Laura Croudace chats about self development, cereal bars that save lives, and why she’s getting rid of her possessions
You started your career in PR and marketing. Why and how did you end up moving into fundraising?
I really got into fundraising to give back to the hospital that treated my son when he was very poorly with pneumonia in 2012. I wanted to thank the hospital ultimately for caring for him. Around the same time I was contacted by a friend to talk about running a charity event with them, the Birmingham Zombie Walk. I got involved and started helping to raise money, which was easier than I thought. The morning after the event, I applied for a job in fundraising. I got the job.
In your career to date, what is the most important thing you have learned about fundraising?
Communication is king. If you’re able to deeply connect with the person you’re speaking with, actively listening and reading the situation, it’ll really help create a great relationship.
You are passionate about self development. How can fundraisers invest in themselves to be the best they can be at their jobs?
I think self development needs to customised for you. Personally, I think it’s super important to be learning lots of different skills that compliment a fundraising career, whether that’s marketing, publicity, business models, e-commerce, video production, live streaming, writing impact reports, social mediaetc.
My advice is also to find a coach or mentor who you really connect with, I’ve invested in two coaches in the last few years and the pay off for my fundraising results has been huge - raising more money, but also learning a huge amount along the way.
What does ‘good donor care’ mean for you?
I think the main pillars are great communication, transparency, and giving donors real-time information on how we are using their money to invest and change the problem or issue they’ve come on a journey with us to solve. When I look at the work 3 Sided Cube have done on the Blood Donor app, I’m blown away by how they’re able to give blood donors up-to-date reports on how their blood is being used. When I run a for-impact organisation one day, this is how I’ll report to donors!
Organisational strategy or organisational culture?
Culture trumps strategy every day of the week!
I’ve spent a lot of time researching organisational culture, and speaking to experts in the field, such as Sarah Carter from Wisdom Fish, and I’ve seen how changing your culture changes your organisational impacts, resulting in more money being raised. Ultimately, if you have a team that’s working well you’ll thrive with a complimenting strategy, but if you have a great strategy and a bad culture, the culture will act as a bacteria and create issues, in my opinion.
You’ve said charities should send social impact reports instead of annual reports. Can you tell us why, and give us an example of a good social impact report you’ve seen?
Annual reports serve a purpose for some organisations but on the whole, a powerful piece of content which is around the impact you’ve helped create is far more powerful.
I don’t think it would need to be a ‘report’ as such, more a story of impact, which reports. There’s an organisation I love which produces cereal bars, called This Bar Saves Lives - they send me awesome update videos which show the impact you make from buying their cereal bars.
Another social impact report I love, and look forward to reading, is by Dr Bronners, a soap company in the States. Each year they produce the All One Report , and it’s packed full of the incredible impacts they’ve made by making the best soap on the planet. Check it out, as it’s inspiring and resonates with their audience perfectly.
You keep your eye on the latest developments in tech; what do you think is the most exciting new or future innovation to affect fundraising?
Tech is moving so fast, and I am constantly excited about the innovations I’m seeing. I think the thing I’m excited about most is the way in which we can connect donors in real time to the impacts they’re making through tech - the Blood Donor app being a good example. I’m also obsessed with looking at how tech is developing, such as the Chat Bots (Beth Kanter has written a fantastic series on this, which I’m glued to) and what we can learn from it in the charity sector, whilst still remaining human.
What would you personally like to achieve in the next 12 months?
In general, my goal is to create as much positive impact as possible, helping organisations tell their story, and working with them to define what will resonate with their social audience, donors and possible partners.
More specifically, in my day job there is a corporate partnership I want to nail, which would open up so many doors for my organisation - so much so I dreamt about the partnership last night!
Also, I’d like to work with a really interesting organisation to create an incredible story, and perhaps help them build an online community like Humans of New York - an everlasting obsession of mine!
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
“If it’s both terrifying and amazing you should always pursue it.”
Followed by, “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded….”
Give us an unusual fact people might not know about you?
I started selling my belongings, including my furniture, just this month, because I want to live a minimal lifestyle, where I have just what I need, so that things that don’t serve me, or a purpose, aren’t clogging up my mental and physical space.
I watched The Minimalists on Netflix on Boxing Day last year, and I realised what freedom you can have if you are able to live with what you need, and move around the world when you want to because you can pack up your stuff in one bag. That’s actually quite a privileged position to be in.
What is the most exciting new thing you have coming up?
I’m excited about IFC 2017 , because it gives me such a rush of energy and excitement when I’m there - there is nothing like being surrounded by 1,000 fundraisers who are so driven and passionate about creating the best fundraising possible, it’s the best event in the sector and gives me new things to think about and new tools to walk away with every year.
Laura Croudace is partnerships and engagement manager at The Resource Alliance