Alzheimer's Research UK

University of Helsinki

Co-creating a culture of philanthropy

It started with a question. A pretty big question.

How do we do international fundraising? The University of Helsinki was at a turning point. The government had cut budgets for the first time in the institution’s history. At a time of great uncertainty, the leadership team were quick to see the opportunity for fundraising, as well as the role it could play in taking the organisation onto the global stage.

But that brought its own challenges, too. Investing in fundraising would need some careful explanation, backed up by evidence of impact. And a rapidly expanding team would need the skills, confidence and ambition to grasp every opportunity and make the future happen.

They came to us (reassured we wouldn’t fob them off with a one-size-fits-all solution). It was the beginnings of one of our happiest working partnerships, as well as the broadest and most far-reaching piece of work our firm has ever been involved in.

We didn’t know Finland, then. But we did know fundraising. We never wanted to say ‘do it like we do it in the UK and the US’. Instead, we were open about what we didn’t know, and confident about we’ve learned in other contexts.

To start, we wanted to understand who they are and what they’ve done. We listened, watched, analysed, absorbed, compared, read and reviewed – to set their position in context and learn where they wanted to go.

We reported back as widely as we could, so that everyone across the University gained an appreciation of the success and impact of their existing fundraising. And so they could all understand what it would take to go even further.

Finns are a practical, grounded bunch. They prefer to ask ‘How?’ than ‘Why?’ (Who needs to know why in the middle of a long winter, when food is scarce and daylight short?) Understandably, then, once they had a plan they were eager to get on with it.

That’s why through a series of workshops, trainings and coaching sessions, we equipped them with the fundraising tools and techniques they’d need to identify donors and start conversations. And together we co-created (another very Finnish concept) a compelling story, based on what makes them special.

With all this behind them, they had a new-found confidence that a campaign goal of €100m, up from €25m, was completely achievable.

What we say
“Co-creation is a big thing for the Finns, and for More Partnership too. We didn’t want to write a case and that to be the end of the process. We want to make it together, to draw on their skills and experience. They took our framework document and breathed life into it. They made it emotive and beautiful, adding Finnish language and specific case studies. You could very clearly see what we had brought to it, but it was very much owned by them. The new case gives everyone, from a new post doc to the chancellor, a framework to have a philanthropic conversation.”

Marc Whitmore, More Partnership

What they say
“More just seemed to get us, who we are, and our strengths and possibilities. There are so many things we’ve changed as a result of working with them: for example our donor stewardship programme, prospect research, and how we monitor and track the major gifts process. More also helped us to communicate our fundraising achievements to our university community; they emphasised that we’ve been really successful in both a European and UK context. That’s been helpful to show new academics the value of what we do.”

Pia Dolivo, Head of Community Relations and Fundraising, University of Helsinki

If you would like to discuss how working together can help advance your great ambitions, please contact Rachel, or Joanna.