How to highlight innovation in an award entry

08/01/2024 | by Meredith Niles, Chair, SOFII

The National Fundraising Awards are back for 2024 and there’s still time to submit your fundraising work into one of the 12 categories. The Awards will be judged by a group of fundraising experts, each with their own specialist area of interest. Meredith Niles, Chair of the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (SOFII), is an expert on innovation in fundraising. Here, Meredith shares why it’s important for fundraisers to embrace innovation, and what she’ll be looking for when judging the entries to the Awards… 

I was motivated to join the board of SOFII because of my passion for promoting good practice in the fundraising sector. When I first moved into fundraising, I learned so much from the generous fundraisers who had shared their knowledge on SOFII. Why reinvent the wheel when there are so many colleagues willing to share their blueprints? I truly believe that charities are not really in competition with each other, and that in fact, we all win when fundraising standards are raised. Sharing learnings benefits us all.  

This is especially true when it comes to fundraising innovation. In an environment where the number of donors is shrinking, we all need to innovate to grow. But doing something new doesn’t have to mean doing something totally untested, as long as we have great models from others to follow. 

Which is why I’m excited to be part of this year’s National Fundraising Awards judging panel, where we’ll have an opportunity to highlight examples of great fundraising so that other practitioners can learn from the best. 

As I read through the entries for this year’s awards, I’ll be looking for evidence of the thinking behind the campaign. I’ll be asking questions such as: 

  • What were the goals the charity was trying to achieve and how did the campaign set out to meet these?  
  • What evidence did the team consider before adopting the approach taken by the campaign? 
  • How did the team define success and how was this measured?  
  • What learnings did the team take away from the campaign and how might these be applied in the future?  
  • How much did the campaign cost and how much did it raise?  
  • How many supporters were recruited and what was the retention rate?  
  • How did the campaign seek to create a positive supporter experience and how was this measured?  
  • What would you do differently in the future to build on what you’ve learned?  
  • What could other organisations learn from the campaign?  

I’m much more interested in reading about a campaign that includes an honest description of the results, even if the campaign has only been partially successful, rather than a pure ’highlights reel’ that only reports on the positive results and leaves out the areas that were more challenging.  

An entry that details how you’ve learned from the campaign, including the parts that didn’t necessarily go to plan, is far more useful to peers than one that paints a distorted picture by glossing over the hard parts. I think we do the sector a disservice if we celebrate campaigns that look great to an outsider but didn’t actually meet their objectives, so as a judge, I’ll give greater weight to entries that include full results and as much evidence as possible. 

I’m really looking forward to reading this year’s entries, and I wish everyone who takes the time to apply the best of luck. And don’t forget that the SOFII website is a great source of fundraising inspiration and information, and we'd love to hear about your campaigns as well.  

The deadline to enter the National Fundraising Awards is 5pm on Friday 26 January, so don’t delay! The shortlist will be announced in March and the winners will be revealed in July at a fabulous Awards ceremony in London. We hope to see you there.