Secret Squirrel’s tips for success


Magazine article

Following years at the sharp end of development, our Secret Squirrel offers seven tips for success. Miss one at your peril!

  1. Research, research, research. You cannot know enough about the people who currently support your organisation and potential supporters. It is so much easier with the Internet, databases and data mining tools but don’t forget to keep up with the news, particularly the Financial Times (and country equivalents).


  1. Knowledge. There are two broad elements to this:
    1. Knowing your organisation inside out. In particular, understanding
    2. where your organisation sits within the sector that it operates; and,
    3. Making sure your technical knowledge is up-to-date (for example
    4. in the UK this would include the relevant tax reliefs and how they
    5. work and the challenges for cross-border giving, for example).


  1. Recognise that everyone engaged in and with your organisation is an ambassador for your organisation. These people can and should play an active role in helping to identify, develop and sustain relationships. Every touch point matters: from the cleaner to the Chairman, therefore, they need to be informed and engaged. So start sharing information and striving for excellence at all times.


  1. Stories are powerful. Take the time to identify and refine your stories and then share them with passion. Also, remember that engaging experiences matter. Let the organisation and its activities/beneficiaries ‘sell themselves’.


  1. Relationships are key to success.
    1. Listen, observe and learn: we have two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason so use them wisely.
    2. Bespoke matters: one size does not fit all. Take what you have learnt and tailor your responses. However, be careful not to turn your organisation inside out: sometimes saying “no, thank you” is right.
    3. Proactively care for/look after all relationships. Treat your supporters and potential supporters with respect, kindness and sincerity.


  1. Don’t forget to ask but be prepared. You won’t get anything if you don’t ask. Just make sure you ask at the right time, in the right place and for the right thing (ideas, advice, money or time – be specific).


  1. Enjoy the experience. The people you meet tend to be generous, focussed and good company. However, you might not be successful all the time so always leave a good impression because the world is a very, very small place indeed.

This article is tagged under:

  • Understanding philanthropy