Major donor fundraising with Oxfam’s team

Louise at Summit worked with Oxfam’s Major gifts team; Annie Turnbull talks below about what their challenges were, and how we overcame them together. So read on to get this insight, and for some tips on raising more more, in a way that you can enjoy and be proud of.

A picture of Annie Turnbull from Oxfam, she is wearing dark rimmed glasses, has short brunett hair with a floral headband.
Oxfams logo in green

Why did we decide to work with Louise and Summit?

Julian Kosh and I co-lead Oxfam’s Major Gifts Team. About a year ago we realised that the team would be experiencing some change, and that our portfolio of individual philanthropists had become quite reliant on a few very established and loyal donors. We saw an opportunity to build a new team culture, and to support new starters to develop confidence in their roles, by getting the whole team together with a focus on how we could develop more relationships with individuals.

“I spoke to a couple of Fundraising Directors to ask for recommendations of who could support us with this training and on-going support & coaching. Louise’s name came back to me from three different, trusted former colleagues and so I got in touch!”

What concerns or reservations did you have?

As with any team-wide learning and development opportunities, we were keen to make sure that the content of the training and on-going support would really fit with our needs. As we’re a dispersed team, we also wanted to balance in-person learning with remote coaching. Louise was brilliant at taking the time to understand the current context of our team, fundraising at Oxfam and the bigger picture across the charity in general, in order to design some really bespoke sessions for us. She’s also been really flexible in moving between in-person and remote sessions, as we’ve needed to do that.

What have you and the team got from it?

“When we came back together with Louise after the initial training days, I think we were a bit blown away by how far we’d all committed to putting the learning from the workshop into practice, and the clear pay off we were already seeing from that!”

Across the team we’ve had conversations with donors who’d been non-responsive for a long time, some of which have resulted in gifts. We’ve taken the time to look again at how and when we communicate with funders, to ensure this is really designed to meet their needs and interests, rather than throwing the same old emails at them and hoping they’re being read.

“We’ve also seen a genuine appetite across the team to take risks, try new things and accept that not everything will work, but that there is more to gain by mixing things up than there is to lose by sticking with tried and tested approaches that aren’t helping to shift stuck relationships.”

Specifically what’s that looked like for gifts and support?

One example would be that we have recently had two large offers of share donations (£65k and £250k). Two members of our team have negotiated these to near closure using some of the techniques learnt, despite not being experts in the subject matter of investment negotiation.

We are also calling individual donors every Friday from our database who have made donations in the £5k region or who are long-standing supporters just to say thank you. The first call of this nature our new starter made resulted in a £10k donation. I think overall we are moving from a position of reluctance to asking ourselves ‘why would be afraid of calling our supporters?’

How was working with Louise and Summit?

We’ve had feedback that working with Louise has really helped build confidence in newer colleagues and reinvigorated and energised more established team members.

“ I can see  working with Louise is taking us in a really positive direction to build stronger, deeper relationships with existing donors as well as develop new/re-establish dormant relationships with individual philanthropists.”

We’re also a neurodiverse team. We really appreciated Louise considering this in her session planning, using visual techniques and cues throughout the in-person and online sessions. This made it more accessible rather than running through worded call script or text-heavy presentation.

Huge thanks to Annie for taking the time to share this, and a massive well done to her and the team for taking the risks, being brave, and working hard to put so much learning into practice!

Summit supports large charities with well-known brands, smaller organisations with sole fundraisers and everything in between.

If you want to explore how we could work together, to develop deeper relationships with more donors you can arrange a short chat here when it works for you.

Louise Morris is the Founder of Summit Fundraising. She is a major donor fundraising specialist and has worked with over 200 charities helping them raise large gifts.

This was posted on 12 June 2024.


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