Planning to raise more in 2021

The festive period is a perfect time to launch a year-end appeal (in fact, unless you work to the academic calendar it's pretty much the only time), but it's also the perfect time to review your fundraising activities ready for the following year. I've always been a fan of trying to clear my to-do list for the start of the year so I'm going to keep my suggestions to my top three tip or ways you can set yourself up to raise more money over the next year.

Reach out to past donors

When you turn your computers on after seeing in the new year with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne and a few drinks look back at who donated in 2019 but not in 2020. There could be any number of reasons they didn't give in 2020, maybe they simply forgot or their personal situation didn't allow them to. Don't just look at everyone who's ever given you money. Look for your large donors and your regular donors, these are the ones that are most likely to answer your new year call.

Once you've got your list of past donors send them a personalised appeal or give them a phone call. Thank them from your previous support and let them know you miss them. This is your opportunity to tell them how much their support meant and what sort of work it allowed you to do. Then you make your ask; would you like to support our work again. If they say no, don't be upset. Use this as your opportunity to find out why they stopped donating to you. Listen to what they say and learn from it. If they say yes to donating to you again it's time to:

Talk about monthly regular giving

A great way to increase the amount you raise from each donor (and, in management terms, to get a bigger return on investment) is to have a monthly or recurring giving programme. Industry research suggests that the retention rate for recurring donors may be as high as 90% - much higher than any other type of donor. The only type of giving which may have a higher return rate in high-profile annual appeals like the Poppy Appeal and Children in Need.

If you don't get people to sign up for recurring giving when they start donating then your best bet is to wait until they've donated two or three times to you. At this point they've shown a commitment to your organisation and your mission. When you're identifying people who are likely to be good prospects for your recurring donor programme it's best to look at people who have given multiple times outside of your big appeal times. Taking our earlier example of the Poppy Appeal, the Royal British Legion's highest profile time is in October and November each year so their strongest prospects for recurring giving will be the people who give to them in April and May.

If you aren't doing it already, why not add an option to give regularly onto your donation forms on your website and anywhere else you have them.

The two Rs

The basic skills taught in schools are sometimes (although not anymore) referred to as the three Rs: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. When talking about fundraising you can drop it down to two Rs: Retention and Relationships.

It's easier and cheaper to keep your donors than it is to find new ones. That might seem like commonsense but ask any in-house fundraiser and they'll tell you that their donor retention rates are awful. Getting new donors and supporters costs money but no one has quite cracked the code when it comes to donor retention. The easiest way to boost your retention is (if you hadn't guessed) by building relationships.

Building relationships with your donors and supporters starts with saying thank you. For low-level donors a simple thank you email might be enough, but for your recurring donors you're going to need regular ways of keeping in touch like a newsletter or regular updates from your trustees or leadership. For you bigger donors you might want to take it a bit further with a thank you event.

Use your networks

What better way to see in the new year than by announcing a new ambassador or patron? If you've already got an ambassadors scheme then use the new year as a way to bring new life into it. Even without announcing new ambassadors you can ask your existing ambassadors to film new year videos or create content that you can share now or throughout the year. It's also a perfect time to remind your ambassadors how important they are to you by sending them a small thank you gift for their support during the previous year.

Remember, ambassadors don't have to be celebrities. Charities have great success with ambassador schemes built on people that are known in the area they work, like The Scouts' Scout Adventurers scheme. You could also try a business ambassador scheme, or how about youth ambassadors.

Remember, Marcus Associates are commited to building relationships between charities and their community. If you're looking for support starting an ambassadors scheme get in touch to see how we can help you.

Should I start looking for a celebrity ambassador?

Everywhere you look these days there's a celebrity endorsing something from George Clooney's partnership with Nespresso, to Mo Farah and Simone Biles's deal with Nike, and back to George Clooney endorsing Joe Biden in the 2020 US Presidential Election.

We are truly in the age of celebrity endorsements, and charities haven't wanted to be left behind. Action for Children count Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis as an ambassador, Mind have former Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell, and homeless charity Crisis lead their ambassador list with comedian Jo Brand.

But what does this mean for you, and is a celebrity ambassador right for you?

But do they work?

Have you ever bought anything because you've seen a celebrity use it or wear it? You might be tempted to say no, but most people have. It's not always the endorsement that makes you want to buy something but it might help justify the purchase to yourself.

Businesses pay thousands or even millions of pounds for celebrity endorsements. That George Clooney and Nespresso endorsement reportedly set the coffee company back $40 million (just over £31 million). If they didn't see a sizable uptake in their sales after that they wouldn't keep doing it, so there must be something in it.

What do celebrity ambassadors do?

Celebrities have been promoting charitable causes for as long as there has been celebrities. These endorsements, if used correctly, can help you raise awareness and money. Do They Know It's Christmas raised £8 million in its first 12 months and in 2019 it announced it has raised in excess of £200 million since 1984. As well as the large amount of money raised it's also raised awareness of the Ethiopian famine, ebola, and other humitarian issues.

On a smaller level, ambassadors can still raise awareness of your work on the local or national stage. You might want to enlist an MP to speak up for you in parliament, or a local up-and-coming musician to emthuse their fan base about your mission.

Whoever you choose to approach as your potential ambassador it's important that you work out what it is you're looking for them to do. Your ambassadors will probably be happy to attend a few events and share your content on social media, but remember that their time is valuable and you might not be the only charity they're working with.

But do they really work?

Think about the BBC's Big Night In event earlier this year which raised £27 million for Children in Need and Comic Relief. Did you watch it? 8.5 million people did. Do you think it would have had the same effect if it had been directed by someone no one had heard of as it did with Lenny Henry, Paddy McGuinness, and Matt Baker taking the stage?

Without a doubt celebrity ambassadors can have a massive impact on how you communicate your work and how you fundraise.

Choose wisely

Charities and their ambassadors can come under fire in people don't believe the celebrity really supports the charity. The best way to avoid this is to find celebrity ambassadors who have a track record of speaking out about your mission or have a demonstratable personal connection to your cause. Actor Jim Broadbent is an ambassador for Dementia UK and spoke in a 2018 BBC Lifeline Appeal about his mum's experience of dementia. In a different area of the charity world, chef Raymond Blanc is one of many chefs who are ambassadors for Action Against Hunger. Both of those make sense but if you swap them round, not so much.

Sometimes things don't work out

One of the risks you take when appointing an ambassador is that you're tying your reputation to theirs. Cyclist Lance Armstrong was forced to step down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation in 2012 amid his doping scandal. Even though they had been using the Livestrong brand for almost a decade by this point, it was only in 2012 that the charity formally changed its name from The Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Some celebrities may been seen as lower risk than others, but even long-time family favourites can come under fire at times. Byker Grove star and Britain's Got Talent host Ant McPartlin was forced to take time off from the ITV show in 2018 after pleading guilty to drink driving.

Many charities decide that the risk is a small one and in reality it is, but you and your trustees need to be fully aware of what could happen if your ambassador gets bad press. Once you start looking for an ambassador and thinking about what role you want them to fill you probably want to line up a PR plan just in case something does go wrong.

Should we do it?

Weighing everything up, yes, you probably should think about building up some celebrity support. As long as you have the right intention and choose the right celebrities you could be onto a real winner. If you're in any doubt, contact our team to find out how we can help you develop your ambassadors' scheme.

Remembering 9/11: The People's Stories

19 years ago the world was shook by the devastiting events in New York as two planes flew into the Twin Towers. In 2019 we worked with The Phoenix Players, Portsmouth, and the company of their Summertime Music Hall: A Journey Through the Ages to tell the story of how people in the UK reacted to the devastating news of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

19 years on we remember all those who lost their lives and all those who risked theirs to keep others safe. We will never forget.

Keep it brief: How to tell your web designer what you want

The digital world is evolving every day and that means so are the things your visitors are expecting. At some point most charities are going to have to upgrade your website. At Marcus Associates we've been through this process from every angle; we've built websites and we've guided charities through the process of choosing a new web design partner.

When you've chosen who you're going to get to build your new website (or maybe before if you're going through a formal bidding process) you're going to need to put a brief together for your designer and developer. You need to make sure they understand the goals of your website and, more importantly, the goal of your organisation. Your website is one of your most valuable tools to communicate with your beneficiaries, your supporters, and your community.

But what should you include in your web design brief? He's a quick rundown of the most important bits.

Who are you?

One of the first parts of your brief (after only your contents page if it's a long onee) should be a little bit about who you are and what you do. Normally this would be your mission statement, but that probably won't be enough for you here. Let's take The Scouts as an example:

Scouting actively engages and supports young people in their personal development, empowering them to make a positive contribution to society.

- Skills for Life: Our Plan to Prepare Better Futures (The Scouts, 2018)

That's great for supporters but it doesn't give a web designer the information they need to build your perfect website. Try answering these questions in your about us section:

Who are you?
What do you do?
Where do you work?
What is your purpose? Why do you do what you do?
Who does the work of your organisation?

Try to avoid using marketing language here. You're not trying to sell yourself, you're trying to give a contractor (or potential contractor) a very quick introduction to who you are. Let's look at The Scouts again and see what they might choose to write:

The Scouts offers weekly activities to over 400,000 young people aged 6 - 25 every week in every community in the UK, run by 100,000 dedicated volunteers. They are supported by a team of professional staff employed at a headquarters and by our local charities around the country. We are part of a worldwide movement of similar organisations, present in nearly every country, all with the aim of supporting young people in their personal development, empowering them to make a positive contribution to society.

If you reread the mission statement and then the paragraph we've written you can tell our version is much less aimed at supporters but gives a much more thorough introduction to the charity and what it does.

As well as giving your potential designer an opportunity to familiarise themselves with your work it also gives them the chance to decide if they are a good fit for your organisation. Remember, they're going to be a key partner in your website project so you want them to be comfortable with what you do.

What do you need?

This might seem like an easy question: we need a new website. But in reality it's much more complex than that. Is this a simple cosmetic touch up, or a complete overhaul of your website? Do you need a small microsite made for a particular project or audience, or do you need a whole new look for your organisation? Are you looking for something simple, or are you looking to accept donations and sell merchandise on your website as well?

If you've got a website already it's a good idea to make a note of anything your particularly like and anything you're unhappy with.

What can you spend?

Finance can be an uncomfortable discussion for anyone to have. In a charity or non-profit, agreeing a budget is often a deligate negotiation with your treasurer or finance department. They might even warn you against putting your budget in a proposal because it might make them charge that much just because you've got the budget. While this may happen, if you're looking at working with an established designer or developer this is unlikely to happen. What's more likely is they'll offer suggestions (if they can) about how they can work to reduce their cost by offering less or different things to come in on or under budget.

Including your budget will ensure you don't get proposals from people or agencies that are out of your price range. If a designer or developer can deliver what you want but only by charging twice your budget, it's probably a waste of your and their time to seriously consider working together.

What's your timeline?

Timelines are one of the biggest unknowns in most web projects. To begin with simply stating when you expect the site to launch may be enough, but be prepared to get more detailed with your timelines as things progress. How much time will the person or people from your organisation be able to dedicate to the project? Will this be their main focus, or will they be responsible for other areas of your work as well?

When you start building your timeline, which your designer or developer are going to need to have an input in, you will need to include various sign off points; concept, design, actual pages, content. These sign offs are your chance to tell your designer what you like and what you want to change.

Who's the website for?

This is another question that might seem easy, but it's likely that your website is going to have more than one audience. Your main website is going to need to be usable for your beneficiaries, your supporters, decision makers, journalists, funders, and the general public.

Who you decide is most the most important group or groups to target will influence everything about your new website. What will these people use your site for and what will they want to do there? This will help shape everything from the design of your website to the content you put on it.

It will also help you decide what pages you need. You probably don't need to target your whole website to journalists but you might want to include a media page with some quick information and the right contact details for the media.

What does success look like?

How are you going to measure the success of your new website once it’s launched? More donations or volunteers? More website visitors? More awareness of what you do? A good designer will want to ensure that these goals are met and the project is deemed a success, so make sure you know what they are.

What do you need?


Are you going to bringing the content over from your existing website or do you need to create brand new content. Content production is often one of the most time consuming parts of a web project so make sure your designer and developer knows if you're expecting them to help you with this.

Content Managers

Who's going to be responsible for updating your website and how proficient are they? The more tech-savvy the people managing your content are, the more flexibility your designer can give you. Most designers and developers will happily train your content managers to use the system your website is built on and give you links to online tutorials - they may even offer an ongoing package where they'll make the updates for you, although the cost of this can quickly add up.

Feature Requirements

Does your website require any special features? Membership functionality and ecommerce might be great but they can also add to the cost of your website development. The best rule for feature requirements is not to say you need something unless you understand what it does and you know that you need it. Remember the reason you're working with a professional is because they know what they're doing so take their advice on what you do and don't need.

That being said, if there's something you want but you aren't sure if it's possible just ask. The beauty of the web is that it's flexible and constantly evolving. There are solutions for pretty much anything you could possibly imagine doing online and your designer or developer are the best people to advise you how to make it happen.

TikTok-ing your way to success

It's no secret that TikTok is the new kid on the social media block and, despite the controversy in America, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. Even Instagram's offering Reels hasn't managed to convince people to move over. With over 800 million active users in 155 countries you can guarantee that there's a whole group of people on the app who care about your organisation and the work you do.

Before we jump into how you can get more followers on your TikTok account let's take a look at some of the numbers surrounding the video-based social media:

Those numbers should give you an idea about why you should sign up for TikTok, and with 90% of users logging in every day you definitely don't want to miss out on the opportunities TikTok brings to share your mission.

Once you've downloaded the app and signed up, here's our nine steps to getting more followers on TikTok.

Pick your niche - and stick to it

This one should be easy; you're niche is probably going to be sharing your work. For example the official International Red Cross account (@IFRC), which they call We are humanitarians, posts health tips and public health advice. They use TikTok trends (more on that later) to share their message. During the Coronavirus pandemic they shared videos of volunteers from around the world wearing masks with captions about how mask use slows the spread of the virus.

Look after your profile

The chances are when you set up your Facebook page and your Twitter account you spent some time making sure that you were making best use of your bio and other elements of your profile. It goes without saying you should do the same on TikTok (and any other social media platform you use). Make sure your username is short and memorable, hopefully matching your organisation's name.

Hit the follow button

The whole deal with social media is to be social. Take some time to find the best accounts to follow. These might be other non-profits working in a similar area to you. When organisations start on Twitter they normally start by following their partners, decision makers, and the media. This is a great way of making sure those people know you've joined a new platform so why not do the same thing on TikTok. Once you done that let the algorithm do its thing and find other accounts you might like - the TikTok algorithm is very powerful - even compared to the most established platforms.

The hope, of course, is that some of this people will follow you back and help you on your journey to get followers. I've seen estimates that around 30% of people you follow will follow you bacl. I don't know how accurate that is but if Twitter is anything to go by it certainly sounds plausible.

Consistency is key

We've all be told that consistency is key and this is doubly true on TikTok. The algorithm is believed to reward accounts which post similar content and regular times of the day or week. This means you don't want to jump between video styles and you want to stick to a certain time. Websites like TikTok Scheduler aim to make this easier by allowing you to pre-plan your content.

Stay on trend

TikTok is known for its viral trends and challenges. These are a great way to join in with things your audience are already enjoying - and maybe even taking part in. In 2019 the top global trend was the #RaindropChallenge with over 995 million views. It now has over 1.1 billion views. Other trends challenges involve singing or special TikTok dances, including the Taylor Swith Love Story trend that has over 8.1 million videos. Make sure the trends that you take part in work with your content and are suitable for your audience.

Forget about the perfect shot

You don't need professional lighting or to be the best dancer to be a success on TikTok. Instead focus on creating engaging content that your audience will enjoy. TikTok is a mobile-first experience and the imperfections that brings with it are part of its charm.

Shout about it

Share your TikTok content to your other social platforms so people who already follow and like you know you've started to TikTok. If you have a newsletter that you send to supporters tell them there as well. The more people who know you're on TikTok, the more people can follow you.

Pick your music carefully

The benefit of TikTok is that it comes ready with thousands of pieces of music which are licensed to be used in your videos. TikTok makes it clear which bits of music are trending across the app and makes it easy to include them in your video - just tap the button. Using music that's successful on the app already will pull in new followers who like that music.

Be original

The trends and challenges are a great way to start, but in order to build a real connection with you audience you're going to need to put your organisation front and centre with some original content. Many TikTok creators release regular 'story times' of things that have happened to them which gives their audience a great insight into their lives.

Back to School in 15 Great Songs

Summer's over and it's time to head back to school, so the Confetti Cannon team thought we'd give you a little back to school present. He's the musical theatre songs that we've been listening too as we've been thinking back to our school days.

Cameron Mackintosh Job Losses

Here at Confetti Cannon we're committed to doing everything we can to support amateur theatre companies across the UK. But the success of amatuer companies is built on the innovation and drive of professional actors, directors, and creatives. That's why we've been following the impact of Coronavirus on professional theatre.

The latest casualty seems to be Cameron Mackintosh who has been forced to make over 850 members of staff redundant.

Cameron Mackintosh Ltd., the company behind shows like Les Misérables and Hamilton, is believed to be making 185 staff redundant while Delfont Mackintosh, which counts the Prince of Wales Theatre (home of Book of Mormon) and the Sondheim Theatre (home of Les Misérables) in its portfolio of eight London theatres, is losing around 669 members of staff.

Cameron Mackintosh and his companies haven't officially given out any numbers, but the Bectu trade union which represents people working in the arts says those 850 contribute to 5,000 job losses across the wider theatre industry caused by Coronavirus.

Other companies making sweeping redundancies include the National Theatre (400 jobs), the Southbank Centre (400 jobs), and regional and West End theate operator Ambassador Theatre Group (1,200 jobs). ATG is one of the biggest employers in British theatre.

These redundancies highlight a problem that everyone in amateur theatre knows; Coronavirus has his the bank accounts of organisations large and small. We don't know how long the current situation is going to last but we're going to be trying to work out how to socially distance on stage and how to make shows financially viable for some time to come.

The Confetti Cannon team are committed to supporting you and your company through Coronavirus. If there's anything we can do to support you head over to our contact page and let us know.

Getting Back on Stage Safely

As Covid-19 restrictions start to ease and we look forward to welcoming audiences back to enjoy our work we need to make sure that we're being responsible and keeping our patrons, cast, and crew safe. As people who enjoy theatre we're used to adapting the way we work - but what will some of those adaptations be?

Social Distancing

Social distancing has been one of the key ways that we've been trying to slow the spread of Coronavirus. It's an important part of the NHS and Public Health England's advice that has brought us to the point where we can reopen shops, restaurants, and - of course - theatres.

TicketSource, which is one of the country's leading box office solutions, has introduced 'dynamic social distancing' which automatically blocks out the seats surrounding every booking. This is a great way of making sure your audience keeps a safe distance from each other.

Tickets on the Door?

Selling tickets in advance of your performances means people don't need to queue to buy or collect their tickets. There's a number of solutions you can use for this and many theatres and groups already have a system that they've used before.

Test and Trace

Test and Trace (or Track and Trace) is one of those phrases, like 'the new normal' which has become part of our everyday language. Make sure you have the contact details of everyone who comes to see your show (and everyone who's involved in the production) so that if someone tests positive for Coronavirus you can pass everyone's contact details onto the NHS Test and Trace service.

If your worried about GDPR, don't be. You're allowed to collect this data for Test and Trace purposes, and pass them onto the NHS if you need to. Make sure people know how long you'll keep the information and make sure you delete or destroy it when you no longer need it.

Tell People What's Changed

Changes caused by Coronavirus are part of the life now. There's no need to hide these changes from your audence. Let them know they can expect a smaller audience, or maybe less people helping out front of house. Whatever changes you've had to make to allow yourself to reopen, bring your audience on that journey with you.

Zooming In

You may have carried on rehearsing or holding social activities through Coronavirus using Zoom (or Skype, or one of the many other video call systems available). If you have why not make the most of your new found comfort with technology and do a Zoom show. Some companies have already done these, either through rehearsed readings or using scripts written specially for Zoom performance.

The Difficult Decision

As much as we're all looking forward to getting back onstage, sometimes we need to make difficult decisions to keep our audience, cast, and crew safe. This might mean postponing your show (again). Many rights holders and licensing companies, including Confetti Cannon, will let you change the dates on your licence free of charge and may even let you postpone indefinitely.

Nobody want's to be the last theatre company to come back to rehearsals and performance but only you know your local situation and how ready your members are to come back. There may be financial considerations, or a fear of competing with everyone for your first show back, but safety always has to come first - and your audience will understand that.

40 Days of Darkness

It is a little over 40 days since the curtain came down on West End stages, and they were not alone. In the days after (and, in some cases, the days before) tours were postponed, local theatres closed, and our own amateur stages were sentenced to an quiet few months.

But even though we can't jump on stage and entertain our audiences, that doesn't mean we have to stop doing what we love.

The Confetti Cannon Team have put together some of their top tips for theatre lovers during the current pandemic.

The Shows Must Go On

Andrew Lloyd Webber is making one of his blockbuster musicals available every Friday over on the The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel, so why press play and sing along with some of the nation's favourite shows.

Not to let musicals take the spotlight alone, the National Theatre has launched National Theatre at Home. Drawing on their National Theatre Live catalogue, the National are releasing one of their shows every Thursday. And the classics are there as well with The Globe releasing their recordings of the work of the Bard.

A number of other theatres have made some of their archives available online, so go crazy. Get your theatre fix in and enjoy those shows you might have missed live.

Get Planning

One day, when this is passed us, we're going to be rehearsing again. Once we've caught up with what we've missed in each other's lives we're going to be getting ready for our next show.

This is the ideal time to read through scripts and start thinking about which ones would work for your company. Start thinking about how you'd direct it, who you'd like to play, what costumes you could wear.

Maybe have a Zoom call with your theatre friends and read through a script or two together. Use the next few months to master the art of the play reading and enjoy creating something - even if there isn't a stage to perform it on (yet).

Don't Forget What You Love

For many of us, theatre is all about community. We might not be able to physically go and meet people, but that doesn't mean socialising has to stop. Every amateur theatre company's strength is in the people that make it and we don't have to let anything stop people coming together.

How about a quiz night (by email or Zoom), either just for your company or against other companies in your area - don't forget the theatre round!

Reset Your Playlist

This is the perfect time to find a new cast recording to listen to. Our team have been replaying A Chorus Line and Come From Away non-stop (with a few others thrown in for good measure). If you normally listen to classic musicals, try something like Hamilton or Be More Chill, or Sound of Music and Joseph if your normally reach for something more modern. And once you've worked your way through the current West End and Broadway line up look for something less well known like Title of Show.

Appreciate Art

Many of us will have a routine of regular trips to the theatre normally, and there's no reason why we shouldn't still make a habit of enjoying the arts. Netflix and Prime Video offer on demand access to great entertainment, as do the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

The new player on the block, Disney+, even has a whole section dedicated to musicals including Into the Woods, the Broadway recording of Newsies, and a range of Disney Channel movies like High School Musical and Camp Rock. There's even Encore! where adults restage their high school performances.

Keep Positive

The longer that Coronavirus has hold, the easier it is to lose sight of the face that we will be back in the rehearsal room one day. We will be back with our friends, back acting, back watching. Until then, we must do anything we can to stay positive.

If you have the resources to do so, consider doing what you can to help others. Many communities have groups coordinating support for the elderly and vulnerable. NHS Charities Together are supporting those who are keeping the nation safe, and Acting for Others are providing much needed support to the theatrical community.

NODA Poster Awards 2019

We were delighted to hear the our poster for The Phoenix Player's Summertime Music Hall: A Journey Through the Ages has won the NODA South East Region Poster Competition for 2019.

Congratulations to The Phoenix Players for a great show and their award winning poster.

If you're looking for a poster for your next show, check out our poster design page and get in touch.