Fundraising | Blogs

  • The media mechanics behind a record-breaking fundraising campaign

    Andy Heath

    August 18th, 2014

    It is now seven months since we finished fundraising for our successful Department for International Development (DFID) backed ‘Safer Cities’ campaign for our urban work Southern Asia.


    Some time ago I promised to give an overview of what we did, what went well and tips for a happy future appeal and (because I’m someone who always keeps his promises), below is an outline of last December’s somewhat breathless efforts.

    The fundraising campaign was match funded by DFID and had a number of communications requirements which we were expected to fulfil:

    • We should identify a media partner who could enable us to reach a guaranteed minimum of 400,000 UK residents with the appeal messages, and (most importantly for DFID) the message that DFID were matching every pound we raised.
    • We ensure the voices of the people who would benefit from the projects would be heard directly by our supporters
    • There would be feedback to those who did donate about how much they raised and where the money would be spent.
    • All the campaign material should contain the DFID logo and messaging.In addition, we also made some pledges to DFID ourselves – promising the appeal would be complemented by a media stunt, to increase the reach of the appeal and also to promote in the local media in Warwickshire.

    It was a stressful time, not just because we had a (much appreciated) Christmas appeal with the Guardian awarded to us at short notice, which ran alongside the DFID appeal, but because neither we, nor Premier Christian Radio, our media partner, had ever done anything like this before.

    As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. DFID’s communications department were helpful and gave advice on what the Secretary of State would and wouldn’t say, and, where possible, what they were looking for.

    IMG_9998The build-up to the appeal also coincided with a trip with a Guardian journalist to Nepal which allowed me and my colleague Hayley Lloyd to visit Nepal, promote a BBC Radio 4 appeal we were doing for the same project and collect lots of material and stories for the Safer Cities appeal. This gave us the opportunity to engage the local BBC radio stations and local press by suggesting they talk to me & Hayley about our experiences at the project.

    Perhaps most importantly, it also allowed us to catch up with our colleagues in Kathmandu and explain to them fully what the appeal was about and the extent to which there would be demands placed upon them for pictures, interviews and case studies. From that point of view alone, the trip was worth every penny, because the communications and project team in Kathmandu rose to the challenge brilliantly, producing a succession of fantastic pictures and case studies, often at horribly short notice for use on social media around Christmas and New Year. The fact the appeal was a success was largely down to the hard work and flexibility of my colleagues Prabin and Swarnima.


    Finally, we worked with a creative agency to develop some images of slums laid out on top of well-known British landmarks – Brighton Pier, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh Castle and the Bullring in Birmingham to try and localise the idea of how slums would affect the UK.


    The results were beyond our expectations, with coverage in British and Scottish national newspapers, leading regional papers and a range of websites, which brought our opportunities to view to well over the 40 million mark.

    Of course, most importantly, the fundraising was an overwhelming success. The appeal brought in more than £900,000, of which more than £800,000 was matched by DFID, meaning we smashed all previous Practical Action fundraising appeal records and have now been able to start work in slums in Bangladesh and Nepal to help tens of thousands of people living in slums get themselves out of poverty, for good.

    3 tips for a positive DFID match funding appeal experience:

    1. Get your local teams on board in a big way and set their expectations. Offer them plenty of support and make sure everyone is aware of just how much of a transformational impact the appeal can have on the organisation.
    2. Talk to DFID regularly. Like most of us in the communications game, they need to report successes to their bosses so keep them up-to-date with all your successes. Our relationship with DFID was so positive that after the appeal ended, Minister Lynne Featherstone visited our headquarters to celebrate the success.
    3. Make sure both you and the communications partner are on the same page (some sort of written agreement may be a good idea in which both parties state what they are committed to). They need to be aware of the minimum expectations that DFID has in terms of both reach and their messaging and that not living up to them could have a seriously negative impact on the organisation. Equally, it is important to identify interesting stories and editorial opportunities to ensure that the media partner fully benefits from the relationship as well.
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  • Can a seed pot really do that…….

    Hayley Lloyd

    August 12th, 2014

    Appropriate, simple, technological solutions to help people out of poverty. That’s what our work is about. cressA bit of kit or an improved way of doing something. This is the practical side of our work, what we passionately believe can provide a sustainable difference, but our work always starts and ends with people.  We work hand in hand with poor communities so the project is theirs.

    They dig trenches for irrigation channels that enable them to grow more food, they are trained to repair micro hydro systems that provide vital electricity or they are shown how to run their own businesses so they can earn a better living.

    I am constantly amazed by the difference our work makes to very poor communities and as a fundraiser it is my job to keep donors ‘amazed’ too so they continue supporting our work. They are doing an incredible thing and I want them to know that.



    Every new donor is sent a booklet showcasing some of our ‘technologies’ and the differences these have made to people’s lives. Examples of how their support will help families across the world. Included with the booklet is a ‘make your own practical seed pot’.  A practical and fun way for supporters to be reminded of the type of work we do. If they make it, grow some seeds in it and keep it on the kitchen window ledge at home they can be reminded of how important their support is.  A short ‘how to’ video (below) has also been produced to help them make the pot.



    I’m hopeful that small seed pot can do wonders, can reaffirm why they support Practical Action, encourage them to continue giving and to make them think ‘that’s the type of charity I want to support’



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  • The only boss that I have – “The DONOR”


    July 30th, 2014

    Is your boss not satisfied with our work? What do you expect then? A pink slip? – It makes sense and is perfectly logical!  After all, you are hired to meet the expectations of the organisation.  However, as a fundraising professional, I have realised that– at the end of the day, there is the only one boss – “The DONOR”!.

    I recently participated in a week-long certificate course in fundraising and communications in New Delhi, India. I have always been keen on tapping funds from institutions, trusts, foundations and corporate houses. I was quite determined that my efforts/interactions/discussions during the training will mainly be in this line.

    Donor representatives visiting a project in Bangladesh

    Donor representatives visiting a project in Bangladesh

    On the very first day, the resource person somehow tried to give us an impression – “fundraising is all about individuals”. I had a reservation, and I was rather convinced that funding has to do a lot more than an individual. As the days passed, we discussed differently on direct mails, cold calls, donor acquisition and retention, and so on.  At times, I felt that it was a complete waste of time; the whole discussion each day ended with a conclusion – “It is actually about an individual”.

    During a practical session on telefacing, a pretty lady was on the phone talking to a stranger. She talked for about four minutes including her introduction, the cause for the call and the conclusion. I had an impression that the person on the other side gave her an appointment for the meeting. She put down the phone with a cheerful smile on her face. At the end, it is the impression you leave on a stranger. I thought about it over the night and was convinced that fundraising is not possible in isolation. First, it was a cold call that ended up with an appointment, which could turn into a request for a concept note and subsequently a full proposal. No matter how big or small the amount we are proposing, this is exactly the way it works. So, is it all about an individual?

    I wrote a case for support, a capacity statement, appeals and many more. I featured Practical Action’s energy and DRR works, because then I could showcase my project to be the most urgent of all. The question was again, why the projects should be considered urgent to receive funding? I remember many projects I have been involved in which were not as urgent as the others, but they were funded. The answer is – the case I proposed was actually URGENT for somebody at the donor organisation. I again took my stand, it is not about “Somebody” who decides; It is about the whole organisation! But remember, evaluation committee in each donor organisation is comprised of a group of individuals. We need to win their heart, soul and mind! It is them who make decision on whether or not to support our project – be it a 2000 worth activity or a multi-million multifaceted project. So, am I convinced that it is all about an individual?  Somehow, yes!

    Each evening, I analysed what I am doing, and what is my job. I assure quality of donor reports, communicate with them, accompany them to the project sites and make sure they are HAPPY! I swallow all the guidelines on donor call for proposals, and make sure that our proposals meet their needs and criteria. I follow my donors on Twitter, regularly check their sites and update myself on recent happenings. I greet them on their special days, I participate in events/functions mainly because I could talk to them. Every second, I am trying to be nice with them, become conscious on what I communicate, and gently/visibly/widely acknowledge them in every possible activity. What for? Because, I want them to be happy with my organisation and its works. And always, a donor is an individual – to impress whom, we put all our efforts. Having realised all these, what do you think? I strongly believe – “Fundraising is all about an individual”, and a donor in whatever form, ultimately is an individual!

    I don’t want to get fired and become unwanted;  each moment I have this strong desire to please  my boss;  Yes, the only boss that I have – “The DONOR”!

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  • Come and say hi to us in Yorkshire and Cardiff

    Hayley Lloyd

    July 14th, 2014

    I have always been passionate about the work Practical Action does, the people we help and our approach to ‘giving communities a hands up, not a hand out’ I am proud to work for an organisation that empowers people to help themselves out of poverty.

    As a fundraiser I want to tell as many people as I can about the amazing work we do and the brilliant solutions we have.

    This week we have fundraisers in Yorkshire and the Cardiff area doing just that – talking about ingenious solutions that are saving lives. These are solutions like floating gardens in Bangladesh, providing vital food to families whose lives are devastated by floods, who are left with no way of feeding their families when everything they own is destroyed.

    For people who live in areas covered by water during the monsoon season, such as the riverine areas of Bangladesh, it is impossible to grow crops. Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers to grow food on flooded land.

    We are also talking about solar powered water pumps in northern Kenya, bringing vital clean, safe water to communities who are desperately trying to survive. You can read more about why  Practical Action’s work is so important as northern Kenya is gripped with the worst drought in years.

    children splashing clean water in Kenya from a solar powered water pump

    So if you’re in Cardiff, Chesterfield, Halifax, Bridlington or Leeds this week and see one of our fundraisers please do say hi and ask them about our life saving work. They are a really friendly bunch and would like nothing better than to chat to you! :)

    face to face fundraisers

    Thank you to all the people that have stopped, chatted and donated to Practical Action so far. You are amazing people and your kind support will really make a difference to poor people’s lives across the world.

    I’d like to share a lovely message we received from a lady who kindly donated recently:

    I just got back from food shopping at the Co-op in Bromsgrove and just wanted to send you a message to say how lovely the two employees of yours are that I just met in there. Natalina and Sabrina signed me up to donate to your cause but I have to say and is the main reason for me sending you this is I wouldn’t have signed up to donate if it wasn’t for these great girls! They know how to have fun, great communication and very passionate about what they are doing for Practical Action- a great asset to your organisation. Thank you.”

    If you would like to help today and take Practical Action against hunger, disease and poverty you can make a donation.

    Thank you!

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  • Building a forest, building a future

    Liz Frost

    June 20th, 2014

    I’ve just sent the final report to the innocent foundation on Practical Action’s cloud forest project, ‘New Life to the Forests, New Life for the Amazonian People in Peru and Bolivia’. Really hope they like the report, but more importantly I’m sure they will be as proud as we are of the incredible impact that the partnership between Practical Action and the innocent foundation, together with fellow funders of the project, the Waterloo Foundation and Z Zurich Foundation, has achieved over the last three years for communities living the tropical forests of the Amazon.

    If you watched, ‘I bought a rainforest’ on the UK’s BBC tv over the last three weeks, by the film director, Gavin Searle, which follows the journey of Charlie Hamilton James when he bought 100 acres of Peruvian rainforest, you will have seen the kind of challenges he experienced if he was to preserve his purchase from being felled.   By living and working with the local people he begins to realise that the way to help protect the forest is not just to buy it, but to engage with the people living in it, and to work with them rather than against them. Just the way that Practical Action has been working with the indigenous Awajun and settler families in Bolivia and Peru – working with them to better manage the cloud forests sustainably so that they, and generations to come, can make a living without removing majestic trees such as the mahogany, without growing crops and then leaving the land degraded and without having to resort to livelihoods such as illegal logging and mining, which destroy not preserve one of the riches ecosystems in the world, home to amazing flora and fauna and to more than 3.5million native and migrant people.

    two girls holding  tree seedlings

    We set out to work directly with almost 1,500 people living and working in the forest, and to indirectly help a further 20,000 people, through sharing lessons and good practice. At the end of the three years, we have improved the livelihoods and lives of not only the families we worked directly with, but have improved the quality of life for at least a further 63,000 men, women and children. Equally importantly, the communities, with the Foundations’ and Practical Action’s support, have begun to rebuild the forest, and to build a better future for their children, by planting over 105,000 indigenous trees, trees that will bring shade to their crops and will capture over 630,000mt of CO2 . With skills and knowledge now in place, with the Government supporting the work being carried out, this not the end of the project, but the beginning of a new life for the forests, a new life for the Amazonian people in Peru and Bolivia.

    Practical Action is keen to talk to Trusts and Foundations who would like to support our work in energy, access to markets, disaster risk reduction and urban water and sanitation.  Visit our dedicated Trusts and Foundations site for more information:

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  • Thank you

    Thank you photo

    Practical Action would like to ‘Thank you’

    In today’s world most of us live life in fast forward, whether it’s rushing to get the kids to school or nursery, the daily commute to work battling the rush hour traffic or hoping today will be the day I get that seat on the train – but how many of us actually stop long enough to say THANK YOU!

    Today all of us at Practical Action would like to take the time to stop, and say a huge THANK YOU to all our supporters who make it possible for us to help poor communities change their lives for the better.

    Your generosity never ceases to amaze us. So to all of you who support us financially, give talks on our behalf, hold coffee mornings, include us in personal events by donating gifts in lieu of weddings, anniversaries, and birthday presents, take on amazing challenges like climbing Kilimanjaro, cycling around the world, half marathons, and those who still think of others by leaving a legacy or an in-memorial gift.

    From all at Practical Action we say a big THANK YOU! 

    PS: See some of the work you have helped to support and listen to a personal ‘Thank you’ from our Country Director, Veena Khalequein Bangladesh. 


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  • Safer cities – how Practical Action is bringing safe drinking water, free from Iron and Arsenic contamination, to slum communities in Bangladesh

    Satkhira is one of Bangladesh’s oldest municipalities, created in 1869. Bordering the world famous Sunderbans, home to Royal Bengal Tigers and a globally important mangrove ecosystem, it’s a town that tourists pass by, but plays a hugely important role for the people living in the region.

    Climate change is beginning to wreak havoc here. Erratic monsoon rainfall, and flooding (which never used to affect this part of Bangladesh) have combined to make subsistence farming incredibly difficult. In recent years more and more farming families have given up their traditional way of life to make a living and find security in Satkhira. This steady flow of climate migrants was beginning to put the town’s resources under pressure. When cyclone Aila smashed the region in 2009 the sudden influx of many thousands of refugees meant that the existing infrastructure failed. Satkhira is still trying to overcome this problem five years later, and every day, the steady influx of economic and climate migrants continues. With very little cash, and only able to find poorly paid jobs, many of these migrants end up living in the informal settlements dotted around the town.

    Access to drinking water is a real problem. The natural geology of the region means that shallow wells are contaminated with arsenic and iron. The contamination causes serious health issues including some cancers as well as kidney and liver failure. Coupled with this is the increasing salinity of groundwater caused by the tidal surges of cyclones, the reduction of river flow as water is diverted upstream for irrigation and the switch from traditional rice and jute farming to raising lucrative salt water shrimps. Farmers are allowing the seawater to inundate their land as shrimp farming generates more income than rice paddy can. We passed many of these shrimp farms on the road into Satkhira.

    Practical Action is working with the slum communities and the municipality of Satkhira to help find solutions to their joint problems. I was here to better understand the work that has been funded by our record breaking ‘Safer Cities’ appeal, match funded by the Department for International Development, that ran over Christmas 2013. In Satkhira the funding means communities like the one I visited today, called Missionpara, can have access to clean, safe water and sanitation too. Missionpara is a relatively small settlement of around 30 households, with about 180 people squeezed into tiny homes in what would be a long access road between two properties here in the UK.

    In Missionpara the community has been dependent on shallow tube wells that supply iron and arsenic contaminated water. With Practical Action’s help, the community now has a brand new sand filter that removes the contamination and pipes clean water to every house in the community (to find out how this simple technology works click here).

    The community has organised its own water supply committee and every family pays a small sum (about 50p a month) that contributes to a maintenance fund to ensure the filter, pump, pipes and taps will still be working years into the future. As we arrived to meet the water supply committee chair, a lovely lady called Aklima, the heavens opened. The monsoon is due to start on the 10th June (very precise!) I was told and these showers were the precursor.

    As we huddled together under the filter superstructure, I was shown a traditional test that proved the filter was indeed working. Two identical glasses of water were place on the pump housing and guava leaves crushed into them. In a matter of moments, the glass filled with water from the old tube well began to discolour as a black compound began to precipitate out of the water. The glass filled with water from the filtered, piped water system remained clear.

    add guava leaves...

    add guava leaves…

    ...wait a couple of minutes

    …wait a couple of minutes

    ....and the poisoned water is revealed as it discolours

    ….and the poisoned water is revealed as it discolours

    Missionpara is just one slum community that has been helped in this way by our safer cities appeal. I’ll be visiting other communities over the next few days and exploring how our work is changing lives, and you can follow the story here as I blog about my experiences.

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  • “Technology to deliver what it promises – that is, to make their lives better.”

    Jamie Oliver

    May 15th, 2014

    I was driving through the Warwickshire countryside on my way to work this morning, listening to Chris Evans Radio Show. I always try to time my drive to make sure I hear one of the news reports that run every half hour, it’s nice to start the day hearing what is going on around the world.

    Earlier this week they were reporting that people using mobile phones, tablets and laptops just before bed is having a terrible effect on our natural body clock, meaning that we have more restless nights. Yet, today one of the main news stories is the planned merger of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse and something that struck me was a quote from Sebastian James , Dixons CEO, about the £3.8bn deal.

    “Together we can create a seamless experience for our customers that will enable technology to deliver what it promises – that is, to make their lives better.” S.James

    What struck me was that Dixons and Carphone Warehouse are merging so that they can improve the lives of their customers, when actually a couple of days earlier we were hearing how these devices were having a huge negative effect on our lives and health.

    Memory and Pat

    Two weeks ago I saw a true example of technology delivering on what it promises, making lives better. I visited a Practical Action project in Mutare, Zimbabwe where we have worked with the local community to install a micro-hydro system. We visited the local clinic that is now powered by the micro-hydro system and got to see first hand the difference this technology is having. We arrived at the centre at about 5pm and spoke with the Sister, who was telling us what services the clinic could offer and how busy they were, seeing 600 people a month. How refrigeration of vaccines allows them to vaccinate more children, all year round and how they have light in the maternity ward. We were lucky enough to visit the maternity recovery ward and meet new mother Memory with her 6 hour old daughter, Precious. We heard how Memory was particularly keen to have her baby at the clinic as she knew that it had electric lighting, whereas in the past candles would have been used.

    Now for me, powering a clinic that serves 600 people every month seems like technology delivering on it’s promise – that is, to make our lives better.

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  • My afterthoughts on Living Below the Line

    Helena Molyneux

    May 15th, 2014

    Is it possible even in the UK to manage on less than £1 a day for food and drink?  Yes with research, planning and determination. 

    Helena1Is the diet very unpleasant?  No. But £5 shopping requires ingenuity with limited ingredients. After a couple of days, even when I tried to ring the changes, it started to feel a bit samey. And to my surprise, it took more time than usual to work out what to make.

    Three things became my life-savers: a bottle of lemon juice (29p), porridge for breakfast (5p a portion) and root ginger (9p and not all used by the end of the five days).

    Food for thought

    What I did get a lot of, however, was food for thought. Firstly a much greater appreciation of the level of skill involved in managing a shopping budget of £1 a day.  Having access to a plot of land to grow vegetables and fruit and having some chickens would make a huge difference in managing a budget and a diet.

    Vegetable growing techniques

    Soil Desalination for Vegetable CultivationEven in adverse conditions, there are techniques which make vegetable growing possible. Practical Answers is a wonderful source of know-how on useful techniques.

    People access this know-how via the web or via in-country enquiry and extension services.

    Take a look at an example brief.  This one describes how to desalinate soil for vegetable growing

    Secondly I was intrigued how living below the line gave rise to interesting conversations. People often started out telling me they wouldn’t be able to do it and then began to work out how they would. We would end up talking about how their shopping list differed from mine. In most cases people realised they could do it, though were glad they don’t have to.

    There is still time to sponsor me and help Practical Action transform the lives of more people.

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  • Sweat, determination and hard work

    A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work – Colin Powell

    Visiting some of the communities that Practical Action work with has inspired me to reflect on Live Below the Line, so here are my musings. A reflection of Live Below the Line and Practical Action’s work in Mutare, Zimbabwe.


    This week thousands of people across the UK have risen to the challenge and are taking on Live Below the Line, an anti-poverty campaign challenging participants to have a strict budget of just £5 for 5 days. I was apprehensive when I took on the challenge a few weeks ago, and it certainly lived up to the billing. It is a true challenge, but I didn’t find it difficult in the ways that I thought I would.

    I thought I would struggle eating plain, boring food for 5 days and I knew that a lack of caffeine would have an effect. But the thing I found most difficult was how much time it took to prepare food throughout the week. Each evening, we would prepare dinner and then breakfast and lunch for the following day, spending a couple of hours in the kitchen, creating a meal from basic ingredients. This was made more difficult as our energy levels were running low at that time of day. The food we made was actually pretty good and I ate 39p pizzas for most of the week. For me, being so used to a convenient lifestyle is what makes Live Below the Line so challenging.

    Yesterday, I had a fantastic day but learned that actually, during my Live Below the Line week, my life was still quite convenient.

    I was walking in the hills around Mutare, Zimbabwe as we visited a micro-hydro scheme that is being installed to bring power to a community.

    The beauty of the project is that it is community led and we saw the entire community getting involved, from a group women singing whilst they dug sand out of the river bed to a group of men who were building a business centre that will be powered by the micro-hydro system. This is hard work… really hard, but they are excited about how they are shaping their community and their future.

    Later that day, I realised that not only are these people working so hard to transform their community, but they also have a very different definition of hard work. They are doing manual labour to develop their community, but this is on top of the fact that they grow their own food and process their crop. Walking in the hills above the village (viewing the source of the micro-hydro system) we met someone walking the other way. I was breathing hard after the climb and the lady walking in the other direction was carrying a large bag of maize on an 8km walk across difficult terrain to the mill to have it processed into flour.

    When I did Live Below the Line, I found it hard work and lots of effort, yet the ingredients were bought from a supermarket less than a mile from my home, and if that was too much effort I could have had them delivered to my door.

    What really struck me about my day in Mutare, is that this is not a community of people who are waiting for a fairy godmother to make their dreams come true. This is a community that are excited to put in the sweat, determination and hard work hard needed to transform their community and shape their future, to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.

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