Holding up a mirror to advance ambitions
“We felt that the possibilities were endless.”
Barts Charity, an NHS charity supporting five major London hospitals, wanted to push forwards. They had been very successful over a very short period of time, growing their fundraising income significantly in just three years. “And we wanted to capitalise on that rather than coast,” says Ilia Ralphs, their Director of Major Gifts.
Their ambition? To achieve a sustainable leap in their annual income across all their fundraising activities – so the hospitals they support can deliver outstanding care for their patients. Ilia came to us with a very clear and simple question: how do major gifts help us get there? Enter the More team of Tim Johnson, former chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, and Rachel Hall, whose major gifts fundraising experience spans three decades and all sectors. “These are people with proven solutions,” says Ilia, “who could help us evolve our processes and respond to our challenges.”
Getting under the skin
To start, Rachel and Tim did all they could to get under the skin of the charity. “We wanted to understand the who, how, why, what and when of their fundraising,” says Tim. All told, they spoke with 16 stakeholders, including senior leaders, fundraisers, clinicians, trustees and volunteers, and brought in Adrian Beney to benchmark their data.
“My previous experience of consultants was that you’re asked to provide lots of information,” says Ilia. “But it doesn’t always seem to be the right information so you feel the wrong conclusions are being made. Every step of the way we felt that More were speaking to the right people, asking the right questions, and understanding the whole landscape.”
Putting a finger on it
Ilia tells us that they benefitted hugely from the external scrutiny: “Rachel and Tim quite quickly identified some things that were holding us back, and that we hadn’t been able to put our finger on. It felt like a mirror was being held up.”
The team had done incredibly well, but their systems to identify and build relationships with new funders needed to be strengthened. “The team was stretched too thinly,” adds Rachel, “with people doing a bit of research in a spare moment.”
Another challenge was that they often only worked with prospects where they knew they would get a donation at end. “We wanted them to know that there was nothing wrong with cold approaches, and nothing wrong with failing,” says Tim. Giving Ilia and her team the green light to take more risks has helped them to greatly expand their pool of donors.
Digging up rabbit holes
Ilia heard that her team were disappearing down “research rabbit holes” and immediately recruited a skilled prospect researcher. “It’s completely changed the way we work as a team – we’re so much more productive,” she says. “And my major gift fundraisers can focus purely on bringing in the income.”
A final change was to their language. Tim and Rachel noticed that they often referred to themselves as a ‘grant-maker’, rather than focusing on their patient impact. As Ilia puts it: “Why would a donor want to support a grant-maker? This simple shift helped to put fundraising at the heart of what we do.”
What they say
It’s great to hire consultancy when you’re in a good place, and we really felt like we were in a safe pair of hands. Tim has got such an incredible reputation in the NHS charity world – you’re working with someone who has achieved so much. Everybody involved felt that, whatever the outcome, we would trust it. The whole process was incredibly easy and enjoyable, and not in a weird way!
Director of Major Gifts, Barts Charity
What we say
Hospital fundraising in the UK is often a little underdone. But Barts Charity has taken the opportunity to say: ‘If we invest in this, our patients and families will benefit.’ Throughout our time working together there was a real culture of openness and transparency. They are an exemplar for the sector, a leading force in hospital fundraising ambition. We’re excited to continue working with them to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
Partner, More Partnership