Better Prepared

Eleanor Cater, FINZ

SCOUTS New Zealand's 'One Team' approach leading to fundraising success.

The past few years have seen enormous changes to SCOUTS New Zealand (SCOUTS), centred around membership needs, with a new strategic plan and management structure - including new leadership with SCOUTS' first female Chief Executive. Niamh Lawless.

These changes have seen a huge growth in fundraising, up from -$7k fundraising deficit in 2013 to a massive leap into the positives of $554k of fundraising income this past financial year.

Mark Long, Head of Development and Capability at SCOUTS, puts this down to their new structure and focusing on "a greater priority of learning and delivery, development and capability and youth voice."

SCOUTS has linked everything they do to the 10 year strategy which focuses on five key priorities:

  • Youth at the centre,
  • quality and relevant programmes,
  • inclusive growth,
  • prepared volunteers,
  • and organisational strength, which includes good governance.

"We've been around for 108 years and we want to ensure that we remain proactive and relevant so that we are around for another 108 plus; so how we work is really important."

"We are making sure that we have experts in the fields of our five key priorities, empowering project teams and making sure that we get the best out of our 5,000+ volunteers and members because they are the driving force of our organisation."

Mark says that there has been a big cultural shift at SCOUTS, and a 'One Team' approach is embedded in their strategic plan. They work as one team of youth, families, volunteers, and staff, all of whom share mutual respect. All are categorised as 'members' and all are valued equally. "One person in a central office doing one job is far less effective than using the strengths of 5,000 volunteers and teaming them up with others with similar strengths. It's how we get the best out of our members and also provide professional development at the same time."

Mark agrees it's been a long process to get to this point, but it's been worth it. "It takes a lot more time and effort doing a 10 year strategic plan, gaining feedback from members including 1,000 youth responses. It was a two year process but now we have a clear vision and are seeing a real and positive cultural shift. The change within SCOUTS has been really dramatic."

Fundraising has been a top priority and has been led by 'story telling'. "Fundraising to us is about telling our story. SCOUTS has a really strong, positive, and rare story. We are an organisation working in the youth development space; we are actively giving young people the tools that they need to give to society. It's a great story to tell."

For an organisation which has over 400 groups, 33 zones, five regions, and 40 campsites, keeping the 'story telling' consistent and on message to funders has been a key priority. So too is ensuring that the national organisation is not competing with local Scout groups in the funding space. "We have really prioritised diversifying our fundraising approach at a national level and what our key messages are. This has decreased tensions between local groups and the national organisation.

Corporate sponsorship has risen too, from $10K two years ago to over $135K this financial year. How have they done this so quickly? Mark says, "by prioritising our warm leads and making sure that we are building relationships and telling our own story. We ask our members who might have a relationship with the people we want to talk to - we've had good success with this. We are no longer actively going out seeking corporates, they are coming to us!"

A lot of this, Mark says, has been the increasing trust between local groups and the national organisation. "Regional forums have helped us build trust. We've seen big increases in the sharing of information from our members and offers of how they can help more in this space."

"Making sure that our local members are informed and able to make decisions has been a massive cultural shift and enabled us to get on with delivering the 'right stuff' for young people."

SCOUTS are focusing on diversifying what their future fundraising model is. Membership fees were around 70% of income and are noe at 45%, with no increase in the fee last year. Mark explains, "Lowering national fees (currently set at $96 per youth member per year) is a goal and making sure that our funding is more diversified. Our board, management, and whole organisation are totally committed to that."

What will SCOUTS' fundraising priorities be for the future? Mark sees big potential for Government contracts and a dedicated focus on alumni, bequests, and major gifts. "Alumni is largely untapped and we are well aware that there is big potential there." Their ultimate goal is for there to be a membership fee in the future that is affordable for all kiwi kids and to be raising adequate funds from other sources to support this. "This is consistent with our 'inclusive growth' priority, and we want to be doing more for disadvantaged youth and their families".

Mark says, "With clear direction and effort, we are putting our members, particularly young people, first. By showing what a 'one team' approach can do, we are adding real value at a local level and being deliberately strategic about everything we do."

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