Whether you're a charity or fundraiser yourself, want to support charities through your business, or want to know how to best support the charities you love through social media, Leah Lewis (she/her) shares advice from her many years of experience as a professional fundraiser.
Civitas is Latin for Community. Community and fundraising is my passion!
I can support your charity to diversify fundraising income, to build relationships with the community and raise funds for the amazing work your cause achieves! Specialising in working with small charities and have over 8 years experience in the non-profit sector.
My mission is to encourage charities to connect with their community, build relationships to ultimately increase income!
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/communityfundraisersnetwork
I hang out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisbushnell/
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialMediaForHumans
Join the club to learn more about ethical and effective social media marketing: https://socialmediaforhumans.club/
Voice over by Hawke Wood: https://www.spotlight.com/3490-9081-8844
- [Hawke] Hello, and welcome to Social Media for Humans. The podcast that empowers you to do social differently. Your host, Alexis Bushnell, and her guests, discuss their experience of social media as business owners, users, and ultimately humans, with insights and advice to help you find an effective and ethical strategy that works for you. Grab yourself a drink and join the conversation. - Hello, hello, I'm here with wonderful Leah, do introduce yourself, tell us who you are and what you do. - Hello everyone, I'm Leah Lewis, she, her and I am a community fundraising specialist. I'm based in Buckinghamshire in the UK. And my experiences come from working with small charities to use community fundraising, to diversify their fundraising streams, really connect the charity with their local community. - That is just so perfect because I am really big into community and social media as a way to connect with people rather than just like, "Ooh, my Reel got 500,000 views." Like it's deeper than that. And so I really love that you are focusing on that aspect. And I feel like probably at the moment, at the moment, over the past two years, charities are probably especially struggling and trying to figure out what fundraising looks like when the general public is struggling, when they can't really get out and about, when they can't really do events the same. So I guess initially, what have you seen in the charity sphere and what has been coming up for people that they've been like phoning you and being like, help, I have no idea how to insert thing now. - Yeah, so you are absolutely right, there's been a huge shift in the way that charities fundraise, however size they are, whatever size they are, whatever their cause is. whoever their, I don't like the word beneficiaries, it just doesn't sit right with me, so the target that they serve, whether it's people, animals, whoever, we went into this lockdown and for charities that rely on being out in their community, being really community focused to then sitting in a desk, or a desk in your kitchen or your living room where I am now was a massive transition for them. And they were thinking, "We are not prepared for this." There aren't any organisations that were prepared for a pandemic. So transitioning to that and really using their connections they have, the relationships they already have, they were thinking, what can we do that is gonna, a, bring money in and b, gonna keep us at the centre of our community. So they were also thinking, "Well, we are not the only ones going through this." You've got individuals that are on furlough, made redundant, struggling to pay bills, struggling to live. So for them, they've had to learn to be empathetic as to those individual circumstances as well. We had a huge shift in external events. A lot of them were cancelled, take the London Marathon, for example, they used that as an opportunity to really expand the future of the event and bring in virtual elements. So for those people that aren't too confident in running a London Marathon in front of people, I'm probably one of those, but also want the flexibility to do that in their own time, not in like an eight hour window, I wouldn't be able to do that either, the thought of a virtual marathon is perfect for me. (Leah laughing) So it has really expanded the opportunity. So whilst I can't think what the direct quote is exactly, but in an area or a circumstance of real extreme disaster, there's always an opportunity in that. And a lot of charities have found that. On the other flip side of the coin, there are charities that haven't been so forward thinking and accepting of change. And those charities I think are struggling a lot more now. In terms of community fundraising itself, been one of the areas of fundraising along with events and corporate fundraising, to an extent have been the most affected. Trust and foundations have been one of those areas that a lot of charities have relied on, because of that, the hands dig dipping into the pots are expanding, the pots aren't necessarily getting bigger. So you're finding that trust and foundations are having to really pivot the way that they fundraise and the pots that they're providing and the terms and conditions that they have and the guidelines that allow these charities to apply. Now we're coming out the other side of that, charities are noticing that they need to diversify their fundraising, so we're in this area at the moment where we're thinking, what is gonna happen next? Don't really wanna get too far ahead down the line, because look what happened in the last two years. You think you're coming out of it, and then you get pulled right back again. So we're in this real area of opportunity, but we're still being quite cautious at the moment. - Do you think the cautiousness is due to, I'm guessing, especially smaller charities and local charities not having the funds and also not having the team and the experts to be able to go, "We'll try some stuff, we'll give this a go and we'll do it in this way." And so because they don't have that financial backing and the people who really know what they're doing, who can guide them, they're terrified to really test anything, because it's like, what if we waste the money here and we do it wrong, and then we've lost the money, we can't use that for something else, and we also have nothing to show for it. - Yeah, that's something I'm hugely passionate about. I do work with smaller charities that have smaller budgets, smaller resource, and I try to put resources and tools together to help them really maximise that potential. And the question I get asked all the time is, but what if it doesn't work? And I straight away say, but what if it does? If it doesn't work the first time, we explore why it didn't work and we look at ways we can improve for next time to ensure that it does. Very rarely you put sort a new idea out and Alexis, you are very clued up in the world of marketing. And you know that the statistics on how many times an advert has to hit someone before it really goes in, fundraising is the same thing. If you hit your supporters with a new idea, they're, "Whoa, this is new to me, I don't quite like this, you've never done this." Whether it's a quiz or a new lottery, whatever it is, because it's new to them, they're thinking, "Well, I'm not really sure about that." So the first one's always like a trial and error, the second one is perfecting it and the third one is, well, how do we make it better? And how do we make it bigger? So I'd always say even if it doesn't work the first time, that doesn't matter, at least you've done something and you've learned something from it. The worst thing that could happen is you spend thousands of pounds on this event or campaign, it doesn't work and you've made a loss on it. But if the resource you put in it maximises that potential, even if you raised five pounds, it's five pounds that you didn't have yesterday. - Yeah, that's true, that's a really good way to think about it. I'm interested as well. I feel like a lot of charities are gonna have found, they are flailing about a little bit in social media, especially earlier on in the pandemic when obviously the bigger charities especially found it much easier to pivot because they were already on social media, they've got the team there who know what they're doing, they just shifted and went, "Okay, we need to focus on social media, we need to create some virtual events, we need to be doing it that way." I feel like a lot of smaller charities whose social media presence is much more, maybe a volunteer is posting when they're volunteering on the weekends or the evenings, and there's no real strategy behind it. And nobody's really doing engagement. It's just like, we need to tell people what's happening. How did that go for those charities? Do you feel like they have gained an understanding of social media and managed to largely figure out how it's gonna work for them and their audience, or are they still a lot of hit and miss, let's just throw stuff at the wall, let's just post what we are doing and hope. - It's definitely a bit of both. So I have seen amazing examples of charities just throwing caution to the wind, dropping their real corporate way of addressing their followers to this more human personalised, personable approach. Because at the end of the day, we're all sat in our own homes. So you are seeing me as a professional, but Alexis you're also seeing me in my home. I've currently got my slippers on, my dog's walking around in the background, it's a very different approach. So for some charities I've seen that they're, I wouldn't say excuse, but they're reasoning for not being too forceful and flexible with putting fundraising us on social media, their response is always, but our social media majority of them are our service users. Okay, that's fine, so what I ask them back is, but who are their networks? And what are the questions you are asking them? Are you asking that person reading it to fundraise, or are you asking them to help you promote your fundraising opportunities? If that's the case, they like or share or engage it in some way, they're then speaking to their networks to get them involved as well, so it's a shift in how they think about social media. I do agree that you shouldn't hit them every day with a fundraising ask 'cause that's just a no, we don't do that with our products and services, charities shouldn't do that as well. They should be talking about what they do, the reasons why they do what they do being passionate about their cause, getting involved in topical conversations and then going in with this is what we do, we can't continue doing it if you don't support us, or this is what we can do if you do get involved and fundraise. Your point about volunteers posting here, there, and everywhere and you'll agree with this, it does need consistency. So if they're only getting involved in charity Tuesday every Tuesday of the week, or they're only getting involved in this week's sign language week, if they're only hooking into those awareness campaigns, they're not gonna receive that response and that engagement that they need. So it does need consistency. And it's one of those areas that everyone knows it needs doing but sometimes, and most often the smaller charities, you're the fundraiser, you're also marketing, so you're also doing social media and it's trying to find the time and the enthusiasm to do it all, which doesn't come easy. (Leah laughing) - I can imagine, yeah, I can imagine. Actually coming back to that point about how you're trying to shift the view of social media with charities to just because it is the people who are involved with and using your charity, who are following you doesn't mean that they can't help you fundraise. And I actually think it always surprises me that people don't seem to realise or recognise that somebody sharing a post from a charity that is fundraising and saying like, this charity has really helped me, here's why I love it, here's the ways that they have changed my life. So many more people are gonna see that and go, I wanna help out, because somebody who has used it, who has a story to share, they can see the real life implications of how that charity has helped, that incentivises people to actually donate so much more than just putting out a promotional like fundraising video or something like that, because there is that human connection. And so, I mean, it's gonna depend on the charity of course, and not everybody who is using a charity services is gonna want to share that, but being able to involve those people and have them essentially be ambassadors for you and to help you get out further. And also with that, this is why it's really important. Here's a real person's example of why it's important is actually an incredibly powerful way to use social media to fundraise. - Absolutely, I totally agree. Just one example I can think of, my granddad a couple of years ago was diagnosed with bowel cancer and I thought, "I know, I'll sign up for the Brighton Marathon." Now what I said about 10 minutes ago about me not being a runner is still the case. So I signed up for Brighton Marathon and I said, "I'm gonna fundraise for Bowel Cancer UK" and the fundraiser there I knew her anyway. And she put me in touch with their marketing team. And she said, "Look, all we want you to do is send us a photo of you and your granddad and tell us your story, tell us your granddad's story, how he's doing." And I did that and it went out on social media and the response from it, there was no ask for fundraising, there was no incentive or no call to action, it was really simple, this is Leah, this is her granddad, this is what she's doing and this is why. And they do that a few times a week and it's just incredible. So there are some really simple things that charities can do, and it doesn't have to be three sides of A4, it doesn't have to be a huge story. Can literally be just a simple quote taken from an extract of a case study or something they've observed in a classroom or in their hospice, keep it anonymous of course, but it doesn't have to be really thought polished content that I think some charities feel needs to happen. Would you agree? - Yeah, and I think this is a common misconception of social media for anything other than personal. I think people use it for business, charities, anybody who is using it in that branding sales way is they have this view that it has to be perfect images and amazingly produced videos and it's gotta have the perfect caption, which is just using all the right keywords. And it doesn't, this is where that human element comes in and people always forget it because especially with charities, if somebody is sharing, like you say your story of why this is important, what you are doing, what's motivated you to do it. People see themselves in that, people see their friend in that, their family member in that, it brings it home to people. And that is so much more powerful than your super shiny staged, very expensive photos that you had taken or whatever. And I'm sure they're wonderful photos, I'm sure they're fabulous, I'm sure your photographer's amazing, but those stories are what makes the difference. And so yeah, grainy photos and stuff like that are not incredible but if the story is powerful, it will do well anyway, because people will read it. You will already have your core audience who will read it anyway, because they want to support you. And if it is powerful like that, they will share it, they will tag their friend who's going through the same thing and go, "Look, there's a light at the end of the tunnel" or "Look, this is how somebody else is fundraising, maybe you could do this." And that is what really makes the difference. And so it is really interesting how big that disconnect is between how people think they need to use social media. But we all know that when we see those stories on social media, they're the ones that we're like, oh, this is amazing, this is so lovely, I wanna share it, I'm gonna donate to this, I wanna talk about this, I wanna fundraise for them. It's those things that drive us to do something. And yet when we pull back and we're in that business or fundraising mindset, it's like, oh no, it needs to be absolutely perfect and we need to be almost cold about it. Because we try to layer this professionalism over it. Why? - It's an old fashioned way of thinking, I think, now controversial, I know, and I'll probably get some comments about that afterwards, you can edit that out. (Leah laughing) But I know every organisation needs a fundraiser strategy and needs a business strategy and needs a marketing strategy, they all feed in together. But if I'm working with my community, working with supporters in the community who essentially are working with me because they like me and oh, it just so happens that they also have a connection or a passion for the cause that I'm trying to promote. I'm not a salesperson, but if I'm delivering a presentation and I come across as I am right now, and then my written letters, the way I speak on the telephone, the way I'm putting my post up on social media, if they're not reflecting who I am, these people think, "Well, who's writing this content? Why am I not seeing these people?" Do you know what I mean? So it's trying to connect the dots and create a journey and a story for our community so that they know they feel that connection. Like you say, it's making it human. I love it when I see charities go live at an event or whatever they're doing, a bucket collection and they're wearing their t-shirts and they've got fancy wigs on, and they're just having a great time laughing, joking around and it's just so natural, but like you say, the staged photos with someone smiling, or someone looking down and feeling, that doesn't draw the emotion in for me. So just make it feel real, don't think too far into it, just make it as simple as possible, simple as best. - Yeah, you mentioned the head clutch photos, which have something of a reputation, especially like the mental health space, people who are mentally ill, we love a head clutch photo. (Alexis laughing) And I want to ask you what your feelings are on... I don't wanna say positive versus negative, but the charity posts that are, this is the positive impact we've had, this is how we help people, these are the great things we're doing, here are the success stories, versus the posts that are more, here is the awful things that are happening, here is this abused animal, child, person, whatever, here is this horrific heart wrenching story. Do you feel there should be balance? Do you think there should be much more of one than the other? And how do you see each of those impact fundraising, does one bring in a lot more money than the other? - I think it's hard to say, especially in the last two years charities have focused on this is how the pandemic has affected our funds, this is how we've transitioned our services. If you don't continue supporting us, we may not be here in the next three years, who knows. We've seen so many charities in the UK go under because of this pandemic, it's just heartbreaking. Whereas there are other charities that are like, "Oh my God, this is what we're doing, this is how we've changed the way we work, this is how we're continuing to support the people that we serve and it's all thanks to you." So there's a really fine balance as to we can be really positive, but actually if we show the impact of what happens when someone comes through our door with extreme mental health problems or with disabilities or whatever it is that that cause does, demonstrating that impact of that situation they're currently in, what you do to support them and how that person can be there from the very beginning with that direct debit, or just a very simple one off gift. There's a great balance in that. And I think there's nothing wrong with showing that vulnerable side, but top it up with something positive at the end. So this is bad, but this is what good can come from this with your support. So I don't think there is a distinction between what raises more. Take Children In Need or Red Nose Day, for example, you have those during the live shows, you have the video reel that shows a real emotive story. Majority of the time, they finish with a real positive edge on it, actually that was two years ago. But look what's happened now due to what we've helped raise, due to you at home sending a donation of five pounds through text. So whatever your message is at the very beginning, (Leah clearing throat) excuse me, just bring it back in with a positive spin, which makes people want to give five pound or 10 pound or whatever it is. - Yeah, I do think it is powerful to have what you say that positive spin. And there are some charities that I would love to follow them on social media, I would love to support them that way, to share their stuff. But so much of their content is just the before, if you like, it's just this is the awful stuff that we want to stop happening. And for me, I'm very much like, I don't need to see it. I will take action without seeing that stuff. And I realise I am not the majority of people apparently, but so for me, there are charities that I wish they did more of that, more of the journey, post the before but when you have at least the progress, even if they've not solved whatever problem it is, because I do, and especially at the moment, I feel like so many people are emotionally overwhelmed all of the time. And more of that content is really not great for people. And I do feel like it puts an extra weight on people. - Yeah, you're totally right, totally right. Charities exist for a certain purpose. It's not always good, they have challenges and people that they serve that are in really difficult situations without thinking about the last few years and that those people that are, you mentioned this charity that you'd love to follow they're already coming from a negative perspective, they're potentially missing out on an opportunity to receive some support from you, Alexis, and potentially other people in the community. However, if they're not hitting you, they're sometimes not their ideal fundraiser or ideal supporter, because that may be their main focus is to actually, this is the impact. And this is the sensitivity of the people that we work with. That might be their strategy for the next few years. Every charity's completely different in where they are, whether it's startup or celebrating 20 years. But if they're just stuck in that negative wheel and they're not moving forwards at any point, they don't plan to, they may find that other fundraisers and other supporters will drop off at some point as well. So they just need to be conscious that they're thinking outside the box and telling a, well, did you see this case? I did this person, we showed six months ago, this is where they are now. You'd hope that would happen and I'd recommend it and I bet you would as well. (Leah laughing) - I would, I would, I do think it's important to have more positivity generally on social media to be quite honest. - Absolutely, yeah, totally agree, yeah. (Leah laughing) - I want to ask as well, this is gonna come at a left field for you. (both laughing) if people, 'cause there's gonna be a lot of people listening who aren't running a charity, but they do wanna support charity. So my question is, obviously everybody knows that they can fundraise for charities, that they can donate to charities, that they can volunteer at charities. What kind of things can people do other than those things that are really helpful, especially for charities in their local community? - So this is something I share quite often on social media to help charities to prompt people as well, 'cause it's things that you don't normally think about. So really simply liking and sharing posts, sharing their profiles on social media, sharing their reels or their stories on Instagram, really engaging in their content. If they see content that is, let's be honest, most of us follow things and like things on social media, because that's what we have an interest in, whether it's direct connection or not. So if I see something that I think my friends would be interested in, I tag them in it. So it's just demonstrating to those people that it doesn't have to be fundraising. If you know there's someone that would be interested in the services they provide or would be interested in having a space in a Ride London this year, doesn't necessarily mean it's you. But if you share that post and your 700 friends on Facebook, I don't have 700 friends, will see it, you've potentially expanded that network rather than that one charity asking you, Alexis, to do it individually, 'cause you'd go, "No, I don't want to do that." But once you say that you don't initially think, but I do know someone that does, you very rarely do that. So I'd say engage with your charity on social media, subscribe to their newsletters, look for opportunities in your community for them to receive some support, whether it's a collection part or the supermarkets have the, Asda has the green tokens, Waitrose has community matters. Tesco has bag for life and the blue token. So look at ways you can vote for them. Just champion, if you believe and you are passionate about the charity that you'd like to support, but perhaps you aren't ready to fundraise for, shout out about it in your community because if you are passionate about it, you'll find someone that is as well. - Yeah, that's really great. And I think as well, there are a lot of, if you're not using social media for this, or even if you are, to be honest, and you are in some Facebook groups that have a thread for sharing something. And if you don't have something to share, share a charity, share the thing that your favourite charity is doing at the moment, share one of their stories, share something like that because just 'cause it's not your thing, it's not your latest, whatever it is or you don't have a business so you don't have something to share, sharing charities work and stuff like that in those threads is also really helpful. And I think people forget about that a lot, especially if they don't already use social media from a business perspective. So they're not in that mindset of, oh, it's a sharing thread, I need to share something. (Alexis laughing) - Yeah, absolutely. My Facebook group, the Community Fundraisers Network, what I've tried to do is get charities to collaborate as opposed to, I'm doing a quiz in six months time, it's groundbreaking, no one's ever done it before, I'm gonna keep all the ideas to myself, all my learnings, I'm not gonna help anyone else. That's the position we were in before COVID. Now and during that time, charities were more inclined to offer advice and tips on, well, this is what went wrong for me, this is what might work for you. And there's more of a collaborative approach to it as well. So when you mention about sharing charities and threads, I'm seeing more charities working together and saying, "Should we just do a quick Zoom, or a quick phone call and I'll tell you whether I think the idea was worth it or whether it was any return for investment? 'Cause I don't want you to waste your time in your resource on something that might not work." So we're seeing a lot more of that as well, rather than the smart idea, I'm gonna keep it to myself, no one's ever gonna know about it 'cause it's mine. (Leah laughing) - That's good. - Yeah, as well as individuals shouting out about their charities that they love more. It's a great opportunity to do that more at the moment. - And for business owners who maybe want to donate their knowledge or their time or help in some way in a more practical way, if you like that isn't directly fundraising. I feel like there are people who they want to help out, but they're worried that if they send the email and say like, "Hey, I do this or I know about this and I would like to help out" that they are gonna find themselves falling into spending more time than they realistically have because they wanna help out. What would you say to those people who they wanna help, but they also are avoiding it because they're worried that they are gonna get, I don't wanna say sucked in is the wrong phrase, but you know what I mean? (Leah laughing) - I would say if you know you have something to offer and there is a charity that you are passionate about or there's boxes that your organisation needs to tick this year in your CSR policy, do your research, understand who it is you want to work with. Does your organisation and that charity fit together well and do they have opportunities already that they can offer you? 'Cause the worst thing to happen is for that organisation to go and offer and some organisations that corporates will say, "We've got a volunteer day, we can offer, we've got 20 members of staff. What can you do for us between now and the end of April?" And these charities go, "Well, I don't know, I haven't got that much time" or say, "Oh, I'll go and do a bucket collection, I'll go and paint that fence panel for us, I'll go and repaint our kitchen, the staff room, that kind of thing." So if there's something that you know you can offer or something that that charity can offer you back, you're gonna find a happy medium and don't be afraid to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, don't bombard me. I'm doing this outta the kindness of my heart. I don't want this to do a full time job, it shouldn't be." And it shouldn't feel like a chore as well. You're doing this 'cause you want to. But if that charity's really boisterous and goes, "Oh no, we need you available this day, this day, this day, these hours, these hours, these hours," that's gonna put people off. So there's a lot more you can do to control that, setting that boundary first, start light and see how it goes. Go and visit the charity perhaps as well, see if you come out feeling, I really want to do something with this charity rather than just applying for a role. It's exactly the same as when you look for a job, you look for a job cause you a, want to do the job or you're really passionate about working with them. And I think fundraising and volunteering is exactly the same. - Great tips, very good tips, very good. This has been really interesting and I'm sure it's been helpful for both charities and people who wanna support charities, which I'm assuming is everybody. So if people wanna follow what you are doing and get involved with what you are doing and the charities that you might be helping, where can they find you? - So I am on almost all of the social media platforms, not TikTok, 'cause I just can't do it. So I'm on Facebook, if you search Civitas Consultancy, Twitter, Civitas_consult, that's my at, I'm on Instagram, @Civitasconsultancy and my website is www.civitasconsultancy.co.uk. - Very good, I'll put all of those links in the show notes so people can come and find you super easily. Thank you very much for being here, it's been an absolute pleasure. - Thank you very much, it's been great to have to be included in your podcast, and exciting. My first podcast as well, can I also say, thank you for having me. - Oh, very good. - [Hawke] If you want more regular reminders to find your own way to use social media, follow Alexis on your social platform of choice. All the links will be in the show notes. Until next time, be a human.