Happy Birthday to Us!

Apollo Fundraising was launched on 1st July 2016. But it turns out we share our birthday with a whole host of unlikely fundraising experts. As a little birthday present* from us to you, here are some fundraising tips we can learn from people born on 1st July.


*Don’t worry, we kept the receipt…

Debbie Harry - singer
(Born 1st July 1945)


"It's good to hear your voice, you know it's been so long
If I don't get your calls, then everything goes wrong...
Don't leave me hanging on the telephone"
(From Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone")

The telephone can be an under-used tool for arts fundraisers. However, organisations that have fallen back in love with the telephone during the coronavirus lockdown have seen fantastic results. People are looking for opportunities to (meaningfully) connect with people outside of their households and social bubbles. At this time, your voice across the line can give your supporters a very pleasant sensation. Use it to find out how your supporters are coping, keep them up to date with what your organisation is doing and, if the time is right, even to ask for donations.

You can hear Dorcas Morgan (Development Director at Park Theatre) talk about the success of their telephone fundraising campaign as part of our Covid, Culture and Cash series of podcasts.

Carl Lewis - athelete
(Born 1st July 1961)

Carl Lewis at the ASPIRE Academy in Doha. Pic by AK Bijuraj https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Lewis_Doha_(cropped).jpg

“If you don’t have confidence you will always find a way not to win”

Sometimes the biggest barrier between us and fundraising success is the nagging voice in the back of our head that tells us we can’t do it. The ask we put off making. The supporter we put off contacting. The new idea we put off launching. Those negative thoughts can quickly turn to self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the ways you can silence those negative voices include:

  • Practicing – seems obvious, but taking time to rehearse an ask, pitch or conversation in advance can help build confidence.
  • Remember the theory – a lot of what we do becomes second-nature. However, consciously reminding ourselves of the theory behind our actions can boost confidence.
  • Record previous successes – keeping a mental record of when things have gone well gives us a more positive message to drown out the negative voice.

I talk more about negative voices and self-fulfilling prophecies during my guest appearance on Howard Lake’s Fundraising Tune of the Day here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlMMQnWI4h4&list=PLwAHrkp_kfsSx2qUPV2n1V_yKHONfe2wl&index=20&t=0s

Hannah Murray - actress
(Born 1st July 1989)

Hannah Murray by Gage Skidmore https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hannah_Murray_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg

“Sometimes do you talk fancy on purpose to confuse me?”
Gilly, Game of Thrones

I’m sure fundraisers (and particularly trust fundraisers) don’t deliberately set out to confuse people but often that can be the outcome. In a bid to make our work sound “unique” and “innovative” we can end up making it impossible for potential supporters to understand what it is we actually do.

One reason for this is The Curse of Knowledge. Fundraisers know their organisation’s work inside out – they see it on a daily basis. When it comes to writing an application they know exactly what the work looks, sounds and feels like. And they forget what it’s like not to know that. However, the people reading our applications don’t have that experience. As fundraisers, it’s our job to give them that complete mental picture.

You can find out more about the Curse of Knowledge here – http://apollofundraising.com/blog/three-fundraising-curses-part-one-the-curse-of-knowledge/

Daniel Ricciardo - racing driver
(Born 1st July 1989)

Daniel Ricciardo on the podium in Malaysia in 2016 by Morio https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daniel_Ricciardo_2016_Malaysia_podium.jpg

“Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it”

Daniel Ricciardo is a rich source of quotes. This particular gem was given during a post-race interview after he’d made a daring move to overtake that most drivers wouldn’t have considered.

The point is, in our bid for perfection we can sometimes let opportunities pass us by. Of course, we want to do the best job we can. But at some point we’ve got to “Just pull the trigger. Trust the car, trust the brakes and go”. (Another Ricciardo quote).

Missy Elliott - rapper and singer
(Born 1st July 1971)

Missy Elliott on stage in 2006 by Romana Pierzga https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Missy_Elliott_2006.jpg

"Is it worth it? Let me work it
I put my thang down, flip it and reverse it"
(from Work It)

Building relationships with supporters and prospects takes time, effort and money. No organisation has a limitless supply of these resources. As a result, you can’t do everything. This means that fundraisers need to prioritise. And, with these resources likely to be especially scarce in the coming months there is even more pressure to make sure you are using your time and effort on the funding streams and relationships that are likely to give you the best results.

That might mean dropping the gala dinner that your chair loves but that takes a year to organise and raise no money. Or it might mean not investing as much in corporate fundraising if you haven’t got an obvious proposition or prospect pool. It might feel like leaving money on the table but spreading yourself too thin can be even more costly.

Think about the size of the prize before you start. If it looks like it’s going to be underwhelming, don’t work it!

Olivia de Havilland - actress
(Born 1st July 1920)

Publicity photo of Olivia de Havilland, circa 1945 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olivia_DeHavilland-2.JPG

"He’s grown greedier over the years. Before he only wanted my money; now he wants my love as well"
(Catherine Sloper in "The Heiress")

We talk a lot about the importance of building relationships with supporters. However, not all supporters are looking for the same kind of relationship. And some don’t want any relationship at all.

We can invest a lot of time and effort in trying to get the wrong people to love us. This normally happens when someone has money but when they lack the motivation and connection with our cause. Researching and qualifying prospects is an important step to avoid you chasing after a heart that already belongs to someone else.

Don’t necessarily assume that the biggest cheques mean the most love.