So the long awaited Government bailout for charities has been announced and it is…extremely underwhelming.
The message from our leaders for charities is, except for those they consider to be immediately useful in the crisis, save yourselves.
So, let’s do that, shall we?
We are the voluntary sector after all and it is to our fundraised income that charities must look now.
And there are enormous opportunities in this crisis for charities. I think this is the period that will define our sector for the next decade or more. Individuals and organisations will make decisions about the causes they really care about and we will see, and are seeing, gifts of exceptional size and generosity.
Major companies are announcing gifts of unprecedented levels on a daily basis. Philanthropists are stepping forward with increasingly huge pledges, such as Jack Dorsey’s $1bn pledge to Covid-19 vaccine research. And smaller donors are giving too, gifts in Canada in March reportedly doubled in value compared to the same period last year. Appeal results for many charities are extremely strong.
Of course this is Coronavirus related giving. What about the organisations who are not directly involved in the fight against the disease? Well, our sector works to support the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our society, precisely those most at risk in this crisis. (The private schools maybe not so much but pretty much everybody else). The task for charities then is to show supporters how you are more relevant than ever in the time of Corona. Not just the medical crisis but in the much greater social and economic crisis that is has triggered. And they will give and give more.
Here are seven key fundraising opportunities that the majority of charities can take advantage of in this crisis:
I think we all realise that the lockdowns mark a major point in the digital transformation of our societies. All sorts of things that people thought couldn’t be done virtually turn out to be perfectly possible. (Although I still think that virtual drinks are rubbish).
This is also the point where much fundraising moves online. Charities’ core older donor constituencies are increasingly giving digitally and this will become the norm now. Fundraising events are having to become digital. From now online engagement will be a key part of the great majority of giving by individuals (and organisations for that matter).
So this is the time, finally, to embrace the new world and properly sort your digital strategy. Very many charities still don’t have the barest basics in place (Here’s a quick checklist of them). Others do, but digital is a silo. It’s those charities that can properly integrate digital into fundraising that will emerge stronger after the crisis.
In the short term the crisis will hit legacy income as estates take longer to close and asset values are depleted. But there is significant long term opportunity. This crisis seems to be a key life event for many people. Charities are already reporting that will writing enquiries have increased by up to fivefold. But talking appropriately about legacies has never been more essential. Now is not the time to furlough your legacy promotion specialists.
- At home media
We are getting reports of strong results from a lot of DRTV campaigns as high audiences combine with falling media costs to give great opportunities to charities. Some retailers are donating advertising space.
The same effect is giving opportunities in digital advertising. Corporate ad blockers are stopping commercial ads appearing against Coronavirus newspaper stories, freeing that space for charities.
It’s early but I’m already hearing that some direct mail campaigns are having exceptional results.
Go where your audience is.
There are a lot of unemployed face to face fundraisers out there. Some charities are putting them on the telephone instead to talk to supporters. This is particularly helping with retention strategies but, properly managed will also enable donors to be asked to give more where appropriate.
We are already seeing lots of Coronavirus emergency appeals. A number of these are doing very well. Unsurprisingly it is the ones that talk about what the charity is doing to respond to the crisis, the needs it is facing and the impact it is having that are having great results. The ones that talk about the hit to the charity’s finances not so much.
Good fundraising practice is as important in emergencies as under any other circumstances. It’s all about making yourself relevant to your audiences, starting from where they are at and presenting the need and your solution to them in relatable ways. Do that and you will be surprised I think by how much support is there for you
Much community fundraising activity is on hold at the moment. But we are seeing great outbursts of community solidarity, such as clap for the NHS/carers. Isolation makes us value our communities more.
If we think about these often virtual communities, there are lots of opportunities here. Gaming for example brings together many different people into communities and even before the crisis, there was lots of fundraising going on in these groups, on platforms such as Tiltify. We have been doing some interesting work recently on how to engage and activate gaming audiences to support charities.
- Major giving
There are already and there are going to be more seriously big gifts to this crisis. Of course some existing donors will be badly hit and may need to reduce their giving but many more people will be making exceptional, even once in a lifetime gifts.
Positioning your charity to be part of this philanthropy is exceptionally important. It may involve new approaches and new partnerships as the scale of giving may well exceed the capacity of individual charities to respond appropriately.
But above all you need to be engaging and talking to all your supporters. Listening to them, empathising and supporting them. And where it’s right, asking them.
The world has changed. In scary and difficult ways. But also in ways that will unlock philanthropic giving. What are you doing to respond to this opportunity?