Here’s just a bit about me – I’m Imogen Ward. I’ve been working in the sector for about 16 years. I’ve never really understood the distinction between fundraising, communications, Campaigns, marketing as I’ve always built teams that move seamlessly from one to the other. Well that’s always been the intention anyway! I’ve worked at Merlin – the global health charity that sends medical experts to the frontline of emergencies for nearly 10 years. My colleague Danielle Atkinson also works at Merlin – - 3 years and counting! Her title says that she heads up all individual giving and digital giving but in reality there is a lot, lot more. So today Danielle and I are just going to tell you a little bit how we have started the journey of not just integrating in name but integrating in activity.
Just to put Merlin’s story a bit into context. Although we were formed 20 years ago next year – here’s a photo of Merlin’s very first mission in Bosnia – we only started doing fundraising, marketing and communications in any professional sense in 2005. Up to then – and as is still very much the case – most of our money and our external engagement is focused at statutory donors – for Merlin this is DFID, US AID and the EU. So we’ve grown and developed very recently and have build our teams very much around the external context. Particularly the explosion of digital in terms of the way that we communicate and fundraise. That isn’t too say that because we’re young we’ve always been integrated as hopefully our little story will tell you.
So let me reference the title! Hopefully many of you will work in teams that are all working for the good of your organisations overall strategy – working together to try meet the organisation’s targets? But even if it’s not at your current organisation I am sure that you have all worked in places where there is let’s say some disconnect. Where there is loyalty to teams or departments rather than a global focus. Where there is celebration because budgets have been secured for one dept. over an other. Where the income or the achievement is fought over and if it isn’t claimed by your team then this is a failure. Now, whilst competition is great and should bring results the goals should be shared goals. The outcomes celebrated by all regardless of who takes credit. So when this all goes bad. You get empire building. Departments who would be more successful working together, work in parallel inspired by ‘besting’ your colleagues and proving your value through the size of your team and budgets. And for a while ladies and gentleman these empire builders could thrive…..and they particularly were particularly prevalent between Comms and Fundraising functions. Then this happened.
Now I personally think 2008 will go down in history as one of the big years – Obama came to power, we had banks crashing & global financial freefall (and woolies closed down!) AND for many of us this was the first year that digital fundraising and social media became hugely relevant in our day to day jobs.
Many of you will recall that Obama thanks to the help of the digital agency Blue State Digital (I am sure many of you have seen their presentation) became the first Presidenital candidate to really capture the mood via digital means raising an estimated $500 million. Whilst others had tapped into huge grass root fundraising in previous campaigns Barack was the first to absolutely smash it.
We also started seeing the rise of twitter – facebook had become pretty established by 2008 but really few of us REALLY understood twitter and how this could work for a charity.
As we see from this chart we started to see Twitter visitors growing substantially and by early 2009 the role of Twitter with the Iranian election protests establishing this channel as not just a celebrity folly but a place of revolution and massive social, political and economic relevance.
Of course there were some things that never took off! I remember returning from Maternity Leave after being away for 6 months in May 2009 being told that ‘Second Life’ was the next big thing for charities. Heck, we even had an intern dedicated to looking into it for us. I think we’re still registered. I think!
And 2008 was a very important year for all Aid agencies – including Merlin. It was the year where a devastating cyclone hit Burma and killed officially 138,000 people but we believe many, many more. It was a huge operation and the DEC agencies raised around £20 million from the UK public to support it’s work. BUT we realised that the public were consuming news and wanting to respond to news in a very different way to say the last natural disaster of this size which had happened about 3 and half years with the Boxing Day Tsunami and as Fundraising Director I knew that unless we started to think in a different way and communicate, fundraise and work together in a different way then we wouldn’t be doing a our job. We wouldn’t be able to raise enough funds to help save the lives of people caught up in disasters. That we would be letting them and ourselves down.
In addition to major news events, 2008 was also a big watershed moment for how Merlin perceived it’s communications team and its role within the organisation. When things changed for Merlin in 2005, the Communications dept was formed and structured to be a servicing department for the fundraising teams. In 2008 thanks to a more joined up approach with our policy department we started developing our brand to encapsulate the ‘other side’ of Merlin’s work – the non emergency response activities and in many ways the bulk of what we do. This was articulated in focusing on our core training of health workers in crisis countries and rolled into a new ‘sub brand’ called Hands up For Health Workers. It was an instant success for Merlin helping us reach many of public engagement roles but it also highlighted the weakness of the core Merlin brand……so…..lots to do!
So in summary…..that watershed year told us……Lesson 1 – We had to start thinking about our digital activities – website, email appeals, social media. The whole shebang and how this would become integrated with off line activities Lesson 2 – We were a smallish team but there were lots of disconnect and opportunities not being maximised. How could we start to work together in a closer way both at times of emergency and during core periods. Lesson 3 – Our visual identity and logo – inspired weirdly by Merlin the bird – needed serious TLC but we had to agree what was driving this process. For Merlin – this was fundraising Lesson 4 – So with all these changes…..well we had to re think who looked after what. So we had some decisions to make. Quickly.
So first and foremost we had 2 meaty projects that we had wrestle with. Our brand and the launching that brand via our digital communications. This is a whole different presentation all together and something I’d be happy to share with you in more detail over a drink! But I’ll give a big tip for all of you who are about to embark on projects of this scale. Create a burning platform. Make sure there is a non moveable moment that you have to work towards. For Merlin, this was convincing the Trustees that we had a big chance of winning the Times Newspaper appeal which drove us to deliver both projects within a 6 month timescale. No mean feat. Thankfully we did win the appeal but we weren’t sure when we made the pitch to the Trustees. Sometimes as Roald Dahl’s Matilda would say ‘you have to be a little bit naughty’ This in turn opened out a new strategic direction for Merlin. One that had fundraising and Merlin’s ability to raise mainly unrestricted funds at the heart of our plans. It meant that we had to restructure key teams and departments and crucially move all digital outputs, including the website, into the Individual Giving function. No mean feat and as I am sure a lot of you can appreciate a controversial move! Alongside this, it also meant that we needed to align the communications department – and specifically some of the key messages surrounding our work during emergencies and in that ‘core’ period when we used hands up for health workers – into the fundraising strategy, plans and outputs. So I’ll hand over to Danielle to talk a little bit about how this looked in practice
Danielle – talk about Haiti, Pakistan, East Africa compared to Myanmar. Both in terms of new techniques & how we used digital to drive support. Talk about impact of having digital in DIG how we changed the voice, etc, etcALL DIGITAL MOVED TO FUNDRAISINGHaitiBiggest emergency fundraising appeal since TsunamiUse of social media (facebook and twitter focus) across communication, engagement and fundraisingBest ever Email results!First time social media managed by a fundraising team. Grew followers by over 100%At peak had a reach of over 60,000 – more than the number of people on our database at the timePakistanRaised more through email than Haiti – took our learningsWhat was new for Merlin?Looked externally to see what we could do – first time we developed and managed our Google adwords properly. Moved from not using $10k grant properly to getting the $40k grant. Making the most of no budgetAlso paid searchIntegrating and tracking our offline with our onlineTone: balancing need with engagement. Making the time and resourceWhat changed:Moved from broadcast to active engagement across all digital channels – website, email, social mediaTone: warm, credible, trusted, one to one, about them – not us, And personality: Personality – being smaller allows us to have a personality – especially with social media. We don’t have the ‘brand police’ watching everything we do. So we can shape and inform and then they take our leadAnswer queries, respond – as well as get information out thereShare!Allows us to develop personal connections – friendraisingMaking money – applying good, solid fundraising technique that reinforces all the above e.g. people give to people, not big statistics; show not tell; put the supporter at the heart of everything – what difference have they made, not what Merlin has done
Stop spending my time being frustrated with colleagues and other teams and to instead invest all my energy in being as good I could possibly be at my own job and in raising money.Haiti was the first where we really joined up. Cliché – but we were integrated. We kept each other informed – so we knew exactly what was coming up e.g. newspaper interviews. This meant we could synchronise the website, social media, use in offline comms, etc. This has continuedKeeping the emergency spirit aliveCommunications and fundraising – working together to develop, main driver is to generate much needed income for the cause we believe inSmaller organisation, less structure to break throughAll sit on one floor, no regional communicationsSpeedYes, we are smaller and there is a lot we can do that is harder at a larger organisation e.g. updates, all on one floor etc. Not just emergencies - one thing that has made the difference to the way we fundraise is the way we now work togetherSince Haiti, we’ve run a lot of workshops to bring fundraising to the fore:Away days, inductions, workshops, Everything is a lot closer.Campaign and fundraising; crossover; increasing value across the teamMoving forwards; planning together, using digital wisely, setting objectivesWith any project, with any problem, with any achievement – we get people together and share - share our vision, our goals, our challenges. value what they bring to the party – their perspective, their input, their assistance and their constructive criticismWe need to make sure people not only feel a part of it – but that they are a part of it.We are more likely to innovate, integrate and deliver fundraising campaigns that achieve stand out if we can work together with our colleagues at a time when competition for the donor pound is greater than ever before.We’ve done a lot of relationship building. Now it never feels like we are on different teams – it feels very much like we pull together as an organisation.Fundraising isn’t and can’t be an island within a charity - we can’t and indeed shouldn’t work in isolation - because everything we do needs to be aligned with the vision, strategy and needs of the charities that we work for.
In practice!From campaign – to learning – to execution
As of the end of 2011 Merlin was in a strong position. The teams were working together, we had thriving teams & focus…..but, as is often the case with young organisations it wasn’t enough to give us the stability and resilience we needed. So with limited budgets we had to see how we could both grow income and awareness over the next 3-5 years. New visionary end line Theme our work and work consistently on that theme rather than the ‘whole merlin piece’ Join up DIG, Major Gifts and Comms to say the same, consistently. Merlin @20 Use PR and CRM to raise our brand awareness NOT above the line Align all budgets with income where possible – if you are running the project you have to show some return that links to KPI’s. And in most cases KPI’s have an income target Encourage teams to do non traditional bits of work - join Charity Comms. Get fundraising people to attend those sessions to hear from Comms about issues/frustrations. Get Comms people speaking at and going to IoF. Christmas Appeals are the best way of cementing working practises
So whilst I don’t think we were ever Team Silo we were certainly not team overlap. And whilst we still have a fair bit to go with learning different ways of working and priorities we’ve come a long way. Things just happen without a fuss and without me necessarily being involved. And that for me is the indicator of success!
Empire building is so last century - imogen ward - merlin
Empire Building is sooo lastcenturyImogen Ward, Director ofMarketing & CommunicationsDanielle Atkinson, Head ofDigital & Individual Giving
You are unsung heroes doing invaluable work. All my very best wishes to all the Merlin heroes. I admire your courage and dedication. You are heroes! You are our heroes! You are all the unsung heroes of this world. I shall always support you. Special people tackling the impossible You are true heroes and heroines of and making miracles happen! You are the world. our heroes. 15
In summary The world has changed & so must we Build your strategies & teams around the goals of theorganisation Politics has no part to pay in fundraising or comms Integration won’t be easy. But it’s worth it Be ambitious but tailor it to your reality
Find out more about our work now:www.merlin.org.ukFollow us on Twitter:@imogenward@roxymartinique@MerlinUK 19