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

The Gherkin Sessions 2019

After the amazing success of last years “Gherkin Sessions” on creating a successful fundraising consultancy, the AFC will once again be hosting this years’ sessions at the iconic Gherkin on Wednesday 2nd October 2019. More details will be released soon so make sure you don’t miss out – SAVE THE DATE today!

Make sure you pencil out the 2nd October in your diary today.

How can charities expand and diversify their income?

Guest Blog – Written by Stefan Lipa Consultancy


Ensuring a healthy income stream is a key function for any charity that wishes to achieve its aims. All too often, charities facing a cash crisis have allowed old income streams to fall away or haven’t considered all options for new ones.

Diversifying income streams does require a deal of work, but relying on a few, dwindling sources of money is not a sustainable plan. Diversifying can make all the difference to your charity’s survival and will empower it to achieve, or even expand, its stated goals.

Step one: Refreshing current income streams

At Stefan Lipa Consultancy the first thing we do when we’re invited to carry out a fundraising audit for a charity is to review what they’re already doing, to make sure it’s up to date and efficient. Our principle is that our clients shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel, so we look at all possibilities to realise the potential within their current range of activities.

Quite often, clients may have a number of income streams which they developed a while ago but they just assume it continues and they don’t maintain it. Clients say “Yes, we already do that,” but the people or organisations at the other end of the donation get forgotten and drop away and so the income decays over time. This should be the starting point.

A case in point is a parish church we support; 20 years ago they had a push to sign up members who would contribute regularly. But over years they hadn’t updated their campaign or added new people, so the number of donors was down to single figures and income was dropping off. The church council thought there was no more potential from that method of funding and assumed that the decline was just the way of the world, but all it took was a fresh effort to expand that income again.

Step two: new sources

Once we’ve optimised existing income streams we look at identifying new sources. These can come in a variety of shapes including:

  • Individuals
  • Businesses
  • Trusts
  • Grant-making organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Social media crowdfunding

When we start work with a charity, they often say “Oh, we don’t know anyone we can ask for a donation,” but when we drill down into the issue, we usually find many more connections or potential donors than they realise they had.

Gift Aid

Sometimes we suggest to clients something they’ve overlooked which may be as basic as applying for Gift Aid. This is a scheme whereby registered charities can reclaim from HMRC 25p on every £1 donated by a UK taxpayer. It effectively allows you to boost your income from donations by 25%.

All registered charities are entitled to join the scheme but you do have to register; some of our clients haven’t done this because they think it’s too much hassle.

There are strict rules about what you can and can’t claim for, but they’re explained on the HMRC website and it’s certainly worth investigating as a new income source. And you can go back four years to claim in arrears.

External fundraising advice

If you have a professional problem you may go to a solicitor or an accountant for advice and they will usually come up with suggestions, often simple ones, which you had never considered.

All too often, struggling charities are simply reacting to events and can get into a bit of a bind and it doesn’t occur to them that a fundraising consultant can also widen their vision.

Bringing in an external consultant will introduce fresh ideas, and that’s as true for fundraising consultants as it is for any other professional. We bring an external objectivity to focus on the problem and come up with new answers for expanding and diversifying income.

Stefan Lipa Consultancy helps charities to diversify their income

Stefan Lipa Consultancy helps charities to achieve their fundraising goals. We work in areas including heritage, religion, education, youth, culture, museums, the theatre, music, health and community services.

We offer bespoke, impartial and honest advice with consultancy and management services for capital campaigns and revenue fundraising.

We work on projects with targets from £100k to millions of pounds, mainly in Hampshire, the Midlands and the South of England, providing accurate, impartial and frank assessments, every step of the way.

Free initial consultation

Contact Stefan Lipa Consultancy or ring us on 01256 698090 to arrange a meeting for discussing your particular circumstances and the services we offer. This meeting is completely free of charge, with no obligation on either side.


‘Creating a Successful Fundraising Consultancy’ The AFC’s Gherkin Sessions September 2018

We held a very lively and informative Sessions this year and here we share some of the key outcomes with you.

As professional fundraising consultants under the umbrella of the AFC, we are committed to giving our clients the best possible professional advice and sharing best practice.

Promoting your company

  • everyone is different so find what works for your company by trialling different marketing methods and go with the ones that work best;
  • measuring marketing can be difficult so make sure you use the platforms available like Google Analytics etc;
  • remember that as well as getting your brand known, people need to know exactly what it is you do so remember to tell them;
  • ask for personal recommendations;
  • ask for referrals; and
  • promote your company by running workshops – this shows your expertise and gets your name and your people known.


Why organisations engage fundraising consultants

Clients spend money on fundraising consultants for a variety of reasons including:

  • staff shortages;
  • need for expertise;
  • they have lost their way and need help finding their way forward; and
  • they are looking for someone to explain why things haven’t worked and to tell them what they need to do.


Delivering to your clients

As consultants who want to run successful consultancies you must be brave and not just be ‘yes’ people as you need to deliver for your clients.  Make sure you define your consultancy’s particular area or areas of expertise clearly so that there is no ambiguity about what you are delivering.

It is important to form professional relationships and ensure that you always do a good job.  Volunteers can tend to move from one charity to another so ensure that you also form professional friendships here as you never know when it could stand you in good stead. Be seen in the market and do whatever it takes within your niche such as running workshops, speaking at conferences or getting involved yourself as a volunteer within the community.


Terms of Engagement

In respect of terms of engagement, ensure that you have a standard contract that is robust and doesn’t have to be continually altered. Keep it simple and avoid over-complicated ones but make sure it covers all the relevant points and remember that a contract is legally binding. Ensure both parties have a clear understanding of the contract and what is expected of them.  A contract can be a moving target but you do need everything in writing for both of your protection.  Do seek professional advice from a solicitor if in doubt.

Let employees and clients know that you are members of certain associations and for that you must adhere to the various codes of conduct.

GDPR could be your friend. GDPR has helped with the need to have a contract in place before working for a client. Do bear in mind Brexit as it could mean that you will not be able to transfer data from the UK to the EU.

Everyone is eager to get started on a campaign, but be cautious of working with a client before you have a signed contract signed and in place. If you need a reason to justify this to the client then use the professional indemnity insurance reason.

Do not take on commission only contracts. They are not ethical and could impact on your cash-flow. Most importantly it blurs the boundaries between you and your clients.  Whose campaign is it? What is the role of the client and what is your role as the consultant? Commission only contracts do not build critical relationships.

It was agreed that the most successful campaigns are those where the ownership of the campaign belongs to the client and where ‘loyalty is not defined by a day rate’.


Calculating your Fees

When pricing your fees, you may consider day rates or hourly rates. However, your pricing structure may be flexible depending on the client and the project. Consider retainers with lower day rates. Retainers and rolling contracts can often benefit clients as there are no sudden unexpected bills and you have an assured cash-flow for your business.

Remember that determining good value for a service can be difficult. Therefore, you need to make sure your services and their outcomes are measurable where possible.  It is important that you don’t sell your experience and expertise short and to price in line with any high-quality professional service.  That way, the client will respect you and listen to you.

As a basic guide-line take heed of the ‘thirds’ business model when setting your fees:

1/3rd:  your rate and/or your employees/associates

1/3rd: Taxes & business running costs

1/3rd:  Company profit


Please ‘share, share and share’. If you are not already a member of the AFC, please consider joining and becoming one of the professional leaders in fundraising consultancy in the UK.

The Power of the Personal Touch

A face to face ask is 34 times more effective than sending an email’.

Harvard Business Review 2017

If there is one thing that I have learned over the past 30 years of fundraising it is to always ask in person wherever possible.  Indeed, not just for fundraising purposes but for anything you truly want in life.

Like everyone else, I use emails just about every day.  It is efficient and quick but I would always advocate caution before we lose the ability of talking and listening to people in person.  As well as being able to pick up tone and body language, it is often what someone is not saying that is as important as what they are saying and taking heed of that all-important ‘in between the lines’ narrative.

Whilst technology has had a hugely positive impact on our lives, we must not lose sight of the importance of the ‘personal touch’.  Certainly, when making the actual ask for large donations it is critical that communication is face to face.  It is only when you are seated next to or opposite someone that you can convey with clarity and conviction your own passion for the cause in question.  Your potential donor will be inspired and confident and only then will they make that all important gift.


The Power of the Personal Touch