It’s been a tumultuous couple of years in fundraising. Just about every aspect of our industry has been put under the microscope and in many cases the results haven’t been pretty. Press outrage and an inadequate or supine response from sector leaders has resulted in a combination of increased donor distrust and additional burdensome regulation.
It’s been disheartening over this period to talk to many fundraisers who find themselves battling to be allowed to raise money for their causes. Much time is being spend, not on devising new and better ways to engage and inspire supporters but on compliance. Or fighting internal battles against all the people in the charity who have always hated the dirty business of fundraising and now see the opportunity to kill it off for good. How the charity’s mission is thus to be funded is left unanswered or else the response is based on some variant of magical thinking. If you really think “crowdfunding” or “millennials” will be covering the costs of delivering your charity’s mission any time soon there’s some snake oil that I’d really think you might be interested in.
I’d hope 2018 is when we turn the corner on all of this. Because actually, the sky hasn’t fallen in on fundraising. The evidence we have is that UK donors have given about as much in 2017 as the year before, despite a worsening economy and the world basically going to hell in a handcart. The Disasters Emergency Committee raised £100m from the UK public in 2017 for complex largely manmade crises in Yemen, East Africa and Myanmar. Children in Need 2017 raised a record total. Large sums were donated to appeals after the Manchester bombings and the Grenfell fire.
We’ve seen our clients, both at Astarita Aldrich & Ward and Audience Fundraising & Communications achieve strong results by good old fashioned fundraising. You remember that? A really strong proposition, clearly showing need with an identified solution followed by a simple and straightforward call to action. Funnily enough, that still works. The execution is different from a few years ago, now it’s all about integration across multiple channels, on- and offline. It’s more complicated, certainly but the principles of what makes good fundraising haven’t changed. And high quality individually tailored engagement with supporters at all levels, with a clear and focussed fundraising objective remains the way to most effectively develop donors to give at their maximum level of capacity.
Donors are still willing to support charities, they simply need to be approached in the right ways. And to feel that their support is making a difference.
I’d like to think that the fundraising backlash is receding somewhat. Charities are realising that they can’t succeed in their missions by trying to offend the least number of people. They need to come out fighting. If your cause is important (and if it isn’t you’ve no business being a charity), you need to be out advocating for it and seeking to mobilise support. This involves being brave. Taking risks. Even being prepared to upset the Daily Mail..
What won’t work in 2018 is mediocre fundraising. The market is too saturated and donors are too discerning. Just churning out stuff that won’t upset the internal stakeholders or embarrass the Chair doesn’t cut it now and it won’t in 2018. If your organisation won’t let you do good fundraising, maybe you shouldn’t be asking for public support at all.
Happy Fundraising 2018