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Staying Motivated: Maintaining Positivity and Passion

Carrot on a stickSo it’s mid way through the year and sometimes, for those of us working in the charity sector, this is as busy time as any. End of financial year appeals, annual report, audits, and if you’re most parts of Australia, we’ve got to deal with the chilly winter too. How can we stay motivated? How can we remain interested and passionate about what we do? All year round, year after year? Well, I decided to ask someone who has been in the non-profit sector for more than a decade, and all with the same charity!

Madeleine Buchner is only 23 years old, so it may seem strange to ask someone so young how they stay motivated when they’re only just starting out. No, not Madeleine! She has been working in the charity sector since she was nine years old (yep, you read that right – nine years old!) when she founded a small non-profit called Little Dreamers. 14 years on, she is still leading this growing charity through change and making an incredible difference in the lives of young carers. Here is what Madeleine had to say about how she stays motivated:

MB linked in pic

23 year old Madeleine

14 years is a long time to be working on one cause; with one mission and one plan – to change the world for young people who are put into the position of caring for an unwell family member. Usually, when people realise that I have been doing this for over half of my life they ask me, “How do you stay motivated? How do you stay positive?” I often start off by saying that it takes both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow.

So here are my three tips for staying motivated, positive and especially passionate about your cause and your mission in life.

1. When deciding on a new goal note down the reason you want to achieve it.

I am the queen of lists – I have lists about everything and I have them everywhere. When I set a new goal that is particularly important to me, I write it on a sticky note and put it next to my mirror. Along with the actual goal, on the back of my sticky note I write why I really want to achieve this goal (e.g. what it would mean to me or to someone else if this was achieved!).

When things get stressful or I think that there aren’t enough hours in the day I can go back and look at my sticky note to remind myself that there is a reason I am doing what I am. Remember – we all have the same number of hours in our day as Beyoncé!

2. Make your goals public to people who are close to you

Madeleine and her best friend

They say that when you tell someone you’re going to lose weight or quit smoking, the pressure of someone else knowing you might fail is a great motivating factor. I use the same principle when setting goals. By telling my Mum or my very nosy and pushy best friend (J) about my goals they are able to encourage me when I am falling behind.

For me, the worst feeling is when my best friend asks me how I am going with a certain task and I say I haven’t finished it yet – the look she gives me could make angels cry.

3. Have an awesome pump up playlist for when things really are getting you down

My guilty pleasure is country music – I’m talking Jake Owen, Luke Bryan…good southern American country. The music genre is different for everyone but listening to music that you enjoy causes the brain to release dopamine, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Give it time; scientists say that only it takes 15 minutes of listening to music until the dopamine is spread within the blood stream.

My favourite pump up song of the moment is ‘Rain is a Good Thing’ by Luke Bryan. You can check it out here if you like!

When things are too much I go back to the basics – I remember that I do what I do to change lives. To stay inspired I often remind myself of Margaret Mead’s quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.


Thanks Madeleine, there are some really useful tips in there about staying motivated. If you have any other tips, why don’t you share them below in the comments.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

P.S We first featured Madeleine and Little Dreamers on our blog over two years ago. You can read more about this wonderful organisation in that post here.


Thank You Thursday: A Home for Hummingbirds

Supporting a loved one with a life-limiting condition or through palliative care is hard on any family. It’s emotional and physically draining. But what about when the person with the life-limiting condition is a child? Your child. And in addition to supporting your one sick child, you must still love and care for your other children. And what about your job; what happens to that? How will this affect your financial situation? Sadly this is the reality for about 3,700 families across Queensland today.

And at the heart of one of those families, are foster parents, Paul and Gabrielle Quilliam, who about ten years ago fostered a little girl with a life-limiting condition. Among transplants and surgeries, they provided love and care, but the stress, emotional and financial, was great. They tried to reach out for support, perhaps some respite at a hospice, but no such place existed in Queensland.


That’s when Paul and Gabrielle made the decision to do something to change that. And that decision would be the conception of Hummingbird House – Queensland’s first children’s hospice and only the third in Australia.

Gabrielle recently shared their story at a TEDx talk which you can view here:


Hummingbird House has been created to provide world-class respite and end of life care for children with a life-limiting condition and their families, and to help families discover moments and create memories to last a lifetime.

Despite its small size and fragility a hummingbird can be radiant and bright. Many cultures believe the hummingbird is a symbol of love, the lightness of being and the presence of joy. In many ways the hummingbird is representative of the children who will seek respite at this new facility with their families.

Hummingbird House will offer tailored stays for children with life-limiting conditions, their parents and their siblings. It will be a holistic approach for the whole family.


Later this month, on Saturday 21st in fact, Hummingbird House will be having its housewarming gala as it gets ready to open its doors to the first families that will call it home. And this Thursday we say thanks to Paul and Gabrielle for their vision and leadership in making this possible.

See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick

Supporting Charities to Make Real Change

Following some workshops I ran in Tasmania last year, I was asked to write an article for a community newspaper in northern Tasmania called the Meander Valley Gazette. They wanted me to discuss the ‘charities and overheads’ topic that all-too-often rears its ugly head and help their community understand more about it. I thought I’d share the article in today’s blog post and hopefully we can spread it far and wide in our non-profit networks and get more people talking positively about charities and their expenditure.

Read the rest of this entry

Thank You Thursday: Shaking Things Up

Daddy Fish and I at the football

It’s a special day today, and those that know me well, will know what it is. It’s my birthday. But that’s actually not why it’s a special day. It’s special because I share my birthday with someone amazing… my Dad. (Just like Peppa Pig’s father is called Daddy Pig, let’s call my Dad, The Fish Chick’s father, Daddy Fish.) So, in light of this special day, and this very special bloke, I’ve decided to get a little personal with today’s Thank You Thursday blog post. I hope you won’t mind…

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More Wonderful Websites

Last month, you may remember we did a post with some tips about how to optimise your charity website so you have the best chance of attracting new donors and generating maximum revenue through this method. Just to recap on the first five tips: Easy to donate; Mission front and centre; Beneficiaries are your hero; Use pictures, not words; and, Designed for your visitors. You can read the blog post in full here.

In today’s post, we will be looking at another four tips to help achieve great website success.

Update regularly

To ensure supporters are encouraged back to your website again and again, it’s important to have updated content. You can do this easily through a news section on your site and posting an article at least once a fortnight. You can also regularly update an events section. The more updated your content is, the higher your ranking in search engines, also.

Blogs are another great way to have fresh content on your website. Having a blog written by your CEO, Chair or Program workers, or even a combination of this, allows your supporters to gain insights about your organisation from varied sources. The best things about blogs are that they can have an authenticity that your more-formal communications cannot always have. One Girl’s blog is one of the best examples of this – so raw and open – it really draws its readers in and makes them feel closer to the organisation.


Studies suggest that about half of all visits to charity websites (and I’d assume websites in general) are via a mobile device so making your site mobile-enabled is a must. A lot of charities do this now, and if you’re site is on a platform like WordPress, it has probably happened automatically.

Make sure, however, that one the home page and donate page of your mobile version site the main messages and functionality is there. Charity: Water is one organisation that does this brilliantly. On their home page they get straight into making a donation and if you swipe down a little you get to the heart of what they do; their mission.


Make sure it can be found

SEO is a very important acronym in the world wide web and if you don’t know what it is or what it means, chances are your website will not be easily found on your site. SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and it’s all about helping your website rank higher in an online search. The higher your ranking, the easier it is for prospective supporters to find your charity. While historically key words were important, nowadays it’s more about having longer, more updated content and being mobile-enabled (two points we just covered above). If you’re not too sure about SEO, it’s definitely worth investing in an external provider to make sure your organisation’s site is being found.

Google, one of the world’s biggest internet search engines, offers a service called Google AdWords which is basically an online advertising service. Google, being the socially-conscious and ethically-minded business that it is, has an arm that helps charities get the best results online. Google for Non-Profits provides eligible charities with up to $10,000 of free Google AdWords each month. This article on ProBono’s website shares some great info about how to do that.

Be Social

We can’t really talk about websites and not mention social media. Most people will tell you that one of the main objectives of your social media platforms is to send traffic to your website, so I think it’s important to be aware of this while creating your site. Each time you update content on your site (which as per the tip above, this should be quite often) you can share this new content on your social media accounts. Don’t be afraid to re-share content as well, especially if there is some new point of relevance you can draw from it. Remember, you will probably get sick of your content long before your supporters day as they are not as close to it as you are!


As Jeff Stanger says in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, “the secret to being successful online is to master the tried and true principles of fundraising and then apply them to the online environment.” I would certainly agree with this and think it’s important that charities do not to forget this. Hopefully some of the tips in this two-part blog post will help.

If you have any other vital tips for others please feel free to share in the comments below. Otherwise, all the best with your making your website more wonderful and attracting new donors.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.


Thank You Thursday: Brave and Beautiful

Next Tuesday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. On this date, every year, people around the world celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. So, in honour of this occasion, today’s Thank You Thursday blog is going to celebrate an inspiring Tasmanian woman and the organisation she founded that supports young women across Australia.

Bernadette and her son at the Barnados Dinner

Bernadette Black was 16 when she became pregnant with her son, Damien. Young and nervous, while she had the love of her family, she felt there wasn’t much outside support for her. That was in 1993. In 2006 she published a book called, Brave Little Bear, about her own experiences a pregnant teenager (and mother) to hopefully give hope to other young girls going through a similar situation. Then, in 2006, nominated by her now 16-years-old son, she won the Barnados Australian Mother of the Year.

In that same year she began the Brave Foundation in Hobart. The interest in her book had been overwhelming. It was soon in secondary schools and health clinics around the country; and requests for more books and advice streamed in. Bernadette realised there was a lack of centralised support for pregnant teenage girls and she felt inspired to do something. She had a vision of building up ‘the village of support and acceptance around every person facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood, ensuring a happy, healthy and skilled future is available for all‘.

Her vision has certainly become a reality, with the Brave Foundation expanding and late last year was launched as a national charity. Take a few moments to watch Bernadette tell her story and how she came to founding Brave Foundation:

In Australia, 25,000 teenage pregnancies were recorded in 2012; or around 70 teenage pregnancies every day. Brave Foundation aims to equip those experiencing teenage pregnancy and parenting with resources, referral and education opportunities to facilitate happy, healthy and skilled families over time.

Their website has an interactive timeline for young expectant mothers to guide them through each week of their pregnancy, with practical advice and age-specific content such as talking with teachers at school. The website also provides other real life stories and encourages young girls to make three promises to themselves for life after the baby is born, as the Founder and CEO, Bernadette did. At the time of her pregnancy, and motivated by a teacher, she promised herself: 1) To be a good mum, 2) To finish her education, and 3) To write a pamphlet or book to help others. The Foundation also provides education scholarships so pregnant girls can complete secondary school without the financial burden.

This Thank You Thursday, we give a shout out to Bernadette and her incredible work with the Brave Foundation, helping so many young women be brave at a time when they often feel they cannot.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick


Wonderful Websites

While a charity’s website may not necessarily make them big bucks, not having an appealing and user-friendly site can inhibit the dollars you do attract. Nowadays, a website is like a window to your charity’s soul; so you really need to be mindful of how you’re presenting yourself, your beneficiaries and the work that you do. While I don’t profess to be a website guru, I’ve spent some time over the past decade working with various sized charities on updating, designing and redeveloping their websites, and I usually find that some basic tips are always appreciated.

According to Blackbaud research, while online donations only account for about 7% of ALL charity income, in recent years this type of giving has been growing steadily, with an increase of 8.9% from 2013 to 2014. And not only is more money coming in, but more people are donating. Furthermore, what is most exciting is this same research also suggests small organisations are seeing the biggest growth in online giving. It’s definitely a space we should all want to be in.

Nevertheless, redesigning websites can often be an expensive exercise, and something that may not be high on your charity’s priority list – especially if you are a small organisation with a very limited expenditure budget. The functionality and technology of a site is important, but, to be honest, fancy doesn’t necessarily equal successful. Often it is the content, the way it is presented and the story you tell that can make your site a winner. So, across two Fishy blogs (there was just too much information to fit into one post!) we share with you some of the key tips for making your site most successful and some web design best practices that will help you achieve your online communication and fundraising goals.

Easy to donate

A study by the Nielsen Norman Group a few years back indicated that 17% of charity website visitors couldn’t find the donate button! That’s almost one in five! Really?!? What. Is. Going. On? Surely this should be our number one priority on charity websites?

No matter what mechanism you have in place to take donations online, your home page – or better yet, your website’s header which will appear on every page – should have a very clear donate button. By clicking on that, your supporters should be taken via the most direct route to make a donation.

Queensland’s rescue helicopter service, CareFlight, has been a site I have long admired, and I thought I was a bit biased (as I used to work there many moons ago) until I saw it listed on a 100 great websites site. CareFlight’s home page makes the option of donating very easy. It actually appears twice; once along the banner at the top and as a feature underneath the main image/video, as you can see in the screen shot below.

Mission front and centre

Make sure visitors to your site know within their first 30 seconds of landing on your home page know what your mission is – or in effect – what you do. Don’t be too ambiguous or clever about this. Be proud and loud about stating with intention what difference you are making in the world. You should try to do this with a combination of words and imagery.

The two most important pieces of information that potential supporters look for when visiting your site are what you do and how you use donations. So be sure to tell them this early on.

Beneficiaries are your hero

Your supporters invest in your organisation for one reason only. And that reason has really nothing to do with you. They invest to create a better life for your beneficiaries. Or protect the habitat of a certain animal. Or to change the world for a better future. Whatever that is you need to feature that on your website (and in all your communications really).

You need to make the beneficiaries of your cause, those that will benefit most, whether they are people, animals or forests, the hero of your website. The WWF do this really well. Sure they have some of the most incredibly emotive images to help promote their cause, but the WWF website has featured in various ‘best website’ articles over the past few years. The WWF UK home page has a fabulous ‘Species we’re protecting’ section which really makes the endangered species the heroes. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

Use pictures, not words

As they say, a picture tells a thousand words, and this is as important on your website as any other place. While you will certainly still need words to get your messages across, it’s important to ensure your site doesn’t become too text heavy.

The images you choose can have a great impact on the emotional appeal they create. When using images of people, try to have them looking directly at the camera, where possible and smiling. A happy face suggests your organisation is having an impact and making people happy. Your images don’t have to be at professional photography level, but make sure their main features are showcased well. Sometimes a little bit of cropping of an image doesn’t go astray.

Designed for your visitors

There are many elements of a website that are important and often it is the successful combination of these elements that make it easier for the visitors to your site. One of the biggest elements is the design; and an important design feature is to have a clean layout with, if possible, plenty of white space.

Be mindful of who will be visiting your site; for some organisations this is a combination of supporters and users of your service. UK based cancer charity, Macmillan, does this very well. As you can see in the screenshot below, their home pages has options for all their types of visitors and even a ‘How can we help you today?’ section that when clicked upon, it opens a list for different types of visitors from newly diagnosed cancer patients to health professionals.

So, there you have it. Five of the top tips for making your charity’s website wonderful. We’ll be back next month with another few tips to add to this too. If you aren’t already subscribed to the Fish blogs, you can do so by completing your name and email in the box to the right of this post.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.