example
  • Talk at events
  • Get writing – start a blog or write for others
  • Embrace networking
  • Recognise others – don’t always speak about yourself. It’s good to publicly recognise the achievements of others
  • Keep learning
  • Seek feedback

Joe then shared some Do’s and Don’ts:


  • Get social, particularly on Twitter and Fundraising Chat
  • Be yourself – whatever the channel
  • Be consistent
  • Be brave
  • Make choices (say yes to lots, but not everything is right & worth your time)
  • Do fewer things better
  • Plan ahead
  • Value & recognise personal brand & then prioritise it
  • Be brilliant (at your day job)!


  • Be anti-social (don’t be negative and critical of others)
  • Fake it – you’ll soon be found out
  • Stay in your box
  • Over-stretch yourself
  • Don’t stop having fun!

Click to read my Twitter thread of the session:

10 ways to become more digital for under a tenner

Next up was Mandy Johnson, CEO of Small Charities Coalition (of which I’m a trustee), to share how small charities can make the most of digital through free (or almost free) tools.

  1. Powtoon for a free animated video
  2. The camera on your smartphone for images or video
  3. YouTube to host your videos for free (it’s also a search engine)
  4. Amazon wishlist – create one for supporters to buy you office supplies and equipment
  5. Take contactless payments on the go for only £15
  6. QR Code and NFC stickers for just £2
  7. Closed Facebook groups to get closer to supporters and make them feel special
  8. Anchor to create free podcasts
  9. Mindset – research, test and iterate with your service users so that you create the services that they actually need. Are your donors, beneficiaries and service users at the heart of what you create?

As you can see… I seem to have missed one!

Click to read my Twitter thread of the session:

Diversity is an opportunity

The plenary was delivered by the amazing June Sarpong who spoke about the importance of diversity and how the charity sector could really lead and set the example of being a diverse and inclusive profession.

My favourite quote from June was, ‘You can’t be campaigning and fighting for equality when your own organisation doesn’t reflect society”.

Click to read my Twitter thread of the plenary:

I have to pay tribute to the IoF who really are working hard to increase diversity in the sector.

The big debate

Are charities where Blockbuster was 15 years ago? Is fundamental change needed in order for them to survive? Mandy Johnson, CEO of Small Charities Coalition and Yasmin Georgiou, Head of Digital Engagement at GOSH argued for the motion whilst Dr Adrian Salmon, Vice President of Grenzbach Glier & Associates and Lesley Pinder Head of Supporter Experience at British Red Cross argued against the motion. They were kept in check by David Hunt, Head of Digital at Breast Cancer Care.

The debate was quite intense so I’m not going to document it all, but read my Twitter thread to see the points raised – there were some really interesting ones.

And who won? Mandy and Yasmin! Although only marginally, it must be said.

Click to read my Twitter thread of the debate:

Digital Transformation in practice

The last session of the day (and of Convention) was all about digital transformation in practice. I was really keen to attend this as digital transformation is often spoken about in ‘big picture’ terms so I was interested to hear how charities are actually doing it.

It was a joint session of two charities: Tom Barker, Head of Digital at National Trust and Simon Honnor, Digital Marketing Manager and Katy Rouse, Digital Content Manager at NSPCC.

Tom spoke first about how National Trust is putting digital transformation into practice and offered 7 tips:

  1. It will only happen if you really want it to. He used a ‘quit smoking’ analogy – for anyone wanting to quit smoking there are apps, patches, services etc to help you yet it will not happen if you don’t really want to quit. You can have all the tools at your disposal but you have to really want to make the change.
  2. Have a single, clear objective – if you can’t explain it quickly to a senior manager or trustee, you’ll lose their attention and it won’t move forward.
  3. Chunk it up – it can be a big, scary, daunting task but it you break it up into smaller chunks, it’s more achievable.
  4. It’s a long haul, not a short fix – be honest with how long it will take so there are no unrealistic expectations.
  5. Have a big stick – aka, get senior management buy-in. Someone high up whose got your back.
  6. Invest in IT – and this means invest in relationships. Be friends with IT. Believe me, you’ll need them.
  7. Plan beyond delivery – need a new website? Build in a budget for beyond when the website is live. And not just to fix bugs but to test and iterate functionality.

Next up, Simon and Katy talked us through NSPPC’s email empowerment programme. They took three steps to upskill staff to allow them to create their own emails, thus freeing up time in the digital team to do more testing and optimizing.

  • Engage – get buy-in (from Senior managers and all staff who need to be involved) and co-create or it won’t work.
  • Educate – (or upskilling) they delivered face-to-face training as well as creating guides and putting together a quiz on the intranet. They also blog on the intranet and send out a monthly newsletter
  • Enhance – this is all about freeing up time to measure and test so that there is continual improvement.

So far the results have been promising – they’ve even increased open rates by 3%. But what’s next? They are putting together a web content training programme, they’ve identified digital business partners who will upskill their team members, they’ve got a deal with Econsultancy for fast track online training and the digital team has started a blog, which you can read here.

So that’s the end of Fundraising Convention for another year. See you in 2019?

Be more human and drop the jargon

As an official blogger for the Institute of Fundraising’s Fundraising Convention, I was back on day two, excited for the sessions ahead. This time I mixed it up a bit and didn’t spend the entire day in the digital stream sessions. Missed day one? Read my highlights here.

First session of the day, however, and I was back in the digital stream to hear Reuben  Turner, Creative Director of GOOD Agency present on Digital: are we doing it all wrong? Now, I’ve known Reuben for years and heard him speak many times. He tells it like it is, pulls no punches but also always has new and interesting things to say and share. And he didn’t disappoint.

Reuben urged us not to think like content marketers (but isn’t content King?), always in pursuit of that next click or like.

content marketing.JPG

Instead, be more human. More of us want to feel connected and part of a tribe and this is the beauty of digital as it can bring people who belong, together.

Take a look at how the Army now recruit. It’s less ‘come and drive a tank!’ and more ‘here is where you belong’.

Army recruitment.JPG

Although SEO, adwords, test and learn etc are your base, and are of course still important, they will only lead to incremental growth. This is more process than emotion.

Less human.JPG

Instead, focus on being more human and bringing out these qualities in people:

1. Acknowledge me (I’m here)
2. I care about this too (I belong)
3. I can make a difference ( I matter)

More human.JPG

Quite frankly, no one cares about advertising, marketing or even fundraising (apart from those whose job it is) so we need to find that sweet spot and tap into culture. It’s less about what we WANT people to care about and more about tapping in to what they actually care about. That’s how we will win hearts and minds.

Culture not advertising.JPG

For my second session I ventured out of the digital stream (to cries of ‘traitor!’ Only kidding) and joined the panel discussion on the Election 2017: What did it mean for charities and fundraising? The speakers included former BBC Newsnight reporter and NCVO chair Peter Kellner, Lucy Caldicott, CEO of UpRising and Fundraising Regulator board member, Vinay Nair, CEO and co-founder of Lightful and John Tizard, strategic advisor and commentator.

There were some really interesting points, summed up in the following tweets.

Ultimately, the key lesson was that we are in uncertain times but we must not let that distract us from our mission. We must still lobby for the causes we care about – we owe it to our beneficiaries.

My third session was on How to drive Digital transformation in practice by Yasmin Georgiou, Head of Digital Engagement at Great Ormond Street Hospital. This was such a good session! I loved how Yas made it seem so accessible and achievable. Digital transformation suddenly didn’t sound so scary! That’s not to say it’s easy though…

Yas started with the question ‘Why do we need to change?’ For GOSH, there were 3 reasons:

1. (a new) Organisational strategy
2. Outdated processes between digital and fundraising
3. ‘Digital’ had lost all meaning

No one at the charity was crying out for ‘transformation’ but rather for innovation. They wanted shiny things like VR, but without the foundation in place (what their supporters wanted, needed and expected from their digital channels) they couldn’t just step into innovation. It’s really refreshing to hear that Yas said ‘no’, rather than jump on the new, shiny things – tempting as they were.

Being Head of Digital is challenging, if digital has lost all meaning.

So get rid of the jargon, as internal stakeholders don’t understand it and it makes them feel intimidated and devalued. Ditch ‘transformation’ and just replace it with ‘the thing’ such as the website or new database or whatever the project is.

Digital maturity is a gradual progression with realistic goal setting and is not about the digital team – it’s an organisation-wide view. This gradual process works particularly well for risk averse charities. Yas used, amongst other things, Third Sector’s Digital Maturity Matrix, developed by the digital team at Breast Cancer Care, to assess where they are now and where they want to be.

digital transformation.JPG

It’s about evolution, not revolution. You might want to wrap up your project in a couple of months but you have to go at the pace of the organisation. Yas said that if she had gone any faster she would have lost people along the way. A top tip is when setting up departmental workshops, don’t forget about the HR team – the conversations with them were the most telling.

Digital transformation tips.JPG

Yas says that it’s important to look outwards and admit when you need external support so she got an agency involved, looked to her peers in the sector and went to events and had lots of coffees. She also accessed a CharityComms mentor, which helped immensely.

And this is their Digital Matrix.

GOSH digital matrix.JPG

The to do list is the maturity index and the roadmap, which is now a living strategy. Conversations now are about meeting an organisational need rather than talking about channels and technology. The result of this new way of working has led to the One day at GOSH campaign, which was filmed over 24 hours at the hospital.

Yas’s four top tips for embarking on digital transformation are:

1. Work at the right pace (go too fast and you’ll alienate people)
2. Collaboration and empathy
3. Be clear on expertise
4. Be prepared to adapt

Tips for digital transformation.JPG

After lunch I went along to the Women Leaders in Fundraising panel discussion, chaired by Lizzi Hollis. Lizzi set up Charity Women to tackle inequality in the sector. I urge you to join the Facebook group!

The panel consisted of:

  • Helen McEachern, Director of Fundraising at ActionAid UK
  • Carol Akiwumi, Fundraising Consultant and Trainer
  • Amanda Bringans, Interim Director of Fundraising at the British Heart Foundation and Chair of Institute of Fundraising
  • Meredith Niles, Fundraising Director at Marie Curie
  • Kerry Blackstock, Director of Public Fundraising at WWF UK

Lizzi Hollis.JPG

It was a fascinating discussion and an important one too. Inequality and diversity are key issues that the sector needs to address – now.

My key learnings were:

  • speak up when you see or hear sexism, racism or inequality
  • we need to attract young, male talent into the sector because we don’t actually want it to become ‘women’s work’
  • leaders need to surround themselves with the best people and acknowledge and value their skills
  • it’s up to all of us (men and women) to fight inequality in the sector
  • as women, we need to stop ‘trying to have it all’. Decide what is important to you and work on that
  • we need to challenge the norms of what women are expected to do. The sector needs to allow for flexible working – for all parents, not just mothers
  • diversity needs to start at board level

It was a thought-provoking day at Fundraising Convention. On to day three!

What I’m looking forward to at the Institute of Fundraising’s Digital Fundraising Conference

The Institute of Fundraising’s Digital Fundraising Conference takes place this coming Monday, the 9th September.

I am really excited to be their Conference Ambassador at the event and will be live tweeting throughout the day using the event hashtag #IoFDigital. So if you are unable to attend the event, you can still follow all the presentations with the hashtag and by following @IoFTweets and @LondonKirsty (that’s me).

Here is the programme for the day and, as you can see, it is jam-packed with great speakers and interesting topics. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Laila Takeh, Head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF, talk on Digital Transformation. I’ve heard Laila present a number of times before and she always leaves you with lots to think about.

Another session that has caught my interest is the Google and Grow your charity online Workshop with Richard Craig from Charity Technology Trust and Maryam Mossavar, Industry Manager for Nonprofit at Google. I’m hoping to pick up lots of tips to help small charities, in particular, through my freelance work.

Lastly, the Marketing Automation – Building the Strategy presentation with four speakers, including Robert Elliot from Save the Children, should be really good.

Not only will I be live tweeting but you can also count on there being a Storify the next day. Don’t forget to join in with the event using #IoFDigital