What small charities need: community, commitment to planning, and #TweetCottage franchisees

publication date: Sep 30, 2014
author/source: Jenny Mitchell

Seven women, one cottage, a shared vision to support small charities through pro bono work, and an undisclosed number of wine bottles. And so #TweetCottage2014 began!Jenny Mitchell photo

The annual retreat, now in its third year of existence, is hosted at the cottage of Leah Eustace, Chief Idea Goddess at Good Works, but the origins of #TweetCottage are firmly rooted in the desire for fundraising consultants (and full time employees) to support their community through pro bono work. You can read more about last year’s #TweetCottage here

Fundamentals in 4 hours?

The “talk on the dock” this year centred on one main theme: the lack of basic knowledge around fundraising best practices from small shops. “It’s two years in a row now that we find #TweetCottage applicants are craving fundamental fundraising knowledge,” explains Leah. “They don’t know what a fundraising plan is, what’s included and how to build one.  How do we tackle this as a group of women meeting for 4 hours over a long weekend in August?”

Leah and her team of pro bono professionals see #TweetCottage as an emerging model for delivering resources where they are most needed: small charities.  “I love small charities, they’re so important and we need them,” explains Leah. “But there’s a big gap between the skill level of these small charities, and the resources that associations like AFP are providing. One way to bridge that gap would be to franchise the concept of #TweetCottage all across the country.”

The fundraising Whack-A-Mole

This year’s recipient of #TweetCottage’s pro bono consulting was Journalists for Human Rights in Toronto.  “I use the ‘whack-a-mole’ analogy,” explains deputy executive director Claire Hastings. “You smack the current fundraising challenge that pops up, turn around, and smack down the annual appeal letter or upcoming gala event. There’s no time to reflect or review – you just jump on the next item. There’s no time to ask ‘How well did we do,’ or compare A/B testing. If you are a small shop, this is very challenging.”

Leah sees the #TweetCottage model as a way to avert a looming crisis in small shop: provide a place – a community – where individuals can get help, get connected, and be supported. “I think there’s potential for #TweetCottage on a bigger scale: a retreat for women (or men) who need a break, but who also want to give back through their expertise. It combines the feel-good concept of pro-bono work with the need for us to connect with each other.” 

So what’s this year’s #TweetCottage advice for small to mid-sized not-for profits, based on the common themes of the 14 applications they received?

  • Community is key. Smaller charities that are successful make connections to other organizations and other individuals (including fundraisers). Get out of your status quo comfort zone and get connected to your community.
  • Make time for planning.  Time invested at the front end to create a fundraising plan or case for support will yield much better results in the end. The “whack-a-moles” will still be there. Don’t let them run your life. And if you don’t know how to build a fundraising plan, ask for help.

Interested in being a #TweetCottage franchisee? You have the team’s blessing, and they would be happy to provide you with guidance on how to set up your own #TweetCottage, or #TweetCondo, or #TweetChalet, or #TweetSpa. Well, you get the idea! You can reach the ladies on Twitter @TweetCottage.

The 2014 #TweetCottage crew

Leah Eustace, Good Works; Sylvie Labrosse, Community Living Toronto; Tania Little, Food Banks Canada; Daniella Mailing, Catherine Connelly Foundation and  Dani Mailing Consulting; Clare McDowall,  Socially Good + 317 Consulting; Ligia Peña, Montreal Oral School for the Deaf Foundation; Liz Rejman,  Museum London.

Jenny Mitchell is the owner of Chavender: creative fundraising ideas to revitalize you, and your organization.  Inspired by #TweetCottage, Jenny has launched her own contribution to support the small charity community: Fundraising Mastermind Groups. When not at her desk, Jenny can be found on the courts, working on her tennis game. Contact her by email; follow her @JennyChavender.

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List