By Natasha Ratter, Environmental Funders Network, 17th October 2023
As our planet grapples with the escalating challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, the role of a fundraiser is a vital one. It is the bridge connecting the passion and purpose of environmental organisations with the resources needed to make change happen. At the Environmental Funders Network (EFN), we are fortunate to collaborate with a dynamic network of fundraisers from around 500 environmental organisations through our facilitation of the ‘Green Fundraisers Forum’. This network is a great source of inspiration and knowledge, and we have gained valuable insights into what it takes to be effective in securing funds. Here, we delve into the five essential steps to becoming a good environmental fundraiser.
Find your voice
One of the initial hurdles faced by newcomers to the environment sector is the overwhelming scale and complexity of the issues at hand. Effective communication is vital for environmental organisations to convey their mission to both the public and prospective funders. Finding your voice in this context is essential but daunting. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources from within and beyond the sector that can guide you in this.
The Inter-Narratives community, for instance, provides a platform for individuals interested in the role of narrative and communications in driving system change. It’s a place for exchanging insights and can be a helpful space for fundraisers looking to tell compelling stories that inspire action.
Understand how your work connects to the bigger picture
A healthy environment sector, much like a healthy ecosystem, thrives on diversity, connectivity, and efficient flow of resources. However, fundraisers in the environmental sector often operate in silos, disconnected from the broader environmental ecosystem.
EFN’s research reports, such as “Where the Green Grants Went” and “What the Green Groups Said“, provide what we hope are valuable insights into the wider environmental funding landscape and trends in the environmental sector, aiding fundraisers in better understanding the bigger picture.
To be effective in environmental fundraising, it is also crucial to recognize the interconnectedness of environmental issues with broader societal challenges. Environmental work that fails to centre justice is increasingly seen as ineffective or even harmful, and efforts to communicate your organisation’s story should emphasise the ways in which the work is inherently linked to people. Demonstrating an intersectional, justice-centred approach to your work will enable you to connect with funders concerned with a range of different issues, widening your possible base of support.
Put relationships first
Fundraising is fundamentally about relationships, not just with donors but also with service users, colleagues, and trustees. Not only are collaborative efforts within a team essential for crafting compelling applications, conducting meetings, and successfully executing projects, but the health of these relationships serves as an indicator of organisational well-being, a factor that significantly influences funding decisions.
In the competitive environment of fundraising, where complex projects are sometimes reduced to mere numerical outputs, maintaining the human and relationship-based aspect of your work can be challenging. However, building and maintaining meaningful relationships, both within and outside your organisation, is fundamental to successful fundraising efforts and most importantly, the work at hand.
Another often-overlooked relationship is the one with nature itself. Many environmental fundraisers are drawn to this field because of a love of nature and time spent outdoors. It’s ironic that many of us then end up spending most of our time indoors, working at a computer. Nurturing a personal relationship with nature can rekindle the passion and energy needed to drive environmental change.
Prioritise your wellbeing
High turnover rates and burnout are common challenges in the environmental sector. The scale of the environmental crisis, combined with heavy workloads, often leads to eco-anxiety and stress which takes its toll on wellbeing. The urgency of environmental issues is undeniable, but taking time to care for your emotional and physical health is equally important for sustaining your efforts in the long run. We need to be at our best if we are to stand any chance of meeting the challenges of this decisive decade. Setting boundaries, spending time in nature, nurturing essential relationships, and seeking help when needed are all part of a fundraiser’s essential toolkit. Prioritising your wellbeing isn’t a selfish act but a necessary one to ensure your continued effectiveness. Climate activist and founder of Climate.Emergence, Jo Musker-Sherwood, has a fantastic set of resources aimed at supporting environmentalists with emotional and ecological wellbeing strategies which you might find helpful.
Find your community
As an environmental fundraiser it can be reassuring to know that you are not alone. The Green Fundraisers Forum, facilitated by EFN, is a supportive and inclusive community for anyone involved in fundraising for environmental causes, whether it’s a full-time role or a smaller part of your responsibilities. Membership is free, and it offers various resources and opportunities for networking including a monthly newsletter, virtual meetings, an annual Away Day, and a Slack channel. It provides a space to ask questions, find shared experiences, discover funding opportunities, access training, and valuable resources.
In conclusion, being a good environmental fundraiser goes beyond simply securing funds. By finding your voice, understanding your role in the bigger picture, prioritising relationships and wellbeing, and joining a supportive community, you can make a meaningful impact in the fight for a sustainable and just future. The Environmental Funders Network and the Green Fundraisers Forum are here to support and empower you in your work, so please don’t hesitate to be in touch if we can do anything to help you.
This blog is re-published from Countryside Jobs Service
Natasha Ratter is Environment Sector Programme Lead at the Environmental Funders Network.