by | Dec 17, 2023

Book: Do Good, Get Paid!

Author and campaigner, Natalie Fée, offers many useful insights into how campaigners and activists can fund and run campaigns in her latest book, Do Good, Get Paid.

Changing the world for the better, as you no doubt know, can be many things. Rewarding, frustrating, meaningful, tiresome … and for many, not particularly well paid. Lots of us start out volunteering and can find it hard to move into paid roles, and the third sector isn’t exactly flush with cash. I try to answer the questions I was asked along the way by fellow campaigners and activists about funding and running campaigns, from my experience setting up and running City to Sea (a campaigning organisation focused on stopping plastic pollution at source).

We now have a (recently downsized) team of 15 salaried staff and a turnover of about £1 million a year. We’re doing good and getting paid … and although we’re still a long way from getting it right (funding’s still painfully difficult and the team are over-stretched), we’ve also done lots of things right.

The tools and techniques I lay out in the book are what helped me to go from being a single mum on benefits with no savings and little clue about what to do with my life, to setting up a multi-award-winning not-for-profit organisation, paying myself and my team and stopping hundreds of tonnes of plastic from getting into our oceans every year. And I spoke to nine fellow founders and campaigners I’ve met, studied or worked with over the last decade whose impactful stories and experiences I wanted to amplify. From Sabia Wade, the Black Doula, a radical reproductive justice innovator from the USA, to Danny Renton at Seawilding, a project set up to rewild the remote lochs of Scotland, as well as Sarah Corbett from the Craftivists Collective – another SMK award-winner!

So, whether you’ve got a campaign that needs funding, or a desire to give up your day job and do something more meaningful, or if you dream of running your own social enterprise, charity or purpose-led business, here are a few key takeaways from the book:

  • You’re not asking people for money for you personally; you’re asking on behalf of your cause.

This is key in terms of getting comfortable with asking for money. It’s not about you. You’re the personality, the salesperson, the organiser; you need to convince your audience – whether that’s a grant funder, a philanthropist or your family and friends – that your cause is worth giving to. You’re the vehicle through which this amazing work is going to happen. Once you really get that, once you’re really connected to the outcome and what the funding will enable, asking for financial help becomes an adventure.

  • Try to develop a good business model and be realistic, because you don’t want to be over-reliant on handouts or goodwill.

So said Christian Kroll, founder of the search engine Ecosia. With over 160,000 registered charities in England and Wales, competition for grant funding can be tough, so having a business stream that’s reliable and forecastable can help you grow sustainably. 70–80 per cent of charities in the UK earn the majority of their income from contracts rather than grants or donations, so it’s worth exploring the pros and cons of the different legal structures that are available if you’re just getting going.

  • Diversify your income stream and play to your strengths

There’s definitely a balance to be found between having a few steady income streams and having too many! To find your sweet spot, tune into your strengths. If you’re an awesome writer, you might be an ace at traditional fundraising from grants, trusts and foundations. If you’re well-connected and love networking, mobilise your privilege and double down on philanthropic giving. If you’re engaged with your local community, try crowdfunding and work those local connections. Whichever path you choose, try to get a few different income streams so you’re not over-reliant on one source.

And don’t forget to look after yourself as you go. If you’ve not already aligned yourself with a community working on the same issue, or surrounded yourself with inspirational, positive allies who want to help you succeed, start there. Yes, we need food on the table, warm beds and freedom from financial worries. But it’s the more beautiful world we’re creating that ultimately feeds us, and when you’re aligned with that, the rest might even take care of itself.

Buy your copy of Do Good, Get Paid (Laurence King, 2023) or How to Save the World for Free (Laurence King, 2019) from any good book shop or online through these links. You can connect with Natalie on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Natalie Fee

Natalie Fée is the founder of City to Sea, a UK-based non-profit campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source. She’s also a speaker and author of three books, the latest being ‘Do Good, Get Paid’. Natalie won the SMK award for Environmental Justice in 2017.



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