Mar
4

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Networking: how the weakest link could be your competitive advantage

pexels-photo-29066In my experience the people who are the most successful at getting the work done are the ones that get on well with others. When we have good relationships, colleagues, business partners and friends go out of their way to help us, and we do the same for those people we like and trust, either first, or in return.

For many of us, building solid relationships and networks, to solve problems, offer support and guidance or even just to throw in the occasional word of encouragement or pat on the back could be the difference between success and failure.

There is however a paradox, that the weak ties in your network, the ones where you are an acquaintance rather than a great buddy are the ones that offer you the most opportunity.

As far back as the 1970’s, sociologist Mark Granovetter researched the strength of weak ties and found that in marketing, information science, or politics, weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

This means that recommendations and referrals are becoming more important than ever before. If the opportunities are bigger with weak ties, being on the edge of networks or the only common link between groups of people has definite advantages.

Yet, despite this insight, we more often than not huddle together with the people we already know at conferences and events. It feels safer that way. It’s important to get on with our colleagues. Right?

Or we go to the same events year in and year out and meet the same people we already know time and time again.

And when ‘networking’ is mentioned as an activity people tend to shudder and come over in a cold sweat. The thought of attending a networking event, showing up in a roomful of strangers armed with business cards and ready to make polite conversation fills us with dread.

That’s why we’ve developed networking training for teams to help you overcome your fear, develop weak ties, put yourself in the position to have more opportunities and perhaps even enjoy yourself in the process.

If you’d like some more information then get in touch, but for now here’s three tips for free.

Three tips for better networking

  • Go to events that are outside of your ‘usual’ network, where there will be opportunities to meet different people who you can form those weak ties with
  • Approach networking with an attitude of how you might be able to help solve problems for other people in the room
  • Learn tips to politely excuse yourself from discussions you don’t get stuck in boring conversations.
Feb
21

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‘Crafternoon’: How Mind is crafting its way to fundraising success

pexels-photo-102571A guest blog by Maria Healy.

Over the past few years the race for charities to produce the ‘next big thing’ in terms of a mass participation fundraising product has been well and truly on. It’s no wonder that the mass participation fundraising space is becoming saturated as charities grapple with the implications of The Fundraising Preference Service and seek to find new ways to engage current supporters and attract new ones.

Mind has been no exception to this trend. While the demand for mental health services is increasing, local authority budgets for mental health averages 1% of public health budget and appallingly most of the country spends close to nothing on preventing mental health problems. It is here that Mind’s journey into the world of mass participation fundraising products began. In 2012, to finance the growing demand for our services, the Mind community fundraising team were set the task of finding the ‘next big thing’ in mass participation fundraising products.

An idea emerges

When we analysed fundraising data in 2013, we noticed that some of our fundraisers had chosen to raise money in the lead up to Christmas by holding craft sessions where participants could make Christmas cards, decorations or presents. In some cases, fundraisers had called their event “Crafternoon”, which was a new crafting trend making its way over from the other side of the Atlantic.

A Crafternoon is when people get together for an afternoon of crafting. Add a donation for attending and you have a mass participation fundraiser.

We thought that we could be onto something. It was an activity our fundraisers were already doing, and doing it because craft was good for their own wellbeing. We discovered that there is a strong link between crafting, mindfulness and mental wellbeing.

Putting it to the test

To test our hunch that Crafternoon could be a great fundraising idea, Mind’s Crafternoon was launched on a small scale in autumn 2014 as a Christmas fundraiser. We designed fundraising packs in-house with limited budget, on the basis of ‘better done than perfect’ and we asked warm supporters to get together to hold an afternoon of festive crafting to raise money for Mind. It captured the attention of our warm supporters who were our main focus at this early stage of development.

“I enjoyed my Crafternoon and loved seeing old and new friends all together.”

This successful test was enough for us to take the decision to continue to test Crafternoon in 2015. We worked on our messaging and comms, created a more robust craft template, a more engaging pack and took our marketing to paid social media adverts on a larger scale.

Enquiries for Crafternoon rose 131% and conversions increased by 900%. This was the evidence we needed to make the business case for it: with more investment, Crafternoon might be a successful mass participation fundraiser with potential to engage new and current audiences and most importantly raise more money so that everyone with a mental health problem has somewhere to turn for advice and support.

“Go big or go home”

We put the development of Crafternoon up several gears. We worked in partnership with Lucy Gower at Lucidity to support the strategic development of Crafternoon. Our strategy was to put our audiences at the centre of development and to take an iterative approach in testing ideas and adapting throughout the year rather than keeping everything under wraps until a Christmas launch.

We started by learning as much as possible about our audiences. We already knew that Crafternoon was heavily dominated by women across a broad age spectrum from 20-65. We also knew that over half of all participants chose to hold a Crafternoon because they either had direct or indirect experiences of mental health problems or because they already crafted or enjoyed crafting. However, we needed to understand more about who our audience was, and why they might be inspired to fundraise for Mind through holding a Crafternoon.

Researching the audience

We surveyed and interviewed both participants and those who registered but didn’t go on to hold a Crafternoon. We matched this with data that we already had to help us build as comprehensive picture as possible of different Crafternoon audiences.

A key insight from the people who didn’t take part in a Christmas Crafternoon was that Crafternoon was not just for Christmas – but for life! The primary reason for people registering but not holding a Crafternoon was because it just got too busy and stressful to organise before Christmas. Many suggested that there were more opportunities to hold Crafternoons throughout the year, rather than just in the busy run up to Christmas.

We developed an all-year-round Crafternoon pack, and tested it with warm audiences and focus groups. Discussions were animated and insightful, not only confirming some of our hunches (yes Crafternoon should be a year-round event) but also flagging up new ideas to consider.

Getting the message right

As a result of these discussions, we changed the messaging in the next version of the pack so that it was clear that the purpose of Crafternoon was fundraising. It was a decision we made with reluctance as the link between crafting and mental health was what we believed to be the trump card in establishing Crafternoon as an event unique to Mind. However, our audience had spoken and in keeping with our strategy to place the audience at the centre of development, we had to listen to them. Ultimately Crafternoon is a fundraising event and we needed to ensure that this was communicated to our audience in the clearest and most direct way possible.

Crafternoon isn’t just a community fundraising idea, and for success we needed support from across the organisation. We wanted everyone at Mind to feel a sense of ownership and pride about Crafternoon.

Staff from across Mind were invited to innovation and idea generation workshops so they had the opportunity to contribute to the development of Crafternoon. Key stakeholders received weekly updates, so they could be motivated by progress and successes and feel proud of their part in that success.

Crafternoon for the staff

We presented to our directors and then met each director individually to obtain a pledge about how they would support the development of Crafternoon. We began monthly Crafternoon lunchtime sessions, giving staff the chance to have time out from their desk, relax, craft and connect with other colleagues.

At every opportunity, we flew the flag for Crafternoon and the hard work paid off. The staff Crafternoon day in December was the most successful internal staff day ever with teams from across the whole organisation taking part in crafty workshops and cake sales.

Active support from our chief executive, who took part in our bunting challenge, really helped to make Crafternoon visible across the whole organisation. Staff from across the organisation engaged in the Crafternoon day, something never seen before, and the amount of income raised was double any other internal fundraising day had raised.

Our campaigns officer Helena Brown said ‘I had no idea how brilliant crafting could be for relaxing and refreshing my mind by doing something creative and productive. I felt a real sense of achievement from making a Christmas wreath and we all felt a real boost by the end of our Crafternoon showing just how effective it can be in improving mood.’

In December 2016, after almost a year of developing Crafternoon, income began to come in. The time we spent developing Crafternoon made it more successful and it has given us increased confidence that we are on the right track.

Since December, the donations have been coming in thick and fast. Compared to this time last year there has been a 183% growth in Crafternoon enquires and a 342% growth in conversions. We are on track for our target of £40,000 which will be more than triple the amount raised in 2016.

What we have learned

In the last year, we have learnt:

  • To look for ideas and inspiration from our existing fundraising community
  • The importance of gaining audience insight – and then acting on it
  • To put our ideas out there, test them and ask for feedback because this is how you make your ideas better
  • Inspire your organisation by involving everyone (not just fundraising teams) from as early in the development as you can
  • There is much to be learned from failure if you are brave enough to own it
  • When you have a hunch, keep testing it

We have so much more to do. We have learnt a lot over the last year and we’re excited to keep learning, developing and crafting to raise money at scale because people with mental health problems need our services more than ever.

Maria Healy is community fundraising manager at Mind and a whizz at cross-stitch. She is speaking about Crafternoon at The Institute of Fundraising Convention in July. You can check out Crafternoon here.

This blog was first published at Charity Choice. 

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