Sharing the Best: Beate Sorum’s Good Story – June 2018

“Anything is possible if you tell the right stories to the right people and ask for what you want.”

– Tony Elischer

For the first post in my “Sharing the Best” feature, Beate Sorum – Norwegian Fundraising Consultant, incredible storyteller and general badass – has kindly agreed to let me share my learnings from her session – The Good Story – which was part of my journey with the Tony Elischer Foundation.

Beate’s session was an incredible hour of humour, insight and practical tips. I immediately took my pages of notes back to the office and started applying the learning – now, seven months later, I am going to boil the session down to the three key things I learned:

1. Focus on why you’re telling the story in the first place.
The session started with a simple question. Why do fundraisers tell stories?
The answer was equally simple: we tell stories to raise money.

Beate asked us if we could say, hand on heart, that we always have this in the back of our mind – if every Facebook post we made, every exchange we had with a supporter, linked back to this. She demonstrated a number of examples where charities had poured resources into making videos, crafting infographics, etc, without an ask at the end of them. Whilst we all understand the importance of stewardship and not asking in every interaction, it was eye opening to think back to the number of resources I’d made and posts I’d sent without any information on even howto donate if someone had been so inspired.

2. Focus on the stories of individuals, not statistics
Beate asked us to think about the story telling of the organisation we were currently working for, and the balance between statistics and individual narratives. At this point, East African Playgrounds had some incredible impact statistics – each playground will benefit 1,500 children over 15 years, for example – but the stories of those individual children were missing, so this hit home.

She detailed that if giving money is an emotional decision – which we all agreed it was – you needed to evoke emotion. You do this by getting the audience to relate to the beneficiary – you can relate to one person, you can’t relate to 10,000.

The perfect example of this is the Syrian refugee crisis: the headlines were filled with the news of hundreds if not thousands of refugees and their daily crises for weeks, without any tangible reaction from the public. As soon as the photo of one little boy, face down in the sand came out (which almost all of us can still picture to this day), there was an individual to rally around – the mood shifted in a single story, to the extent that we still remember it now.

3. Focus on the problem as much as the solution.
Finally, Beate asked us to consider the overall story of our organisations. To think about how all the individual stories we tell piece together in an overall narrative: do we appear to be single-handed solving the issue we’ve set out to face, resourced with everything we need and therefore not in need of further donations? Do we appear to be barely scratching the surface of the issue, working ineffectively? Do we only mention how bad the problems we’re solving truly are during our Christmas campaign, and if so how does that sit with our donors?

This was another point that hit home for my fundraising practice. I had so many stories about how previous donations had helped us transform communities, but very few about how many communities remained to be transformed – the scope of the problem wasn’t a part of my narrative, and therefore neither was the urgency to donate.

After the session, I took a notepad full of ideas, questions and comments back to the office and immediately started working on storytelling within East African Playgrounds. I’ve had meetings with the monitoring and evaluation team in country who are working at better capturing individual narratives and feel like the stories we tell now better capture where the money donated really goes, and why it’s so essential. I’m incredibly grateful to Beate and the team of the Tony Elischer Foundation for providing the training – I genuinely believe it was transformational for me.

If you’d like a raw copy of my notes from the session you can ping me an email on, or you can find more of Beate’s incredible work on her about me page.

My Fundraising Bucket List

An old adage I’ve heard about fundraisers is that we’re never happy with what we’ve achieved. We achieve success and raise the bar for ourselves, taking us back to square one. Having heard this a few times recently, and reflected on what I’ve achieved/still want to with my career, I decided to come up with a fundraising career “to do list”, giving space for reflection of successes achieved and the road to go in a healthy manner. It’s as much about being a donor as it is a fundraiser, achieving a variety as well as a depth. I’ve tried to create a universal yardstick to measure my journey so far and would love to hear your comments. I’ve included the full list below and a blank version in the comments – how many have you achieved?

In Progress.
Not Started.

  1. Write a blog post – this one!
  2. Have a favourite fundraising podcast – Simon Scriver’s Amazingly Ultimate Fundraising Podcast played a good trick by featuring me as a guest… you can check out the episode here.
  3. Read three books on fundraising in a year
  4. Attend an unconventional fundraising event – I attended (and spoke at) Pizza for Losers in London 2019!
  5. Attend an international fundraising conference
  6. Speak at a fundraising conference – spoke at @theFSI northern fundraising conference 2018, booked for #IoFFC in 2019
  7. Visit three charity’s projects/service outcomes – blog to come!
  8. Join three meaningful fundraising communitiessmall international development charities network and fundraising chat so far
  9. Spend some time with fundraisers from a different country – If Scotland and Ireland count, then I’ve crushed this.
  10. Start a cause related story notebook – an essential after seeing Rob Woods speak – blog to come!
  11. Do a ridiculous charity challenge – cycled from London to Paris in 2014, drank nothing but water for a month in 2018 – blog to come!
  12. Face a fear through fundraising – I abseiled down the Owen Building in Sheffield to face my fear of heights and help Raising Futures Kenya. I’m still scared of heights.
  13. Convince someone else to do a charity challenge – a few hundred people to do The Gorilla Trek!
  14. Become a regular donor to 3 causes – I currently give monthly to Cruse Bereavement Care and Raising Futures Kenya
  15. Become a lapsed donor – my credit card expired so my donation to RFK lapsed. They were very quick to pick me up on it!
  16. Write a will & feature a charity in it
  17. Write a full funding bid – I’ve supported a number of bids but was successful in applying for funding from scratch at East African Playgrounds.
  18. Make a high level ask – a few times, including an ask for £90,000 from board of the Toy Trust on behalf of East African Playgrounds
  19. Approach a corporate for partnership – a number of times, the first of which was with the great app company, @LoyalFree
  20. Do some face to face fundraising – a number of street collections & a summer of door to door – gave me a new appreciation for it!
  21. Have coffee with a supporter – a few times now!
  22. Be a beneficiary – Cruse Bereavement Care, Tony Elischer Foundation
  23. Have a nuanced opinion on CRMs
  24. Have a nuanced opinion on face to face fundraising
  25. Take part in a network mapping exercise for a charity to see who I can introduce them to beyond my fundraising network
  26. Become the best storyteller I can be
  27. Become a trustee – Thank you to Vic Hancock Fell for recruiting me to the incredible Raising Futures Kenya Board in April 2018
  28. Mentor a younger fundraiser
  29. Be mentored by a senior fundraiser – I was incredibly fortunate to receive the support of @LisaRussel through @tonyelischerfdn
  30. Meet my charity idol – I’ve met – and even presented in the same lineup – in some of the fundraisers I’ve idolised since day one, which is increidble.