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The Trials and Tribulations of Fundraising

14th September, 2018

Being a community fundraiser can be the most rewarding of jobs but, as Islamic Help Fundraising Manager Kamran Uddin explains, it also presents a host of unique challenges.

The Job

Ask any fundraiser in the charity sector and they’ll tell you that there is no such thing as a 9 to 5 day. Your working hours on your time sheet may well state that but the reality is that, minus your sleeping hours, you’re working around the clock - consciously, sub-consciously, whether you want to or not.

From preparing and carrying out fundraising events, challenges and campaigns, to recruiting and managing volunteers and working every other weekend travelling up and down the country, all takes its toll.

And when you’re not doing any or all of the above, and think you’re going home to relax, your phone won’t stop buzzing with people chasing you up about……? That’s right, all the above!

The Events

Regardless of the event, you always have that pressure and stress of wanting it to be successful.

That desire is heightened when it involves ticketed or registration events, and believe me when I say that the build-up in stress when you’re involved in these ventures is not for the faint-hearted!

To begin with, the registration aspect of an event; whether it is people paying for tickets or registering for a free event, the number of signups can be quite misleading in the context of the end result.

Depending on the demographics, the ratio between the number of people who sign up or register to those who fulfil that intention by attending can be anywhere between 30%-60%, although it must be stressed this isn’t a fixed ratio nor is there a set pattern to go by.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in events where we’ve had to turn away potential attendees because it’s sold out. I’ve also been unfortunate enough to have been at an event where over 150 people registered and only 11 turned up.

Then there’s timing. I can’t recall many events where the majority of guests/customers (paying or non-paying) have turned up at the advertised starting time.

This is where you have to make a decision - wait a little longer and consequently irritate or agitate those guests who have arrived on time, or start as scheduled regardless of how low the initial numbers are and hope that more turn up before the fundraising segment.

Finally, the fundraising segment. Probably the most crucial part of an event and perhaps the one that ultimately defines the success of your event. This, as a fundraising officer, is what you are judged on primarily.

The Donors

The most amazing people on the planet! Without their contributions from their hard-earned money, Islamic Help wouldn’t have been able to help the millions of beneficiaries worldwide that it has over the years.

In some cases, donors can’t even afford to donate but feel compelled to do so because they realise the situation of the beneficiary is far worse than their own. The rewards for such tremendous acts of philanthropy are incalculable.

They are the key people who can motivate others to replicate their passion and generosity. When one donor puts their hand up or comes forward to donate, it encourages others to do the same.

I mentioned the stress level that emanates from organising events. Donors perform a dual role – not only do they give financially but they become de-stressors and help to reinvigorate the morale of fundraising officers.

Their generosity, and sometimes their direct expressions of gratitude or encouragement, are just what fundraisers need to know that their work is worthwhile.

The Volunteers

The other group bracketed in the category of the most amazing people on the planet! Think about this for a minute.

Socialising is not the same as it once was. Today, everything is easily accessible, from information on our phones and tablets to food and drink being a click (for those who can’t be bothered to get out the house) or literally a 10-minute drive away.

Everyone’s head is buried deep in their phones, whether they are alone or with a group of friends (in which case there’s a group of people with their heads buried in their phones!). It’s a time when selfies or photos of food, dressing up nicely or driving a nice car is what will most likely get you ‘likes’ across social media.

Once, people would go to the movies, a theme park or just an ordinary park for a picnic or a football kickabout for genuine sociable reasons. Now, it’s all about self-projection on social media. In the midst of all this, for someone to actually stop and consider giving their time for a positive cause is probably one of the most testing altruistic acts. Kudos to them!

As an organisation, it’s our duty to take into consideration all the above and make sure that we are utilising the precious time of that volunteer by maximising his/her potential. We need to make sure that when they leave they do so with a feeling of having achieved something soul-rewarding, something that was worth them sacrificing their time in the first place.

The Armchair Critic

The worst type of people! By this I mean those who have no interest in charity work or donating to a cause – and by extension helping people in need - but have every interest in demeaning a charitable concept or a project. You can’t reason with people like this because their intention is to infuriate and annoy anyone and everyone.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what sector or job you’re in, there are armchair critics who offer nothing positive and probably get a kick out of questioning and minimalizing the hard work of others so he/she (mainly he in my experience) can feel important about his/her existence. Harsh? Maybe for some, but not harsh enough in my humble opinion.

And although we are trained (well, some of us anyway) to deal with people like that, I can’t accept anyone making a colleague of mine upset by having their work ethic and intentions questioned. There is no justification for this at all.

The Conclusion

Working in a charity comes with its challenges and pressures. As mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as a 9 to 5.

However, one of the things we have to struggle the most with is making sure that we are sincere in our intentions, motivated in our actions and accountable for our time.

This is the most difficult part of the job for anyone in this sector, because if we start treating this like a normal job, we’d be losing out immensely in the rewards that arise from doing this job earnestly.

To all charity fundraising staff; a few drops of compassion with a huge portion of sincerity, a big dollop of patience and dash of personality will allow you to wrestle through the challenges and rigour of being a fundraising officer and help you flourish.

Kamran Uddin

To find out more about our events, fundraising or how to volunteer with Islamic Help, have a look at www.islamichelp.org.uk or call 0121 446 5682