news & articles

Fundraising Mentoring with Shaun Horan

Apr 30, 2019

develop (n) - grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.

As a Director of Development, the pressures on you can be intense.

Fundraising for your institution is as demanding as it is rewarding, and to succeed you must focus on your own development alongside your institution’s.

Working with a mentor with years of similar experience will pay dividends.

Shaun’s success as a mentor lies in his exceptional ability to find clarity in the most complex situations. He has over 20 years of senior-level international fundraising and has worked on complex projects spanning fundraising, strategy, equality and diversity, alumni relations and communications.

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Shaun Horan, Joint CEO, Halpin

Shaun is an expert in creating and leading major campaigns, having designed the first of its kind at Reading, and having advised on countless others for clients including schools, universities and major charities.

Contact us to book an exploratory call with Shaun, and download the flyer for more info.


What people say about Shaun and his mentoring...

"Shaun’s professional knowledge and experience in fundraising is supreme, yet his steady, relaxed and disciplined demeanour invites meaningful dialogue no matter how testing the topic. A thoughtful and respectful listener, he offers empathy and understanding - essential qualities of excellent mentors. He is crisp in his analysis of challenges and articulate in sharing recommendations. I have gained significant confidence from his support.” William A Roth, Executive Director, Principal Gifts, University of Toronto

"Shaun has a wonderful blend of wisdom, patience and empathy which creates a very safe and supportive environment in which to explore challenges. Over the years he’s expertly facilitated me reaching my own solutions, and intervened to provide practical counsel when I actually just need to hear how to do it from someone who’s done it. Time with Shaun is an investment in yourself and your organisation that’s well-worth making.” Nathalie Walker, CEO, Dublin City University Educational Trust

How to tackle inequality in your institution

Apr 24, 2019

How do you tackle inequality in your institution? If we are starting right at the beginning of this journey (which many of us are – even though we do not want to admit it!) then the simple answer is to own it. Everything else will follow.

But how do you own it? Who does the responsibility sit with? Where do we start?

Well, let’s start with being honest.

Take a look around you - your team, your institution’s leadership. Do you see evidence of inequality?

If we do not actively look for the inequalities in our institutions, how can we expect to overcome them? How can we remove the barriers which impede certain people from seizing the same opportunities as others?

We know inequalities exist and in many different forms – social, gender or race-based to name a few. We know that tackling inequality is the right thing to do, but let’s recap on the top three reasons why institutions do it.

  • It has a positive impact on your institution’s performance (up to 35%!).
  • It has a positive impact on your talent management.
  • If you do not address inequality, you run a high risk of significant negative impact on your institution’s reputation.

There are some examples recently of institutions taking reputational damage because they have been slow to act, not acted enough or sometimes not acted at all. Yes… some institutions think they can still brush things under the carpet, even in the age of social media.

Let’s talk about inequality more. Even if it’s uncomfortable and it doesn’t quite come out right (Liam Neeson). Harvard have a nice, open way of doing this.

How can we talk about equality in a safe way?

Here are my top three tips:

  • A great first move is to provide a space for people to get comfortable with talking about equality. I say this because we need to talk to each other first before we can tell the outside world what our position on this is. Our own narrative needs to be honest and driven by all of us.
  • Invite staff and student to create and join networks to talk about EDI – provide incentives (there are many).
  • A real game changer is to engage alumni, senior management and governors to participate in a significant way.

Equality is everybody’s responsibility. Communicate this well and often and by everyone.

There are some great examples of owning the narrative, creating space for dialogue and clearly stating your institution’s position.

Exeter, Glasgow and Birmingham’s campaigns have all impressed me, but my favourite has to be Manchester’s ‘We get it’ campaign. Simple, clear and inclusive!

Some brave institutions are openly collaborating and collectively improving the way they tackle inequality together.

Now is really the time to get moving with tackling inequality. The government has recently called on universities to do more to tackle ethnic disparity. The very best examples of EDI in higher education are always found within the institutions that value and prioritise not just the collection of relevant data consistently, but also the subsequent analysis and implementation of improvements.

So how do you start to tackle inequality? Own it, make space to talk about it and collect the data.

For those further on in the journey - how do you continue to tackle inequality?

We still need great data practices, but then we need to use it to underpin our institutional stories of inequality. These stories will move and mobilise our leadership and that’s when the really exciting changes can happen.

Fezzan Ahmed is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin, the home of experts in higher education, conducting in-depth and insightful race and equality reviews for institutions just like yours.

To Sackler or not to Sackler… that is the question

Apr 15, 2019

Was it right for various museums and galleries to cease taking funding from the Sackler trust due to the Sackler family’s ownership of Purdue Pharma, a company selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin? Was the Sackler Trust right to respond by ceasing its giving? How and where do we draw lines with regards to the sources of money that we accept through philanthropy? How do we protect the reputation of our institutions, whilst also generating the maximum philanthropic income to deliver our mission?

These questions are hard. They always have been.

I once experienced a discussion which went along the lines of, “We are happy to accept the gift from X, but we do not want the building named after X.” To which I responded by asking whether it could ever really be okay to accept a gift from someone who, for whatever reason, you would not want a public association with? Just because the name isn’t on the building doesn’t mean that it won’t be reported and damage the reputation of the institution.

The reality is that fundraising, like all activities, involves risk. Reputational, legal, financial and ethical risk. Navigating what is acceptable risk and what is not is complex and challenging. Sometimes we seem to find ourselves taking potentially contradictory positions as we explore the risks – for example I have often wondered why trustees feel it is okay to accept money from drinks companies but not tobacco companies. Or why the arms industry is on the no-no list and mining companies aren’t. At one end of the spectrum we have the view that all money is ultimately dirty in some way and it is impossible to draw lines; “The good with which the money does washes it clean”. At the other end we have the view that by accepting money that has been made in ways which cause environmental or social harm we collude with those who cause the harm and ‘let them get away with it’, and we are therefore responsible for ‘laundering their reputations’.

We must find an effective, professional and rational way to manage the risks associated with fundraising and put in place a robust, consistent, transparent approach to their governance.

The first step is to understand what our values are and what our appetite for risk is. This should be discussed at the governing body/board of trustees. This group should agree guiding principles.

Charity trustees must balance their duty to maximise income to the organisation with their duty of care to the institution and its beneficiaries.

Personal views must be put aside. Just because one might personally disagree with smoking but is happy with drinking alcohol, it does not automatically mean that the institution you are a governor of should not take tobacco company money but can take drink company money.

We must be clear as to how far we go in the supply chain as we consider the source of the money. In the past, trustees often felt that as long as the funds came from a charitable trust then the source of the money into that trust was less important. The case of the Sackler Trust challenges this view.

These discussions can excite passionate views. Sometimes it can appear to be so hard to reach an agreed position that it’s tempting to take the view that the matter should be discussed on a case-by-case basis. However, this is a recipe for disaster for fundraising governance.

To be empowered to go out and help an institution to secure extraordinary gifts, leaders and their fundraisers must be protected by a strong policy and robust processes which, in effect, formalise the institution’s appetite for risk. They should not be put in a position where a gift has been asked for and must then be turned down.

It should always be remembered that there is as much potential reputational risk in turning down a gift as there is in accepting it. Indeed, many headlines occur when this has happened. This can damage more than one donor relationship. Were the story to go public other donors might lose confidence and trust in the organisation.

The key to avoiding this is to have checked at the outset of the process of cultivation whether there were sensitivities around X, and then have the solicitation approved.

Okay you say, it’s not that simple. Maybe X’s reputation will change over time. Indeed it may, but that gives us even more reason to have a policy in place to deal with that, should it happen. Check out X before talking about giving, accept the gift, celebrate it with pride and have a process whereby you could take down the name should X ever fail to fulfil your policy requirements.

For a fascinating insight into how a gift can ‘go wrong’, read Lord Woolf’s report on the Gaddaffi gift to LSE.

We would encourage you to do the following:

  1. Be clear on your institution’s core values and appetite for risk and bring these together in a ‘gift acceptance’ policy. Engage your organisation with this – risk can be amplified if your governing body thinks one thing and your stakeholders another.
  2. Review regularly and particularly when leadership changes.
  3. Gather the due diligence information on very big potential gifts before the donor is approached, and certainly before they are asked.
  4. Put in place an ethics committee that meets regularly, not just ad-hoc and make sure this is representative of the different parts of your organisation.
  5. Give that committee all the information it needs to make a decision, and be clear what you would recommend.
  6. Ensure everything is documented and recorded. You need to be able to show that you fully considered the options if something goes wrong in the future.
  7. Pay attention to related communications and have a very clear communications plan which references your gift acceptance policy.

Fundraising always carries a risk, and big gift fundraising even more so. Be sure your approach aligns with your values and that you and your organisation are on the same page when you are asking.

Susie Hills is Joint CEO for Halpin, a management consultancy designed specifically for the higher education sector. We are the home of experts in fundraising, governance, strategy and marketing.

Are you a fundraiser looking to take your career to the next level? Susie offers tailored mentoring drawing on 20+ years as a leading fundraiser. Download the flyer here.

Fundraising Mentoring with Susie Hills

Apr 12, 2019

develop (n) - grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.

As a Director of Development, the pressures on you can be intense.

Fundraising for your institution is as demanding as it is rewarding, and to succeed you must focus on your own development alongside your institution’s.

Working with a mentor with years of similar experience will pay dividends.

Susie Hills is a renowned fundraiser, an insightful mentor and a big thinker. Since leading the University of Exeter’s successful £25 million campaign, she has advised a wealth of other institutions on their fundraising. She is in demand as a mentor to talented fundraisers looking to build on their skills and drive up results for their institution.

Susie Hills 12-09-18 APPROVED.JPG

Susie Hills – Joint CEO & Co-founder, Halpin

Susie blends empathy, experience and energy to deliver mentoring that transforms fundraising and transforms careers. With Susie as your mentor you’ll be challenged, inspired and armed with the tools and confidence you need for your path ahead.

Contact us to book an exploratory call with Susie, and download the flyer here.


What people say about Susie and her mentoring...

"Susie has a manner which is encouraging and challenging in equal measure, building from strength rather than weakness in existing strategies or experience. I continue to consider her one of my best advisors, personally and professionally, as her ability to listen and then quickly get to the heart of any matter is superb." Fiona Duffy, Director of Development, Murray Edwards College

“It’s always a pleasure to work and talk with Susie; her thoughtful approach, combined with her breadth of experience, is both reassuring and thought provoking." Karen Horn, Deputy Director of Development: Alumni Engagement, Open University

“I have loved working with Susie over the past few months. Her wealth of experience in fundraising, relationship-building and leadership has been invaluable to our sessions and I have felt hugely supported both through our conversations and brilliantly articulated follow-up. As a coach she is thoughtful, thought-provoking and challenging, and seeks to get the very best out of her clients, both through her knowledge and insight, but also through her energy, drive and humour.” Frances Milner, Executive Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships, Cancer Research UK

Governance Effectiveness 2020

Apr 09, 2019

During a recent governance effectiveness review, I was asked, “How one measured governance effectiveness”? This got me thinking. Every year, the press brings to our attention where the governance in Universities has encountered problems. This year, we have Swansea University, University of Reading, De Montfort University and there will be others which escape press attention. Last year, the University of Bath and Bath Spa University. So, it is useful to consider what can go wrong but also what constitutes good governance practice and what changes might be needed in the future.

Good governance

In a governance effectiveness review, we consider questions such as:

  • Are the right people around the table and was the meeting well chaired?
  • Were the members actively involved in decisions?
  • Could they say what they really thought?
  • Was there good challenge and was the debate constructive and supportive?

These issues will continue to be extremely important and will need continual review – governance is primarily about people and the way they interact, and the key people, officers, members and the executive, change frequently. Many governance failures arise because basic good practice principles fail. However, if these governance practices are good, in what areas will governing bodies have to improve their effectiveness in the future?

From Compliance to Culture

The Financial Reporting Council report on “Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards” stated that establishing and monitoring the culture, values and ethics of the company was a key role of the Board and the importance of this increased further when the value of the company was vested primarily in the quality of its people. In Higher Education, the governance focus has tended to be on compliance rather than culture. In the private sector and the NHS, Board and organisational culture is increasingly the focus, since compliance has not proved enough to prevent damaging crises. The report noted that “cultural failures damage reputation and have a substantial impact on shareholder value”. A recent headline in the Times reads, “We betrayed our values says Oxfam Chief”. For Board members – “spending time in the business is critical for getting a sense of the prevailing culture in different parts of the business.” In Universities, engagement by Council with staff and students is essential, so that they feel able to voice their ideas and concerns and Council members can understand the prevailing culture and challenge it constructively.

Focus on Strategy & Risk

The pressure on Universities is increasing with risks multiplying in areas such as Brexit, reputational management, (e.g., VC pay, grade inflation, unconditional offers), wafer-thin financial margins, value for money, staff and student well-being, and Regulation with the arrival of the OfS. Councils and the Executive will need to consider how much time they spend in the future on reviewing and discussing strategy and risk, as against compliance and regulation. Universities now have systems in place to manage risk and are able to tick the compliance box that they are “risk managed” but how useful is this really? How can risk management move to a more proactive position where it informs strategy and supports decisions? Universities will also want to consider how they do horizon scanning and how that feeds into strategy and how best to manage their discussions about strategy.

The Governance role in Universities has never been more difficult and ensuring Councils are well-equipped for the ride ahead has never been more important.

Frank Toop is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin Partnership, the home of experts in governance, marketing, strategy and fundraising in higher education.

Out of Home Advertising – Top Ten Tips

Apr 05, 2019

It occurred to me this week that there’s little that polarises views amongst university marketing professionals as much as Out of Home (OOH) advertising. It seems that it is either a critical part of a student recruitment strategy or completely frowned upon, with few ambivalent feelings in-between.

In the big scheme of things, it’s probably not that critical, I will admit. But it can take a big chunk of your budget and it tends to get noticed by colleagues and competitors alike, so it’s worth reflecting on the extent to which it should be included in your marketing plans and how best to make sure your money isn’t wasted.

Here are our top ten tips to get the most out of your OOH campaigns (just like this company did!):

  1. Use it strategically against other universities. There’s nothing that riles competitors more than one of your adverts on a bus stop next to their campus, your branded taxi parked outside their Senate House or a take-over of all the available sites at the train station when your neighbour has their open day next week. It’s the epitome of parking your tanks on someone else’s lawn and it will bring you and your Senior Management Team much joy, I promise.

  2. Go large or go home. Whilst an individual outdoor site isn’t necessarily expensive, for a campaign to be effective, you generally need multiple sites. Unless you are running hyper-local activity, then a mid or heavy-weight campaign is essential to increase visibility and brand recall.

  3. Some say OOH is a waste of money because you can’t track it. True, it is almost impossible to get accurate data on the immediate ROI. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Outdoor is generally all about branding, not direct calls to action. It’s an opportunity to articulate your brand values and proposition, and so measuring the impact requires a different set of metrics.

  4. OOH concepts need imagination. It requires investment in a creative and bold campaign that can stand out. For universities, this generally means taking a step away from higher education advertising norms and drawing inspiration from commercial and youth brands. But beware – your adverts need to be tested with your target audiences for relevance, understanding and yes, even legibility.

  5. Go digital and use dynamic content. It’s possible to build in data feeds, video or factors such as traffic, the weather or time of day to personalise your messages. And the combination of OOH and mobile advertising working together is a powerful one – your adverts can be served to a 17-year old walking past one of your outdoor adverts to increase visibility and brand recall. It also means you can include a call-to-action on the mobile if you really must (see No.3).

  6. Consider all formats.For example, I think cinema advertising is often overlooked. It’s ideal for targeting by demographic and location, but more importantly, you have the sole attention of the audience. We are all familiar with ‘multi-screen’ behaviour, dividing our attention between more than one device for most of our waking hours. But a cinema audience has (mostly) put their mobile phones away, so you have their undivided attention. However, remember that cinema advertising is all about branding, so if you must advertise your Open Day, don’t fall for the temptation to include a ‘book now’ call to action (please).

  7. Involve your audiences. OOH can also be experiential. This could be a takeover of the local shopping centre to raise the profile of the University amongst the wider community – either to recruit staff or students, or to even share the great impacts from your research with the rest of the city. Whatever the content, it’s an opportunity to have a conversation, listen to others and show your transparency, involvement in local issues and contribution to the local community.

  8. Go multi-channel. All the evidence suggests that brand metrics increase significantly from a multi-channel campaign that mixes OOH formats with digital and social. It delivers a higher chance of recall and impacts positively on awareness and emotional response. Also, one advert in one place is unlikely to result in a consumer action; but multiple views of the same campaign significantly increases the chances of a response.

  9. Use it politically. I hate to include this as a top tip, but we all know that an OOH campaign gets noticed by internal influencers. So if you are putting together a business case for an increased marketing budget, then run a small but strategic outdoor campaign which results in your internal stakeholders driving past one of your roadside 48-sheet adverts on their way to work. They’ll love the visibility and confidence that it shows and want to you to do more of the same. Guaranteed.

  10. Go where your audiences are. The variety of OOH opportunities gives you great targeting options. Teenagers are less likely to be on the Tube, but might be mooching around at a bus stop or outside Primark in the shopping centre. And personally, I think ‘washroom’ panels are very effective – long dwell times and gender targeting – but alas, I haven’t yet managed to persuade a University that their brand needs to be in the toilet. (I’m still working on it, watch this space.)

Rachel Killian is a Senior Consultant for Halpin Partnership – the home of experts in marketing, governance, fundraising and strategy in higher education.

Halpin welcomes Project Manager Katie Welsh

Apr 04, 2019

Halpin is pleased to announce the appointment of Katie Welsh as Project Manager.

Katie Welsh - Headshot.jpg

Before joining Halpin, Katie spent six years in the Project Management team at the executive search firm Perrett Laver, responsible for the administration of senior-level recruitment processes within the higher education practice on an international scale. Adept at managing complex assignments, she has worked with the Universities of Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Bath, along with Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial, NYUAD and Nanyang Technological University.

She says, “I’m looking forward to working with colleagues and Fellows to deliver expert advice and smart solutions to clients in the ever-changing higher education sector, and beyond. I was attracted to Halpin because of their clear set of values, as they so closely align with my own.”

Director of Operations Charlotte Gooding says, “Katie’s knowledge of and passion for the higher education sector is impressive. Her insight and project management skills are going to bring significant value to both our client engagements and the wider Halpin community – we are thrilled she has joined us.”

Katie started with Halpin at the beginning of April, and the Halpin team welcomes her warmly.

Development budget essentials to weather the storms ahead

Apr 03, 2019

It’s planning time of year in most universities. The time of year when you need to defend your existing resources (see my past blog) and justify any additional requests. Looking ahead to a tough year in HE and, probably, a tough year for fundraising, here is my budget checklist.

Ethics The Sackler debate has only just begun. Expect more stories and scrutiny around the source of funds donated by trusts, companies and individuals. Now is the time to invest in due diligence and review your practices and processes. The governance route for taking decisions as to who you will accept gifts from needs to be very strong. It’s not enough for the VC to have been given information and to have decided. He/she needs the assurance of a strong governance process to protect the reputational risk to the institution. If you haven’t the skills or capacity to review your ethics process, then seek external expert guidance. This is too big an issue to keep postponing; there will be no time to do this if you are enveloped by a crisis.

Prospect pipeline Economic uncertainty may turn into a post-Brexit downturn, so make sure your pipeline is healthy and check your major gift portfolios are working – now more than ever you need to prioritise and focus your energies on the best prospects. Many institutions are reviewing their prospect pipeline and the received wisdom around portfolio size is being challenged. One size doesn’t fit all, and you won’t find the answer as to what works for you by looking at the size and shape of other institutions’ teams – you will find it in robust analysis of your pipeline. If you haven’t got the skills or capacity to do this in-house, buy it in as a one-off piece of consultancy – it will reap rewards much more quickly.

Talent Good fundraisers are hard to find, so you need to keep the ones you have and develop their skills. Investment in coaching and training is a must. Ideally this should go beyond letting team members go to the odd conference (as useful as that can be). One-to-one coaching for your fundraisers can step-change their performance and enable them to explore prospect cultivation strategies, plan asks and deliver greater results. Team ‘asking training’ can build skills, teamwork and a shared culture around asking. Every team is different, so it’s vital that the training you buy in is tailored to your team’s specific needs. Bespoke coaching or training will cost you less than headhunting for a post if someone moves on, and is the best way to show that you are committed to your staff. Sometimes it’s valued more than even a pay-rise can be, and given that many institutions have pay freezes in place it might be the only thing you can do to show you care.

Case Does your case stand up against the negative mood music in the media and politics regarding universities? Can you answer the questions you might receive from prospects? Are your asks highly strategic? Can you demonstrate how your institution is playing its part – locally, regionally and internationally? Can you demonstrate value for money for your students? Now might be a good point to invest time and energy into reviewing and refreshing your case – cast a critical eye over your materials, revisit your ‘scripts’, review your proposals. In tough times you need the very strongest story in order to win support, and a case toolkit to act as a script for your fundraisers to go forth with.

Outsourcing Make sure you have the skills within your team to eloquently convey your strategy/case. This doesn’t have to be a staff communications post – it could be ad-hoc copywriting support from someone who understands fundraising communications. Money spent on outsourced communications support or a review of your fundraising materials could guide your team towards a powerful refresh. This is probably a better and more flexible way to invest in this area than fighting for another team member and locking budget in recurring salary expenditure – let alone finding desk space and buying the computer etc. You could also consider outsourcing other jobs to plug skills gaps in your team.

Campaign planning Don’t put off your campaign plans because of uncertainty in the economy or sector – campaigns look to the longer term. The current storms will pass and regardless of what the sector looks like at the end of the storm philanthropy will still matter, maybe more than ever. If you plan now you can set a 5-10-year journey for philanthropy at your institution. Looking longer term is the diligent thing to do, and investment in campaign planning will help you to do so with confidence. Building enough money into your budget for a robust campaign feasibility study is the ideal route. If that proves too expensive, or you are not quite ready for it, then it’s at least worth considering putting in some budget for high-level strategic advice to support you to work with senior leadership on framing what a campaign might look like.

Get your University leaders fit for fundraising VCs, DVCs and Deans may need support to engage in the fundraising process and be involved in cultivation and asking. This is often best done through the combination of a workshop and 1:1 coaching so that you develop a team approach but also give them a safe space in which to test out their skills. Given that you will need them to get involved, this investment really is crucial, and an external trainer can say things to them that you simply can’t. Whether you are in campaign, planning a campaign or simply in business as usual mode, this kind of training is valuable.

Restructure support If your team isn’t performing as you hope or if you are being pushed towards making significant cost-cutting measures, now may be the time to invest in a resources review so you can be sure that you are restructuring your team in the most effective way to protect fundraising income and deliver your work as efficiently as possible. It’s hard to do it as the leader of the team, so investing in professional support will be money well spent. It will help you to objectively identify changes you can make, benchmark your resourcing against other institutions and consider what you need to deliver best value from your pipeline. Better to invest in robust analysis than make blunt cuts that cause long-term damage to income.

If you are considering building these kinds of investments into your plans and budgets and would like more detailed information and costings contact the Halpin team.

Susie Hills is Joint CEO of Halpin Partnership, a management consultancy designed specifically for the needs of the higher education sector. We are the home of experts in fundraising, strategy, governance and marketing.