The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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6 ways to evaluate a new fundraising idea

How do we reasonably evaluate the real value of a new fundraising idea? And how do you appropriately assess your charity’s appetite for risk? Ali Godfrey at The Fishermen’s Mission explains how her team conduct a throughout analysis of their ideas…

A quick check of the skills required for the idea to be a success, matched against our team will help us decide if we have the skills needed. Another real eye opener can be to discuss how we each feel about taking risks. A recent team building exercise of being abandoned on a remote island with just a few pieces of equipment showed one team member happily building a raft and paddling for freedom while at the other end of the scale was someone who just wanted to build a shelter and wait to be rescued – a full discussion followed!

Risk can be hard to handle on your own, and for some would stifle their ideas. If, as a team, you decide the project is sound and you have discussed the risks then you share them as a team and the pressure can be lessened.

It’s all in the planning

The most successful projects are always those that have been thought through and have a solid basis. Therefore, we need to go through a realistic and tough analysis.

Fundraisers, by nature, tend to be optimistic and ‘glass flowing over’ sort of people! So, a great way to be more vigorous in our approach is to use the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ system. Developed by Edward De Bono it is a way of thinking together more effectively.

A metaphorical coloured hat is applied to every aspect of the idea. Either the whole team wears the hat at the same time or individuals put on different coloured hats and think accordingly. 

  1. Managing Blue – what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is our goal? Can we look at the bigger picture?
  2. Information White – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  3. Emotions Red – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling without justification of the feelings.
  4. Discernment Black – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative. Practical and realistic. In a world of fundraising ‘Tiggers’ someone has to be ‘Eeyore’!
  5. Optimistic response Yellow – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony. Sees the brighter, sunny side of situations.
  6. Creativity Green – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. Thinks creatively, outside the box.

Do our figures stack up?

Those who spend their free time shouting at the contestants on The Apprentice -‘What is the unit price, how do you know how much to charge if you don’t know how much it costs?’ will understand this dilemma. 

A robust budget is an absolute must and here again we must put on our black hats and assume that nothing is going to come for free. Many projects don’t succeed as hoped because we placed too much optimism on aspects of it being delivered for free. We need to include every single cost and if it is still looking good then every donation will be a bonus.

What about our time?

At a team meeting, once a year, if everyone receives an envelope that tells them what their real hourly cost is to our charity it can prove really helpful. We might have a rough idea of how much our pay is per hour but what about the extras that cost the charity? National Insurance, pensions and other allowances etc? It normally increases that cost by roughly a third. 

We now can have a stab at thinking what the real cost to the charity is of this project (and it’s great for keeping meetings to the point!). How many times have we worked for weeks to put together an event that has, on the surface, seemed moderately successful, but if we added in how long we spent putting it together, actually it made a loss. It may not be a deal-breaker, but we definitely need to have it in our minds!

And finally... let it go!

Sometimes good ideas just can’t be made to work and it’s time to let it go. Some team members will find this harder than others – back to putting our hats on.


Ali Godfrey is Director of Business Development at The Fishermen’s Mission

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