Why and How to Engage a Charity Fundraising Freelancer, Bid Writer or Consultant

Using a fundraising freelancer is a very good way for even the smallest charity to access specialist expertise, or bring in additional capacity, quickly and at low cost. However, fundraisers are in huge demand and sourcing them via agencies can be very expensive. This volunteer run initiative from Charity Excellence gives you access to a pool of freelancers, with detailed information on each, in a standard format that lets you compare and find the best person for your charity quickly and easily - and it's completely free.

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What are the advantages in using a freelancer?

·       Freelancers are usually available to start at short notice and, as they work for multiple organisations, they're well used to getting up-to-speed quickly too.

·       They only get paid for the work they do and, as many home-work, they don’t have the overheads and profit margins of the larger consultancies.

·       You work with them only for as long as you need them and, if it doesn’t work out, you can get out of the relationship easily.

How much does it cost?

·       A freelancer day rate is not comparable to the rate you pay staff, because they only get paid for the days they work and have to pay the various employer on-costs themselves.

·       The Freelancers Register reflects the wider sector, with day rates as low £150, up to about £800, with most in the region £250 to £350. However, many freelancers will consider discounts; introductory, or for small charities, or longer term engagements.

Any disadvantages?

 ·       As they’re usually a one-man (person) band, if they fall sick, work stops which won’t (or rather shouldn’t) happen with a large consultancy.

·       They’re often remote workers, so won’t be in the office all the time.

·       You need to pick a good one. As in any walk of life, there are some bad ones and, even if not, you need to be sure he/she has the right skills/experience and approach for your charity.

So, how do I pick a good one?

 ·       Consider more than one candidate, so you can choose the person who is the best fit for what you need.

 ·       Price matters (obviously), but how much funding you receive, depends in large measure on the skill and experience of the person you engage, so it's not everything.

·       As a minimum, ask for at least a CV to assess this – work carried out, appointments held, successes, qualifications, awards etc.

·       Also ask for at least 2 relevant referees and contact them.

And how can I get the most from working with a freelancer?

·       You may not know exactly what you want him/her to do, or even the best way to go about it, but be clear on what you want him/her to achieve for you, with some idea of how much you wish to spend. The Freelancer Register and CEF online toolkit both have a client specification template you can use for this.

·       The more you can do yourself, the less it'll cost you. The CEF's vast range of resources will help you do so, even if you're new to fundraising.

·       It doesn't have to be written by a lawyer, or even complicated, but ensure you have a written agreement with clear deliverables and milestones.

·       Be aware and comply with the regulations governing working with fundraising commercial partners - part of this is having the agreement above. The Register and the CEF both have a fundraising freelancer example agreement that you can use for this.

·       If anyone offers to work on a commission basis, be very wary. The Fundraising Code does allow this, under certain conditions, but there has been abuse. Most good fundraisers won't do so.

·       No bid will ever be better than the information in it, so help them to help you, by providing the key facts, figures and information to make your bids the best these can be.

·       If you promise to send them information by a set date, do so. If you send it late, send the wrong information, or keep missing deadlines, it’ll slow the process down. And freelancers have families too, just like the rest of us.

·       Ask for itemised invoices - day rate, work carried out and hours spent on each distinct element of work, then pay them promptly. 

·       They bring skills and experience you don't have, so tap into this by working closely with him/her. You'll get better results and grow your own expertise at the same time. 

What results can I expect?

No fundraiser can guarantee to bring in the amounts you want, because the decision to award a grant isn't theirs to make. I chair a grant making board and there is huge competition. Sadly, not every great bid gets the funding it deserves.

Even when a trust is engaged with you, a success rate of 30% is good and, for those who aren't, it's as low as 10%. What a good fundraiser will do, is maximise your chances of being successful.

The really difficult bit - where can I find one?

The Charity Excellence Freelancer Register enables you to find a freelancer quickly, easily and costs you nothing, because I run it myself on a voluntary basis. Their profiles include, areas of expertise, areas they don't work in, specialist skills, qualifications, where they're based, what clients value about them, why they're passionate about fundraising, background information, fees and discounts, referees, details of clients worked with, LinkedIn profile etc.

The information is in a standard format. This enables you to compare them, to find freelancers with the right skills/experience and approach, for your charity and the budget you wish to set.

As it's free to freelancers too, it includes lone workers who often have in-depth experience, but can be hard to find, because they don't have the sales reach of the large consultancies.

Sign me up, what do I need to do?

Simply ask for access to the online records of freelancers on the Register and approach those you wish to. You'll also have access to various templates and toolkits that'll help you get the most out of working with your freelancer. This is a Charity Excellence initiative, so is run on a voluntary basis and is completely free.

If you wish to be given access or have any questions, contact me on 07595 371 444, or at charityexcellence@gmail.com.  

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