Coffee & Cake with the AFC

The AFC’s Coffee & Cake virtual event on the 20th January 2021 proved to be another successful Zoom session.

The only downside is that the coffee and cake had to be provided by attendees!

After welcoming everyone, Caroline Hutt, the Chair of the AFC and MD of Hutt & Co invited representatives from

IFC, Apple Fundraising, Bonnie Clayton Consulting Compton and Ben Morrison Consulting to introduce themselves.

Caroline clarified that the aim of the session was to see how everyone is getting on as we start a new year and to share useful information with one another.  Most importantly, she asked members to share good news!  “What is putting a smile on our faces right now?”

Sarah Gray from the IFC said that whilst last year was very challenging, it was also a very positive year for their consultancy, especially in the last four to five months.  During this time, they have been working with a handful of international clients including one where they successfully pitched for the one of the United Nations new charities. From a work perspective, the mood feels positive and that opportunities had not totally disappeared.

John Baguley, Chairman of IFC, commented that there is a very ‘positive vibe’, which he attributed to a combination of the results of the recent US Presidency election and the development and roll out of the Covid vaccination programme.   It is good for business, John stated, as people will be more willing to take chances and launch new initiatives.

Bill King, CEO of IFC and Vice Chair of the AFC, reiterated John’s points and added that there is a sense that the end is in sight with the pandemic which gives hope for all businesses, including the charity sector. People are starting to think beyond mere survival.

Caroline’s main clients are schools and she confirmed that fundraising campaigns came to a halt last March but that Heads had started to get in touch now. She hopes that feasibility studies will resume during the summer term.

Robin Langrishe of Compton confirmed that they had a similar experience to that of Hutt & Co with all projects and campaigns put on hold. Business has now started to pick up again.

Ben Morrison of Ben Morrison Consulting commented that, in his experience, charities are moving away from emergency appeals to taking a more proactive approach. Many of his clients have pivoted their campaigns to virtual concepts that range from hour long celebrity telephone campaigns to highly successful crowdfunding/match giving campaigns. Some charities are now raising more via these methods such as virtual dinner galas for example, they can reach so many more people. However, as these virtual events start to become repetitive, there is a concern about donor fatigue. They are trying to find solutions and are questioning if people will want to go back to old methods of fundraising once the pandemic and lockdowns are over.

Ben explained how he has run these fundraising events, emphasising the importance of having engaged ambassadors who help run the events as team leaders.  He mentioned Charidy and Charity Extra that specialise in this area.

Robin confirmed that the Noahs Ark charity had done really well online using similar methods and he too hopes that donor fatigue does not set in.

Bonnie Clayton of Bonnie Clayton Consulting said she has found corporate support increase as companies feel like they want to contribute to the national effort. Bonnie noted that employee engagement has increased. She confirmed that she was really busy at the start of the first lockdown, business then slowed down but she has noticed that more enquires are now coming through.

Nicole Gray Conchar of Apple Fundraising confirmed that her consultancy has been really busy with 90% of their work connected to the US. The pandemic has brought very little change although she has found that building relationships virtually is more challenging than face-to-face.

Sarah thought that in the future the fundraising sector will use a combination of online and traditional methods. John agreed, saying that an event may also include a large screen where people unable to be there in person can attend virtually and be part of the fundraising drive.

Caroline asked everyone for their preferred topics for future Coffee/Tea & Cake sessions.  People would like to hear about marketing and what is working, including predictions about the future fundraising landscape and sharing insights and experiences.

When the coffee cups were dry and only crumbs left on everyone’s plates the session came to an end.

Celebrating Charity 25 years of ups and downs in fundraising

2020 will be a memorable year for many reasons but for Hampshire-based fundraising consultants and AFC member Stefan Lipa Consultancy, it marks a quarter-century of helping charities to raise money for both landmark and community projects.

Over that period, they have helped charity groups raise funds for projects including: conservation and development work in Norwich Cathedral and the Oxford Oratory; refurbishing Winchester Theatre Royal; building a new facility for Rose Road, a disability services and support group in Southampton; setting up a new agricultural research charity – Innovation for Agriculture, and funding for their projects; as well as enabling the National Youth Wind Ensemble to travel to the Far East on a concert tour. They calculate that Stefan Lipa Consultancy has helped raise around £100 million for good causes in that time.

Covid-19 has unfortunately forced the consultancy to cancel plans to mark their business silver jubilee but they remain upbeat. Managing Director, Stefan Lipa, has seen national, and global, economic crises come and go over the years, not least the 2008 credit crunch, but despite the severity of the current recession, Stefan is seeing some green shoots in the voluntary sector having taken on some new clients recently. “This shows real optimism for the future,” said Stefan. “Charities are looking for new income streams to get going again, but it’s about taking one step at a time and that’s where we can help them.”

The landscape for charities will continue to be challenging as many of them have relied on running events or renting out premises to raise funds, all of which has been suspended during lockdown. However, Stefan also believes that the charity sector is adapting.

“Charities are having to do things differently, said Stefan. “We can see that with the way they’ve moved effortlessly to things like Zoom, but they are also looking at new ways to fundraise and are already starting campaigns.”

This year has thrown up numerous challenges for the business and voluntary sector alike, as well as enterprises which straddle both. However, Stefan looks forward to a positive, if different, future continuing to help charities add to the fabric of the nation and to society. We wish Stefan and Anna a Happy 25th Business Anniversary!

The Benefits of Fundraising Qualifications

As fundraising consultants, it is vital that we are as knowledgeable as possible if we are to present ourselves to clients as experts in our field.  Therefore, the value and importance of qualifications is always a topic close to our hearts.  Choosing the right qualifications for our particular work can prove challenging as we consider a range of factors including:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • How the qualification is delivered
  • Exams
  • Universal recognition for the qualification
  • Increase business

The AFC recently hosted an online webinar with three guest speakers who have expert knowledge of various qualifications, namely Ashley Gatewood of the CFRE (Certificate of Fund Raising Executives), Dr Beth Breeze from the University of Kent and Dr Claire Routley from the Institute of Fundraising

Ashley Gatewood, the communications and marketing manager for the CFRE International, opened the discussion after the Chair of the AFC, Caroline Hutt, introduced her and the other speakers.

Ashley is based in the United States but did her final year of university at Brunel in Oxford. The Certified Fund Raising Executive certification is the only internationally recognised, accredited certification for fundraising professionals. This means that should your work take you to another country then the qualification will remain valid without you having to complete any other elements. The CFRE debuted in 1981 and has a great track record as an independent third party that validates your experience and knowledge.

There are more than 7,100 CFRE’s in 25 countries proving that the CFRE certification is not just an ‘American’ certification.

In order to become a CFRE you must meet the following requirements:

  • Worked for 36 months in the last 5 years in a paid professional fundraising role and had clients throughout that entire period.
  • Accumulated 80 points of education/training (webinars do count as training for these purposes):
    • 1 point = 1 hour of training
    • 2 points = 1 hour presenting fundraising material
    • 10 points for a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree
  • Be on a team that raised at least US $1.375 million in the last 5 years. If you cannot meet this particular requirement, then there are other ways to satisfy this such as with communications and management projects.

Application can be made online at, and payment is only taken when your application is submitted. The regular cost is US $875. However, as a member of the AFC, the cost reduces to US $700 (a 20% discount). The CFRE examination consists of 200 multiple choice questions that can be taken at one of over 25 test centres around the UK ( The test is not currently available online. It is a global exam that must be completed within 4 hours and requires a pass rate of 500 out of a possible 800.  It is estimated that you will need between 40 and 80 hours of study time.  Currently, 80% of candidates pass the test. 

CFRE certification does not automatically mean that you gain more business, particularly as many organisations in the UK are unfamiliar with the qualification.  Nevertheless, when it is explained that, as a CFRE, you have been formally recognised by the only accredited worldwide fundraising certification it often gains the confidence of potential clients.

Dr Beth Breeze took to the virtual stage next. Beth is based at the University of Kent in Canterbury and is the Director of the Centre of Philanthropy, which she also co-founded in 2008. Beth delivers an MA in Philanthropic Studies. She has worked as a fundraiser and charity manager for 10 years prior to co-founding the Centre and, in that time, she took her Introduction to Fundraising and her Certificate of Fundraising which was, at that time, a CIFM completed through the Open University.

The University of Kent offers a Master’s degree in philanthropic studies. Beth established the course because it is what she wished had existed when she was a fundraiser. She knew at the time that research was going on but either couldn’t gain access to it or, if she could, she couldn’t find anyone to discuss it with. People join the course for a variety of reasons: some join because they want to study further and others because they have been told they need a Master’s in order to progress further in their career.

The course is designed to fit around people who work or who have personal commitments. It is fully online, even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The course has videos, webinars and live interactions to keep students motivated. The campus in Canterbury is beautiful and, in normal times, students on the course are considered full members of the University and are able to use the library and attend events. Normally, there is two-day induction course although this year everyone attended online.  There is also a study day once a month.

Some students never physically attend the University itself, especially those who are signed up for the course from abroad.  However, the lecturers still feel they know all their students well despite never meeting some of them face-to-face, as technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has changed the world and the way in which we interact with each other.

Beth is joined in delivering the course by permanent staff members Dr Ali Body (Director of Studies) and Dr Lesley Alborough (Pears Research Fellow) and between them they have written many of the main books that are essential course reading.

Beth gave a little shout out to Donna Day Lafferty from the University of Chichester, who was also attending the AFC webinar, as they are currently writing the Fundraising Reader together.  This is the fundraising version of the Philanthropy Reader and will soon be a core text on the course.

Beth and her team also draw on associates, honorary fellows and guest lecturers so that the students have access to all the latest ideas, thinking and research.

The course content includes:

  • Fundamentals of Philanthropy
  • The Art and Science of Fundraising
  • Volunteering and Society
  • Advising Donors
  • Global Philanthropy
  • Research Methods
  • A 12,000 word dissertation

This content is covered in six taught modules and they also teach students how to conduct a piece of original research which leads to a dissertation. The University is very lucky to benefit from the involvement of the Pears Foundation who currently pay for the staff to teach this course and Blackbaud who provide some scholarships.

If you complete the whole of the course then you will gain a Master’s degree, but there is also the option to do a Diploma which is just the six taught modules without a dissertation or a Certificate which involves the completion of three of the six taught modules. Often students dip their toe in with a Certificate first and then they get the bug and upgrade to a Diploma or the full MA.  Graduation is celebrated regardless of the course studied and takes place at the glorious Canterbury Cathedral.

Thinking about studying one of these courses but not sure then why not trial before you commit with the MA in a Day, which gives you an insight, via the University’s website at . The topics reflect content covered in the course and for each topic there is free access to a lecture, reading and further resources such as podcasts, data sources and practitioner guides.  Topic choices are:

Topic 1: Fundamentals of Philanthropy

Topic 2: The Art and Science of Fundraising

Topic 3: Volunteering and Society

Topic 4: Major Donor Fundraising

Topic 5: Working with Donors and Supporters

The MA in a Day was actually designed as a result of Covid-19 in order to help fundraisers get access to some free training during these difficult times. It has remained on the website to help give a greater insight into the course.

Finally, Dr Claire Routley took to the virtual stage.  She has worked in fundraising for 12 years and specialises in legacy fundraising. Claire has completed a Ph.D. on why people choose to leave legacies to charities and was invited by the AFC to talk about the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) qualification and the course the IoF runs.

Claire is a fundraising consultant and splits her time between that and teaching for the IoF. Claire described the certificate, diploma and advanced diploma provided by the IoF, but then went on to talk about fundraising apprenticeships, which will be available from October. These apprenticeships might be of interest if you are working with smaller charities that might find having a fundraising apprentice useful and affordable.

The IoF’s Certificate in Fundraising is the most well-known fundraising qualification within the organisation and is where the IoF has its largest number of students. Summing up the certificate, it teaches students to write good fundraising strategies. Students that sign up for the certificate qualification are often 18 months to 2 years into their fundraising careers and want to help formalise their practice. Claire believes that the core skills taught at this level are essential in helping people advance in their fundraising careers. The qualification teaches modules and processes that can be used now and will also be the fundamentals to be used as your career progresses.

The Diploma in Fundraising is designed for people that are at a management level. Summing up the diploma, it gives breadth of knowledge around the different fundraising streams and the ability to manage those streams and employ good practice within them. There is also a separate module dedicated to fundraising management. Claire feels this is really important as often people become good at fundraising and get promoted but then lack any management training, which requires entirely different skills. The management module covers such things as communication, motivation and leadership.

Probably the most interesting qualification for fundraising consultants who have been practicing for a few years is the International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising which is a Master’s level course. In brief, the course teaches you how to place fundraising at the centre of your organisation. It covers how to navigate the internal situation and how to change things such as power and influence. Claire found that when she originally did the course it was a real game-changer for her seeing how directors work at a senior level.

Both the Certificate and the Diploma can be taught face-to-face (or via Zoom during the current climate) or it can be 100% online with recorded lectures. All the courses expect approximately a day a week studying in terms of time commitment.

The overall benefits of the IoF courses are that you are gaining a qualification from a chartered organisation and they are based in good solid academic practice. Together with the other courses mentioned by the CFRE and the University of Kent all the courses are ideal for personal development and growth.

Following the speakers, the floor was opened to a Q&A session.

Q1. Is there any research to show that having the CFRE qualification or one of the other qualifications is valued by UK charity employers?

Ashley from the CFRE said that she didn’t believe that at this point there is massive awareness amongst charity employers within the UK of the CFRE, although there is definitely some. The CFRE do see many of those taking their qualification working for employers who also have their CFRE. They are encouraged to sign up for the certification by those who already have it as they are able to see the benefits, and also realise that the certification fills in any gaps in their fundraising knowledge. The test covers six key areas related to donor-centric fundraising.

Beth stated that having a Masters matters to some employers. Beth then turned the question on its head and said that when employers value their employees, they encourage them to undertake these types of courses.

Claire answered from the IoF perspective that often the certification is seen as a desirable rather than a must-have.

Q2. Who accredits the CFRE and at what level is the accreditation?

The CFRE has been accredited since 2017 by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute/International Organisation for Standardisation).

The accreditation has to be re-applied for every two years and is a very rigorous process.

Q3. What type of qualifications do students have before they come to do the MA at the University of Kent?

Normally people have a first degree in any subject although this isn’t compulsory.

When someone has not got a first degree, they would be asked to submit a piece of writing to demonstrate their ability. Often people are nervous about embarking on the Masters as it has been a long time between their first degree and now.

Q4. How many hours of study is required for the MA course?

Beth described the course as ‘lumpy’ with one week’s workload being completely different from the next week’s, resulting in some people doing a lot one week and not so much another week. This can partly be a result of how interested someone is in the topic being covered. There is an hour of video lectures (normally made up of two or three short videos), a couple of core readings and an online forum that people can join in. It generally involves more hours work in a week if an essay is due unless you are very well organised. Realistically it can absorb anything from one to ten hours a week of your time.

Q5. Claire, do you know what universities are offering the fundraising apprenticeships?

Claire was unsure about any universities offering this qualification, but the role of the IoF for the fundraising apprenticeships is to be an end point assessor. The IoF course would be a level 3 qualification so not a university degree level course.

Beth spoke about fundraising degree apprenticeships and said that it is something that the University of Kent would really like to offer, and that the best thing about them is that the fees are paid from the apprenticeship levy which all companies with more than £1 million on their annual payroll have to pay. However, Covid-19 and furlough has meant that the University of Kent has taken the decision not to offer a fundraising degree apprenticeship this year, as delegates would have to take on a new appointment and the current situation would make this difficult.

Donna Day Lafferty agreed that fundraising degree apprenticeships in this field are desperately needed.

Q6. Have any of the consultants found that having one of these qualifications helps in terms of winning new clients?

Caroline Hutt, Chair of the AFC, replied that having the CFRE certification had honed her skills.  She appreciated that over the years it has become easier to requalify, which is required every three years (although not the test). Caroline’s company, Hutt & Co, works in the education sector and she finds her clients respond well to qualifications. Although her clients had not heard of the CFRE initially they did google the organisation when she mentioned them.

Natasha Roe from Red Pencil has found that for some clients it does help whilst for others it has not made a difference. Much depends on the type of clients/projects. Natasha has a Master’s from the business school, formerly known as CASS, in marketing and fundraising, the IoF Diploma and is a chartered marketeer.

Claire commented that, although people may not be looking for certain qualifications, doing a higher-level course with a dissertation can help build your profile within the sector as it markets you as an expert. It is also a useful tool to have when undertaking public speaking engagements at conferences.

Natasha has found that by speaking about her dissertation she has now earned, through commission, the actual cost of doing her degree.

Beth re-iterated that everyone should look around and find the course that best suits them and one that is delivered in a manner that will suit their lifestyle and commitments.

Donna has had reports back from her graduates that, although is doesn’t always mean that they get the job, having the qualification is getting them an interview at the very least. This includes those that have worked for fundraising consultancies as well as those who have worked for charities. Donna believes that having qualifications like the ones spoken about today, and those that she helps deliver, help you to stand out.

Bill King of the IFC has currently just completed the first year of his Master’s. He said that one of his motivations for starting the course was because the IFC go for international contracts with big NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) and UN (United Nations) agencies. They frequently demand that the project lead has a Master’s level qualification at the very least. They don’t seem to care what the Master’s is actually in, but they do require that level of qualification. Bill is hoping that by gaining his Master’s it will help him win clients in years to come.

Q7. Are the IoF qualifications benchmarked to higher education? Do you know what level they are mapped to as it was mentioned that the International Diploma is Master’s level?

Claire responded that the apprenticeships are level 3. The certificate is level 4, the diploma is level 5 and the advanced diploma is equivalent to a Master’s which is a level 7 qualification.

Q8. Beth asked everyone what puts people off doing the qualifications?

Bonnie of Bonnie Clayton Consulting commented that she had done modules of the IoF certificate years ago as a young fundraiser at Scope as they offered it as an inhouse course. Although Bonnie did a degree and a CIM diploma (Chartered Institute of Marketing) she has never actually done any formal fundraising qualifications and doesn’t feel that this has hindered her in her career. She feels that she would struggle to fit in studying as a mum of two and working full-time. Bonnie said if she were to do one of the qualifications it would be more out of interest, to develop her knowledge and to feel that she would be doing a better job as a fundraising consultant rather than because she needed to have a qualification. Hearing what everyone has to say has definitely sparked her interest to do some more learning, but the amount of time commitment and when is definitely her main concern.

Caroline agreed that time is the main issue. Running your own consultancy normally is a full time job so the question is when do you find the time to do the necessary studying.

Bill confirmed that it hasn’t taken up as much time as he thought it would during this first year of his Master’s although he confirmed that, as he has worked in the industry for 20 years, he is not coming into this without any knowledge. The essays take the longest amount of time, but he has learned an awful lot during his first year despite his existing knowledge and experience within the fundraising sector. Bill acknowledged that it is a big commitment though.

Donna said that when she did her Master’s degree in social science research methodology, which was a new topic for her, she was also setting up the degree course for the University of Chichester and estimated that it took her a day a week.  However, on weeks when an essay was due, she did beg her family not to cross the threshold of the room on that particular weekend. Donna found it an intense two years but came out of it ‘like her brain was on fire’.

Natasha commented that often you are able to use a client’s project to do research and gain knowledge to form the basis of an essay or assignment.  This gave the client some “added value” for their strategy without them being charged for it so everybody won.

Claire Nethersole of CN Fundraising said that when she first started fundraising no-one had qualifications and family commitments would have made it difficult. However, at the present time, she feels it might build confidence and confirm whether she actually knows it all and is doing the best by her clients or whether there is more that she could do.

Q9. Caroline asked what support is out there for those who are studying?

Ashley said there is a UK ambassador so there is a person to contact if you want to talk one to one regarding the CFRE qualification. There are also a host of free materials on the CFRE’s website.  All the courses people attend can be added to the CFRE application form so that it is ready to submit when candidates have the required number of points. There is a practice exam which can be taken, which you do have to pay for, but is pretty affordable and is an effective way to measure your baseline knowledge so that, when it comes to studying, you know which areas will require more time. The CFRE run a lot of webinars which also help.

Beth commented that the reality of online teaching means that emails reach you at any hour of the day. WhatsApp groups also help with keeping in contact and the lecturers certainly don’t want people feeling isolated. Having said that, Beth realises that some people do not want that level of contact and interaction and the lecturers have to learn to accept that. It is often a judgement call as to what people are looking for and then having meaningful interactions that do not waste time. They also bring other people in to talk about relevant projects and share knowledge.

If you would like to know more about any of these qualifications then please look at the information provided by the speakers’ institutions via the following links.


University of Kent –

IoF –

The Association of Fundraising Consultants hope that the above has been informative and useful in helping you to decide whether or not to apply to do any additional qualifications that would benefit you and your consultancy.

Tea & Cake

Who can resist the prospect of the great British cuppa and a slice of scrumptious cake?

Not many judging by the attendance at the latest Association of Fundraising Consultants’ remote session. The session was originally planned to be held in London where we could all meet at a lovely location in Pall Mall.  However, as with so many other meetings around the world, we had to adapt due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Tea & Cake took on a whole new dimension as it was held via Zoom. The downside was obvious – everyone had to supply their own tea and cake! However, the upside was that everyone got to reconnect for a great interactive discussion. Munching upon cookies, healthy brownies and slices of Victoria sponge, the conversation began around how consultancies were coping, the changes they had made and clients’ perception of the situation and attitudes to continuing and/or starting new fundraising initiatives.

One consultant got the conversation started by sharing how their clients are still very active. Their consultancy looked at Covid contingency plans for each client including funding plans, emergency funders, using the Covid Response Facebook group and LinkedIn as helpful resource tools. It became clear that clients all had differing opinions on whether they thought it was ethical to seek emergency funding particularly with the NHS requiring so much financial support.

Members had also been looking at ideas for virtual fundraising including the 2 Point 6 Challenge. This will potentially be most useful for those that have nothing set up as yet.

Some fundraising appeals have shown a significant rise in income with one charity for the homeless doing much better than normal since the pandemic.   Another charity for green spaces has also gained tremendous lot of support which may be due to everyone using and appreciating these spaces since lockdown.

The general consensus among everyone attending was that the public has been very responsive to charities especially Cpt Tom Moore who has raised over £30 million and has now got to No.1 in the UK charts.

However, one member asked if the efforts of Cpt `Moore has had a detrimental impact on the fundraising efforts of other charities? Other consultants mentioned that the NHS is not a charity as it is funded by the Government.  Were the monies raised going where the public expected them to go?

Some members mentioned that donation via direct debits have been cancelled since the pandemic took a grip, given threats to jobs and uncertainty within the workplace.

For some consultancies and charities, people have been furloughed making it difficult for charities to continue. Some charities will not have donor stewardship operating and so that all-important relationship-building and communication will be missed.

One consultancy reported a projected decline of 30% short term. Another consultancy predicted not seeing a return to any kind of normality until October at the earliest. Where consultants are dealing with schools and universities, they are predicting that things will not get back to normal until all students return on site and get back to something of a normal routine.   Members did not think this will happen until the start of the next academic year at the very earliest and those appeals that are already in progress will get played out in September with feasibility studies also being done then. Organisations will need to adapt their plans accordingly, including the spec of their building and the timing of completion.

Covid is driving businesses to operate online. Some tasks can be carried out perfectly well online but for others such as capital fundraising consultants have preferred to delay campaign activities until face-to-face meetings are possible again. Consultants are working hard on the behind-the-scenes activities for appeals.

Consultants agreed that online meetings will probably become more common in future. Some countries, such as USA. seem to be very open to digital meetings.

Some consultants have seen an influx of trust and donations, and others have been overloaded with companies offering to help which in turn can hamper sticking to the strategies of charities.

Those charities that rely heavily on large events that they have planned throughout the year will now be struggling to replace the earnings from these with online events. One charity given as an example is Macmillan.

There have been some real positives that have arisen from the current situation for consultants including the increase in personal contact via the use of the telephone. This, in turn, is great for developing relationships and finding common ground. Existing major donors seem, on the whole, to have been receptive to a chat on the phone.

The important issue for all the consultants was to listen to their clients and do what the client requires and be prepared to readjust plans, schemes and timelines.

There will always be advantages arising from a crisis so it is essential not to miss them. Marketing within the current climate is vital according to many consultants although it may be that different strategies are used such as people at home telemarketing could be a good investment whilst ensuring GDPR is followed. Consultants need to continue to be authentic and their messages need to convey this, abiding by the AFC’s codes of practice.  

Hospice consultants have seen the public and companies alike be very generous with PPE being donated and many new first-time fundraisers each doing their small part for their chosen charities, which is always great news for the fundraising sector.

Sharing information seems to have increased within the fundraising world as everyone tries to help everyone else. The online world has become somewhat crowded with invitation after invitation to webinars and seminars although the attendance of some is not great. If anyone is considering offering a session online, make sure the content is unique and purposeful. Training for this online environment was noted as an area that would be helpful for many people around the world. People have been thrown into operating virtually with often little understanding and limited experience. There can be bonuses to this as nobody has had time to spend worrying about how to operate this way. How to train trustees to operate online is also an issue that was raised. The best advice given for all online activities is to always involve everyone and to keep asking questions as this ensures that people stay engaged and alert. Practice online is virtually a certainty given the current climate, so don’t be scared of it as most people are in the same boat as you. It could become a forum that will be increasingly used in the future as discussed earlier.

A lot of consultancies experienced knee jerk reactions from clients at the start of lockdown but many have since realised that they operated with a panic reaction and have since been in talks about how they can proceed now and no one reported having clients cancel, they may have deferred, but none cancelled which is great news.

With all of the above discussed and everyone safe and well it was time to swig down the last sip of tea and to hide the empty plate before ending the meeting on Zoom. Now for an hour’s exercise to burn off all those wonderful additional calories!

Working from Home

UK Fundraising Professional Sian Newton on the Value of Earning a Fundraising Certification

Sian Newton became a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in early 2020 and has had a two-decade career fundraising in the UK.

The CFRE certification is the only globally-recognised, accredited certification for fundraising professionals. By holding the CFRE, each certificant shows they have demonstrated their understanding of globally-accepted best practice fundraising principles.

Sian has worked for some of the UK’s most well-known charities, including the British Red Cross. Here, she shares her insights on the value of consultants holding their CFRE and why seasoned professionals can benefit from earning a fundraising certification.

How did you enter the world of fundraising?
I left university knowing I wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector. I did a research internship for a charity and also some fundraising volunteering and decided that fundraising was right for me!

What is your favorite part about being a fundraising professional?
Working with people from all walks of life to make charitable giving happen. After more than 20 years, it still gives me a great buzz.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Be tenacious and persistent.

What is your personal philosophy about investing in yourself and staying active in your professional development?
I’ve always been proud to be a fundraiser, it’s something I take seriously. One of my favorite phrases is: Onwards and upwards!

How did you first hear about the CFRE certification and what made you decide to pursue it?
I heard about CFRE through my fellow Directors at Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants. There’s a real emphasis on professional standards and excellence and all the other Directors have been through the CFRE process. So, when I became a Director, I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps. It was a personal challenge.

You’re currently a fundraising consultant. Why do you think it is valuable for consultants to hold an accredited fundraising certification?
Clients come to you for your expertise, knowledge, and experience. Having the certification is another way to demonstrate both the breadth of your knowledge and that it reflects up-to-date best practice.

There are two parts to the CFRE process: an application and exam. When you passed your CFRE exam, how did you feel?
Relieved and very proud.

You earned your CFRE after more than 20 years in the sector. Sometimes professionals believe that with that much experience they don’t need a certification. What advice would you have for fundraising professionals who have been in the sector for years and are on the fence about whether or not to pursue their CFRE?
Learning is a life-long thing. You can build on the knowledge and experience you already have. Go for it!

Remember as an AFC member you receive substantial reductions of fees for CFRE examinations and recertification.

New leadership at Gifted Fundraising Consultants

Release: January 23, 2020.

Amy Stevens steps-up as the Chief Executive of Gifted Philanthropy taking on the leadership of this innovative fundraising consultancy from Andrew Day, who will continue to serve the firm’s growing array of charity clients.

“Amy is an outstanding professional with extensive experience across the third sector.  As one of Gifted’s founding directors, she has led some of our most successful fundraising programmes and is brilliantly equipped to take the Company through its next phase of growth,” says Andrew Day.

Over the past four years Gifted fundraising consultants has drawn on the wide experience of its directors to establish a diverse portfolio of clients, from schools and small rural churches to high-profile and national charities.  Often working in partnership with member organisations like IDPE and NHS Charities Together, Gifted has sought to advance professional standards and widen the understanding of fundraising best-practice across the sector.

“I love the way our business has developed and feel really excited about the opportunities ahead,” says Amy. “I want us to continue working with charities of all shapes and sizes. What matters is their commitment to the projects they believe in and their willingness to embrace all that a Gifted partnership has to offer.”

Amy also says that she’s incredibly grateful to Andrew for leading the company since December 2017 and for the advice and professional support he has given her for over a decade. “The good news is, that whilst our roles will change, the Company will continue to benefit from Andrew’s experience, along with that of fellow director, Chris Goldie.”

A great advocate of Amy’s work in the North, is Darren Grice, Deputy Chief Executive at Link4Life, Rochdale. Darren says, “Working with Amy has been an absolute joy. Her breadth of fundraising experience and laser-focus on meeting the next set of priorities has kept the Dippy on Tour project in the North West, successfully on track. She has confidently grown Gifted’s client-base in the North and also made a huge contribution to its international reach over the past few years. Stepping up to the role of Chief Executive is the natural next step for someone who completely gets the business of philanthropy and consistently delivers on the brief.” He goes on to say, “I wish her all the very best in this next important stage of her career and have no doubt that with Amy at the helm, Gifted’s reputation for creating pragmatic, original and ethical fundraising solutions will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Lessons from the Sessions (2019)

Our second Gherkin Sessions took place on Wednesday 2nd October 2019 and were a great success, providing our attendees not only with the opportunity to network but also to ask our speakers those all-important questions about why they chose the particular fundraising consultant they did.  

Our 3 excellent speakers boast impressive resumés:

Chris Burghes became the first Chief Executive of the Royal Free Hospital in 2010 and has overseen the strategic change of the organisation from a grant-making body to a direct service provider.  Last year the Royal Free had a turnover of £42 million but it only has limited capital funds and this is where the need for fundraising exists.  The Royal Free is not set up to run large capital appeals and so the help of fundraising consultants was required.  They used an AFC member, the IFC, based on word of mouth and the fact that the IFC showed they had the competencies and skills needed for the specific appeal being run.  It was crucial to Chris and the Royal Free that the consultancy they chose had the ability to deliver messages effectively to the charity’s Trustee Board, especially negative messages which the Board may not want to hear.

Pip Wood has been the Chair of Governors at Dr Challoner’s High School since November 2015. She was instrumental in launching and helping run the fundraising campaign for £750,000 for Phase 1 of their Shape their World development plans in 2017/18 which ended up raising £840,000 in just 3 terms.  She is currently involved in Phase 2 of the plan to raise funds to build a new Sixth Form Centre.  Pip has over 30 years’ experience in the communications industry including as Director of Corporate Communications for Sainsbury’s and The British Land Company.   Pip considers that engagement with the parent body is the key element of successful fundraising for schools and that the soundest advice she received from their fundraising consultants was “under promise and over deliver”.

David Wheeldon retired as the Headmaster of King Edward VI Five Ways in 2012 and had previously been the Headmaster of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys.  He is currently the Chair of Governors at King Edward VI Handsworth Girls’ School and is also a Governor of Camp Hill School for Boys.  It is in his governor role that fundraising has become important.  David believes that getting the governors on side is the biggest issue fundraisers face and is very hard to do.  Getting parents on side is slightly easier than the governors but not by much.  He has found it extremely hard to persuade other governors to employ professionals to help schools raise much needed funds and governor support is crucial for any fundraising campaign.  Aligned with this is the need for governors to accept that they will have to make a financial contribution to the campaign personally.   It is also crucial that any fundraising campaign is tailored for each year group as different emotions and requirements are at play with the parents depending on the age of their children.

Below are a few of the lessons learned:

1. What are you looking for in a fundraising consultant other than experience and obvious skills and what would put you off someone?

The most important considerations were whether they liked the consultant, whether they felt they could work with them and whether the consultant was a good “organisational” fit too.

Second, to this was whether the consultant had previous experience with a similar organisation and/or project.

Thirdly was whether the consultant had taken the time to do their homework on the organisation they were pitching to.  Had the consultant taken the time to find out all about us too.

The biggest “put off” was not feeling a connection with the consultant and feeling that there was a bit of “blagging” going on.   Also, the inability of the consultant to deliver negative messages regarding the campaign to the people that mattered was quite a decisive factor in not choosing that consultant.

2. Whilst Universities raise funds from alumni and private/public Schools do so from alumni and parents – who are the target donors in the state school sector?

The panellists had different experiences in this respect.

David had had success in getting donations from alumni in the state schools he had worked in mostly because there were existing Old Student Associations in both schools.  But it is definitely the existing parents that give first, especially in grammar schools.  This is most likely because the parents are extremely grateful their children have got into the grammar school and, therefore, they want their children and the school to do well and have great facilities.

Pip had not had much luck at all with alumni but had found that the existing parents were the primary audience for donations.  It is crucial to target the right parents – there is no point in wasting time approaching those that have no interest in helping.  As part of this, it is vital to have an engaged and involved Head who leads from the front and a compelling story to tell.  Governor support and involvement is also essential not just financially but in terms of time and involvement.

3. What is the internal fundraising capability of NHS Trusts to help other Trusts which are smaller and don’t have the same resources?

It was important to understand that all NHS Trusts need money and most of them are not set up to run any kind of capital fundraising appeal.

The NHS Charities Together group try to get together a couple of times a year to exchange views and ideas regarding fundraising.

All the panellists agreed that the first step is always to get a Feasibility Study to take back to the relevant body, whether that is the parent body, an NHS Trustee Board or the Governors.

4. What do you expect of a fundraising consultant?

There are many expectations but one of the most important is the ability to achieve the required target.

The ability to deliver the project and work together effectively was vital, together with keeping the lines of communication open with constant updating, effectively being your “best mate”. It was also wise to test the consultant out on a smaller project first to see how the consultant performed.

Several approaches had been tried eg. fundraising without a fundraising consultant and also using a non-professional: neither route had worked particularly well. 

It was important to have someone with a proven track record who could give a campaign the rigour and honesty that it needs: especially to push the governing body and the Head in a school environment to try things they might not want to do, new things which perhaps went against the grain a little bit.  Speaking to other local schools to see how they had gone about fundraising had also proved useful in identifying what was needed in a fundraising consultant.  Activities and events which helped engage the parents often made any future fundraising easier. 

In addition, recommendations were very important along with word of mouth. In a school context, it was crucial that the governing body and Head were willing and able to listen to the consultant and take on board the consultant’s advice. For small scale fundraising, the parent body was pretty effective, but for a larger capital campaign professional help was needed, although it was still important to ensure the parents and any parent body were also involved and onboard.

5. How do you go about bringing people close to the “cause”?

It was recognised that it was important in the to tell a great fundraising story but that some parents/patients just don’t want to get involved and that sometimes the school/NHS Trust is reticent to ask because the “story” is a sensitive one.

In the health sector, HIV and mental health issues were always two areas where the people involved don’t usually want their story told due to the stigma that, unfortunately, is often still attached to these issues.

It is crucial to get positive people on board and not to waste time trying to get people involved who just didn’t want to be. Also, there is no point telling a family’s story as part of a campaign if the patient or the parents are not willing to be involved in the campaign.  The most important thing is to have someone who is a great advocate for the campaign, whether that be a patient, parent, governor or the Head.

Getting the right people/parents involved was crucial to the success of any fundraising campaign in the education sector.  A school usually has lots of parents with resources at their fingertips and who are willing to help either through their time or their businesses.

6. How would you go about looking for a new fundraising partner?

There were a number of techniques that had been used:

  • Googling
  • Word of mouth
  • Recommendations from others who had run similar campaigns
  • Asking colleagues who they would not recommend

Also, it was important to tailor the fundraising to your audience and geographical area and so local consultants were good and consultants with experience in the particular area of fundraising proposed were also good too.

7. Have you had any negative experiences with fundraising consultants?

There had been some. One consultant had been more concerned with getting paid than with actually moving the campaign forward in any meaningful way.

Any fundraising consultant needed to be committed to the campaign and also needed to be able to explain to any relevant board/body that they also needed a tremendous commitment to the campaign.  An effective way of delivering that message was crucial.

Communication was the key to a successful experience.  As long as there was open and honest dialogue any issues could be worked out which is why it was so important to choose a consultant that you have a rapport with.

The feasibility study was very important in ensuring a positive experience. It was important that the study was honest and not untrue.  It was better for a consultant to say that the feasibility study showed that things were “just not there yet” rather than to pretend everything was “good to go”.

8. Have you used online techniques to assist with your fundraising campaigns?

Chris had used most of the online platforms for single and small donations but in the case of a major capital campaign, he tended to recommend the more old-fashioned method of contacting previous patients directly.  As a result, it was vital to stay in touch with patients generally in order to have that relationship to call on in the future.

Pip had found that the face-to-face method has always worked best.  Email is often used to keep people informed of progress and developments but not as a means of contacting individuals to ask for donations.

David had found that having an Old Student organisation and/or database was crucial in raising future funds for school projects.  It was important not to only used this for asking for money, but to also use it to inform alumni about developments at the school and any achievements etc.

9. Did you think it was the fundraising consultant’s role to go out and ask for the money for you?

Not at all.  It was important to all our panellists that they had a relationship with the donors themselves so they wanted to be the ones to ask.  

The fundraising consultant was important in helping them establish the best way to structure the campaign and ask for the money but not to do the actual asking for them.

10.  How much does the cost/fee matter?

In a school, it is the governor’s role to ensure that there is value for money and so if the fundraising consultant is the right person for the job then the cost is not the be all and end all.  If all the other necessary elements are in place but the fee seems too high then a conversation would be had to see if the cost could be reduced.

In state schools there is not a lot of money to spare so cost does play a part in the decision, whilst in the NHS the cost is not relevant, it is all about who will do the best job.

11.  If you have an in-house fundraiser, how can they persuade the bosses to use an external professional?

There is always a risk that the in-house fundraiser has limited experience and skills and that as a result, the campaign won’t work as effectively or possibly even completely fail.

The first step is to at least get the bosses to meet the external fundraising consultant so they can make an informed decision for themselves.  Also, to persuade them to talk to others who have used an external consultant to see how they felt about it, why they chose to use one and what the benefits were.   Maybe try to get them to at least use the external consultant to carry out the feasibility study.

12.  In the education context, who are the consultants selling themselves to? Is it the Governors, the Head or the Bursar?

Generally, it is the governors and the Head.  Every Chair of Governors must have a means of direct contact with the Head and so it is often best to approach the Chair first and get them to then talk to the Head.

13. Have things changed over the last 10-15 years in terms of what you need from a fundraising consultant?

Generally speaking, in the school sector, things have stayed pretty much the same but more money is needed so the fundraising campaigns are bigger.

In the NHS sector, the requirements of a fundraising consultant have stayed constant but a much quicker turnaround is needed and expected nowadays.

14.  Which method of payment is preferable – a set fee or a percentage of the amount raised?

It is rare in today’s world for a consultant’s fee to be based on a percentage of the amount raised and those consultants that ask for this method of payment tend to be avoided.

If an organisation wanted to pay in this way it should ring alarm bells as it suggests that either they don’t have the necessary funds to pay the consultants fee or they do not have enough or sufficient approval from within the organisation to run the campaign.

15. There seems to be a lack of knowledge and understanding in the school sector of how it all works – how could we help to improve this?

A good starting point would be to get previous or existing clients to talk to any new less experienced ones to explain how the fundraising process all works.

16. Would it help if fundraising consultants came to speak at conferences and events for specific sectors?

One suggestion was for the AFC to provide a list of those organisations currently using consultants which could then be shown to new users and donors.   It is important that members of organisations like the AFC are upfront about who they are working with, obviously with client approval.

Another suggestion was that those clients who have successfully used a fundraising consultant could talk to new and potential donors about how it all works and the benefits involved.

17.  Would any of you consider using more than one consultancy, eg. for different aspects of a fundraising campaign?

It is definitely a possibility but you would need to be sure that all the consultancies would get along together and work collaboratively.  But it would depend on the sector and the campaign. 

For small capital campaigns such as the school sector ones, only one consultancy would be needed in reality.

18.  Would you consider using one consultancy for the feasibility study and another for the main campaign?

The preference was to use the same one for both.   It would be hard to explain why the consultancy was good enough to carry out the feasibility study but not good enough to run the actual fundraising campaign.

The overall consensus was that it was difficult to think of a reason or scenario as to why you would want to change.  It would involve a lot of work and repetition and by extension extra cost.

Several consultants mentioned that they often only get asked to carry out a feasibility study and nothing more.   It was commented that this might just be because the organisation was at a particular point in their thinking/planning process and, in addition, it is often hard to decide on whether or not to run the campaign at all until the feasibility study has been carried out.

Often the feasibility study itself highlights whether the consultant and the organisation can work effectively together, whether the campaign is feasible at all and whether there are the sufficient and necessary leadership skills in the organisation to take the campaign all the way.

19.  How many organisations who commission a feasibility study go on the have a successful campaign?

A lot of this will depend on the robustness and honesty of the feasibility study.

Obviously, if clients fail to follow the recommendations in the feasibility study the successfulness of the campaign will be affected.

It is important as a fundraising consultant to have the integrity and honesty to say to a client that they should stop the campaign if and when things start to go wrong rather than just continue with a campaign that is falling apart.

It was also important, as part of any feasibility study, to be honest enough to say that using a fundraising consultant might not be the best option for a particular client and that it would be better for them to try corporate fundraising or to recruit a more qualified and skilled in-house fundraising director and use them.

20.  Is the timing of the feasibility study important?

Yes, absolutely.  These studies can often be done too early.  Ideally, they should be done right before you want to start the campaign.

Only about 50% of studies result in a campaign being launched due to the decision making in the organisation concerned grinding to a halt.  Therefore, it is crucial to get the timing of the study absolutely right.


Our AFC Chair, Caroline Hutt, summed up the 8 most important elements of a successful relationship:

  • A good fit between the organisation and the consultant – that all important personal relationship
  • The consultant needs to have experience in the particular type of campaign and/or sector
  • The consultant must have done their homework on the organisation
  • Boards/Trustees/Governors need leadership from within the organisation and from the consultant
  • Communication is crucial
  • Honesty and rigour with the client is vital to keep them on track
  • Research into the consultant is also important to ensure there is a proven track record
  • Feasibility Studies are all important and they must be honest and transparent

Reasons why relationships between the client/organisation and consultant sometimes fail are:

  • A lack of honesty and transparency in the relationship
  • A lack of communication
  • A lack of energy and momentum in moving the campaign forward

The environment remains tough for charities but raising funds is still key

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis charities have been squeezed. In fact, austerity delivered a double whammy to the sector. Just as central and local government grants were being cut, public organizations were also reducing the level of services they provide to groups such as the homeless, disabled, children, domestic abuse victims or families needing extra support. Charities were then expected to step in and take up the slack.

Volunteers are being put off by the increasing legislative burden such as safeguarding, data protection and GDPR, accounting rules and paperwork.

Politicians now jockey for position as a General Election approaches and claim that austerity is over. Unfortunately, there’s been a lag between promises of more money and delivery. In fact, councils are still having to find savings and introducing new charges for some services to make ends meet. This is why fundraising is still so critical to all charities.

Stefan Lipa, head of Stefan Lipa Consultancy, provides some helpful tips on how a charity can continue to keep funds flowing in his latest blog ‘ The environment remains tough for charities but raising funds is still key’.

Solidifying your fundraising knowledge with a credential

Do you value doing a job properly, thoroughly, and without shortcuts?

If you’re a fundraising professional, this means you’re likely to be the team member consistently adhering to the highest professional standards. You show up to work each day with a commitment to go above and beyond—grounding yourself in donor-centric fundraising principles that help your donor achieve her philanthropic goals.

Since 1981, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential has stood for confidence, ethics, and professionalism in fundraising. It is a natural choice for fundraising professionals who consistently strive for excellence in all aspects of their work.

“The CFRE is the only globally-recognized, accredited certification for professional fundraisers,” says Eva Aldrich, Ph.D., CAE, (CFRE 2001-2016), President and CEO of CFRE International.  “For those working in the UK, holding your CFRE signifies you have proven your understanding of best practices that apply nationally and internationally.”

Currently, there are more than 6,600 CFREs in over 20 countries.

The CFRE journey

The online CFRE application is the first step. There are three sets of criteria you must meet and document on the application:

1) Education: Need to have participated in 80 hours of continuing education in the most recent five years (hours can be a combination of attending education and presenting sessions, as well as authoring fundraising articles). Points can also be awarded for university degrees earned in any year in any field of study.

2) Professional Practice: Need to have worked a minimum of 36 months in a paid professional fundraising role in the last five years.

3) Professional Performance: Need to have 55 points in this category. 1 point = USD$25,000 raised by your fundraising team. Fundraising professionals in the UK can convert the funds they’re raised in GBP to U.S. dollars at Points can also be earned for communications and management projects.

Demonstrating your fundraising knowledge

Once your CFRE application is approved, you will have one year to sit for the 200-question multiple-choice CFRE exam at any of the Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe.  There are 30 testing centers in the UK.

On average, CFRE candidates study 40 – 60 hours and tell us they learned practical information in the process that they then began applying to their jobs straight away. If studying might feel like a dreaded task you haven’t had to tackle since university, flip that thinking so you view it as an opportunity to upskill and verify your knowledge.

Upon passing the exam, you are a CFRE! Recertification is due every three years but does not require sitting for the exam again.


The initial application fee for first-time certificants is US$875. As a CFRE Participating Organization, members of AFC save 20% and enjoy a rate of US$700. Recertification is US$510 at the standard rate or US$408 for AFC members.  

Over half of CFREs report that their employer covers part or all of the cost of CFRE certification.

Get started

More than 93% of CFREs say they have gained increased recognition from peers by earning their certification, so why wait to get started?

There is no cost to begin your application. Once you start it, you’re welcome to log in and out of it as many times as you need to input your details. You only pay when you are ready to submit it.  

Begin your CFRE application at

Learn more about becoming a CFRE at

Choosing a Fundraising Consultant

What to Look for When Choosing a Fundraising Consultancy

If you feel that your fundraising efforts need a helping hand, a fundraising consultancy can provide a depth of knowledge and support across several areas. They can provide guidance on how to streamline processes, offer advice on how to complete grant applications, help you develop new income streams, and more.

There are numerous fundraising consultancies, but not all will be the right ‘fit’ for your charity. To help narrow down the choice, here are some tips on how to find a fundraising consultancy for your charity or non-profit organisation:

How to Find a Fundraising Consultancy

If you search for fundraising consultancy online, you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of results. While it’s good to have a large choice to choose from, it doesn’t make your decision any easier, nor does it guarantee that the consultancy is a respectable one. But, a good place to start your search is through the AFC directory of members, highlighting various top fundraising consultancies.

Once, you’ve shortlisted a number of consultancies, here are some things to consider before making your final decision:

What Experience Do They Have?

Each fundraising consultancy is different. Some, like Group IFC, offer a wide spectrum of fundraising services, while others specialise in a specific type of fundraising or nonprofit work. Either way, it’s always best to work with a consultancy which has experience in delivering the outcomes you want to achieve. So, make sure to take a thorough look at their website, case studies, and online reviews. You can even ask the consultancy to provide you with two or three references.

What Is Their Approach to the Project?

It’s important to remember that the point of bringing in a fundraising consultancy is to help you achieve better results. Whether it be increasing revenue from existing donors, identifying new ways to raise funds or offering guidance on how to reduce expenditure – you have to be confident that the consultancy has the confidence to openly say what needs to be done, as well as a get-it-done attitude to help you achieve your goals.

Do Their Beliefs Align with Your Organisations?

A good consultancy is one who is adaptable in their approach and who will do everything they need to familiarise themselves with your charity and seamlessly fit into the organisation.  You have to be ready for the consultancy to become a temporary member of the team, and that means being confident that you can form a working relationship with them. You also need to be able to trust the consultancy to present to different audiences and be a good representation of your organisation.

Taking the time to thoroughly vet fundraising consultants will make the hiring process that much easier and quicker. Plus, by hiring a firm of consultants who have the relevant qualifications and experience and who are a ‘cultural fit’ with your charity or non-profit will give you the potential to achieve greater results.

Written by Sveta Latysheva – OWO Content Manager

International Fundraising Consultancy

Choosing a Fundraising Consultant