On the back of our updated report on sustainable funding in the voluntary sector, Dr Martin Price gives a timely reminder of the importance of involving fundraising in your income generation plans.
If you ask the average person in the street what charities do, most of them will instantly start talking about fundraising. They will then go on to talk about the good work that charities do and will mention some of the big brands and local charities whose work personally touches them, but fundraising is the first thing on their minds.
But most charities in Wales don’t actually fundraise from the public. Charities in Wales rely much more on government funding than charities in England and Scotland. Brexit means that the European structural funds which have been a mainstay of Welsh charity funding are not going to be there in the near future. Competition for grants from charitable Trusts is already intense and is going to get even more so.
THE FORGOTTEN ARTS OF FUNDRAISING
Now is the time to look at the forgotten arts of public fundraising. I am pleased to see that WCVA’s 2021 update on Sustainable Funding for the Third Sector actually mentions fundraising more than its 2016 predecessor. The Action Plan for the latter concentrated on grant funding and did not mention fundraising explicitly at all.
Welsh charities need to go back to what small voluntary organisations have been doing all along and asking the public for money to support their good work but using all the modern tools available.
For the past few years, I have been a mentor on the Charted Institute of Fundraising Cymru’s Fundraising Health Check project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Third Sector Skills programme, helping small and medium-sized charities to develop fundraising strategies.
My first questions are about how easy is it for people to give to the charity and if the organisation is registered for Gift Aid. It no longer surprises me when I discover that most of them do not ask for money on their website and are not taking advantage of tax-effective giving to boost any public donations.
Every charity should have a big donate button on the front page of their website linked to an easy-to-use on-line giving platform and use social media and all their communications with supporters to draw people to their donation page on a regular basis.
MAKE IT EASY TO GIVE
One positive aspect of the response to the pandemic is that more charities have set up online giving to repair their broken finances. One excellent example is the Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff which is now accepting online donations for each of its parishes after churches were forced to close and then re-open at reduced capacity, having an immediate effect on the weekly collection plate.
I am also aware of many more charities who are accelerating their use of cashless devices to receive donations from members of the public who have moved to contactless payments and no longer keep the cash in their pockets. We need to make it easy to give, making the transaction painless and frictionless.
Asking for money from the public should be obvious for any charity in Wales, but I have worked with several youth charities in West Wales who relied on grants but had not thought to ask the local community to put their hands in their pockets to support the young people; their town’s future. Local charities need to capitalise on the goodwill in their locality and not be afraid to ask for concrete support.
When I talk to charities about major gift fundraising, their eyes glaze over. ‘No-one rich lives here.’ Oh yes, they do. There are rich people all over Wales, rich people with an interest in Wales, rich people interested in your cause. You need to start looking for them.
I encouraged a Welsh heritage organisation recently to think about who they might know, and the Chair decided to write a letter to somebody he had sat next to at a dinner some months before. A substantial cheque arrived in the post from an individual I hadn’t heard of, but whose name I recognised in the Sunday Times Rich List the following week.
Legacy fundraising is one of the most lucrative areas for the big UK-wide charities and is on the rise in Wales. Small Welsh charities should have a page on their website explaining how easy it is to leave money to charity, the tax advantages, and the wording to be used in a will.
This should be followed up by including a short paragraph in all supporter communications with a link, and for local charities making sure that all the solicitors in your town have a stock of leaflets about your good work. This is low cost, but potentially high reward, traditional fundraising.
Fundraising is just about having the courage to ask for money and making it easy for people to give it to you. It helps to have a professional attitude and to have good quality training and advice, which is where the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Third Sector Support Wales’ resources and training programmes come in.
Keep your fundraising legal and ethical. Read and regularly consult the Code of Fundraising Practice which is maintained by the Fundraising Regulator.
Welsh charities can get over the hit from Brexit and COVID-19 by going back to their fundraising roots.
Dr Martin Price is a partner in Consultancy.coop LLP, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Welsh Board Member for the Fundraising Regulator. He is writing in a personal capacity.