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Interview with Howard Lake

by | Nov 25, 2019 | Interviews,

Howard Lake

Howard Lake

Publisher of UK Fundraising

Key Topics:Digital Fundraising, Charity, Non-Profits, Future of Fundraising
Location:Colchester, UK

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. He has published UK Fundraising, the world’s first web resource for charity fundraisers, since 1994 and wrote the world's first book on the subject in 1996. He previously worked as a fundraiser at Oxfam, Afghanaid and Amnesty International. He trains and advises charities and fundraising companies on how to make the most of digital tools and opportunities. He created the interactive 'unconference' Fundraising Camp and co-created Barcamp Nonprofits. A Fellow of the Institute of Fundraising, he is Chair of the judging panel for the National Fundraising Awards. He is currently exploring the possibilities of growing giving exponentially.

--- Other social accounts: Howard has four Twitter accounts. His personal one @howardlake with 18k followers, @ukfundraising - 25k followers, @fundraisinguk - 3k followers, and @fundraising - 35k followers - 81k in total. Although obviously there will be overlaps all are business-focused and are designed to complement each other.

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

My expertise in digital fundraising is based on nine years as a professional fundraiser (1988-97) with Oxfam, Afghanaid and Amnesty International, and my part-time MSc research in Information Science where I gained access to the early days of the web (1992-5). By creating the world’s first web resource for professional charity fundraisers, making it open to anyone to contribute to, not charging for access, including a community element, and covering daily news about how charities are using digital tools for fundraising over 25 years, I’ve helped kickstart and support the social good sector’s use of digital to increase income.

What topic areas are you most passionate about?

Despite having worked in digital fundraising for 25 years I’m convinced it can help achieve far more for charities and for-purpose organisations. I’m most passionate now on what is next for fundraising, and how it can rise to the challenge of the climate crisis. This will affect and is affecting every charity, every donor and every charity beneficiary. For this reason I have been trying to find people, groups, organisations that are developing products that can contribute to this. I’ve reported on fundraising ideas for 25 years which have helped charities achieve remarkable results. I’m concerned that growth in giving has stalled, just as charities face a massive increase in demand for their services. I’d like to help find and support those who have the best chance of tackling this challenge for increased giving.

Which influencers influence you within those key topics?

Many! I couldn’t name individuals because I follow, interact with and benefit from very many of them. I am inspired particularly by the fundraisers (and fundraising agencies) that use Twitter to share advice and support. I love the Fundraising Chat forum on Facebook which now has over 10,000 fundraisers sharing practical advice. (I set up the UK’s first email discussion forum for charity fundraisers in 1996).

I benefit from attending many charity fundraising conferences and seminars, so get to meet some of these people in person – sometimes years after having first made contact with them!

Outside of your key topics who else influences you?

People who speak truth to power, who demonstrate kindness in their work and in leadership, and creative people with the will to just create something new and valuable. Plus of course, family and friends.

What are your passions outside of work?

I like to go running to clear my mind, and do yoga. And I like to read different books, not only fiction but also popular science and history books. I listen to music a great deal, and playing the piano daily has always helped keep me sane and happy.

How would you describe your offline influence?

It flows from my online influence. I have been speaking at fundraising and tech conferences since 1995 in the UK and internationally. I gave the first Masterclass in digital fundraising at the International Fundraising Conference in Holland in 1996, a major event bringing 1000 charity leaders and changemakers from around the world together. My 1996 book on digital fundraising helped cement my reputation. I am a guest on various podcasts, can seldom write content for other sites due to my commitments to UK Fundraising, but run a lot of training (in person, and with guest trainers) and some consultancy in digital fundraising, making the most of what I’ve learned over 25 years with my digital publication.

If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?

First of all I would not focus on the activities itself, but I would be really pleased if my clients have a good detailed strategy (often this is a huge challenge!) and the client would say; we would need more whitepapers because after our research we discovered that this is one of the missing links. Of course we share our advice and experience, but it would be great if the client also understands what he/she really needs. If that’s the case, there’s a much better understanding and a good basis for a potential collaboration. It’s not about the tool, it’s about what your target audience reads, interests, likes etc.

I welcome partnering and collaborating with brands and other organisations. That has been UK Fundraising’s approach from the outset. Provided we can agree a clear mutual benefit and approach that is relevant to my audience of professional charity fundraisers, then I welcome offline and online partnerships. I get asked to chair other organisations’ events, deliver plenaries or take part in a panel (but I’m committed to appearing only on mixed/diverse panels). I attend other conferences and events as a social reporter, producing all kind of content that they can use, from videos and image quotes to live sketchnotes of sessions.

Online I can help amplify others’ content, and I have published thousands of fundraising images and videos which are available to others to reuse for free under Creative Commons. If I encounter a proposal that I can see will support charities in generating more sustainable income then I’m likely to say yes.”

Which non-paid activities would you be keen to take part in if the opportunity raised your profile or delivered value to your audience?

I would up for providing a quote for a blog / news article, or participate in a podcast or webinar – but preferably for my focus on growing giving on a massive scale. I would also be willing to share or create a social post, create some video content and participate in online chat, depending on the audience.

What’s your best source of information for getting ahead of a story?

Other fundraisers, some well-connected PRs, and just a huge daily feed of content by/about/from/for fundraisers – RSS feeds, emails, forums, news sites, Twitter, FB, Instagram etc. No one single source – possibly because UK Fundraising aims to be a leading curated source!

What brands have you worked with?

Over the past 25 years most of the major brands that serve the nonprofit fundraising industry e.g. Blackbaud, Salesforce, Access Group plc, Aviva plc, plus many other fundraising agencies. And the charity sector bodies like Charities Aid Foundation, Institute of Fundraising, Directory of Fundraising. I’ve trained thousands of fundraisers in digital fundraising from top 10 charities to tiny local charities.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

People can also always can get in touch with me through my accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn.