Alison Pritchard, WCVA’s Sustainable Funding Manager, shares learning on fundraising from our recent cost of living event ‘Decision making in a crisis’.
As part of WCVA’s mini-series of events on the cost-of-living crisis, we invited Simon Scriver, co-founder of Fundraising Everywhere, to talk about how important good fundraising decision making is for voluntary organisations during the crisis.
WCVA defines ‘resilience’ as:
‘The ability of an organisation to plan for, respond to, and adapt to change, enabling it to survive and thrive both now and in the future.’
Two of the key things that make achieving that resilience more possible are strategies and unrestricted income.
The process of developing organisational strategies* involves lots of research and insight gathering into the context an organisation is working in, the community its working for and the stakeholders who support that work. Having this knowledge is vital to planning for, responding to and adapting to change, and crises.
(*Risk management is an integral part of a good strategy. In another blog from this series of events, in which Sian Eâger reflects on the importance of risk management and other management tools.)
Unrestricted income (income that does not have a specified, fixed purpose) gives an organisation the freedom to make changes or try something new as the environment changes around them. Whilst funders are making good headway to become more flexible in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is fundraised and earned income that truly provides this freedom.
THE VALUE OF FUNDRAISERS
Simon opened his talk by setting out the context of much of the sector’s current attitude to fundraising. Fundraisers were furloughed or made redundant at severe rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when income was desperately needed to fund huge increases in demand for services. This was a sharp illustration of the long-standing lack of priority given to fundraising and income generation, a vital element of functional charities.
Relationships are the foundation of good fundraising, whether that be with individuals, funders or companies. Simon highlighted that the current average time a person spends in a fundraising role is about 18 months. When the current average time to develop a corporate partner relationship is also 18 months, it highlights how not being able to retain fundraisers in their roles can affect your chances of attracting income. We need fundraisers to want to stay in their roles for long enough to develop relationships and put systems and processes in place to maintain and grow them over the longer term.
‘See fundraising how your donors see it…’
For those lucky enough not to need charitable services, fundraisers and the communications and events they create are often the only point of contact a supporter has with your charity. That touch point needs to be solid, relevant and appealing. It needs time and resources invested into it.
Historically, the amount of people donating remains relatively consistent during a crisis, although the frequency and value of these donations may fluctuate.
Good fundraising is the bridge between a donor, their values and their ability to effect change to live those values. Not everyone wants, or is able, to work or volunteer for a charity, but donating money or goods is a way that person can contribute to the cause(s) they care about – their causes.
Donors are loyal. They feel a sense of ownership over their causes, in a way they don’t to other charities. It’s the relationships with these donors that we need to be careful to maintain and serve during crises.
Simon spoke about the importance of communicating our organisations as an essential cost for donors, rather than a nice-to-have that they might look to reduce or cut as people adjust their personal spending. Its not begging, its an opportunity for them to continue to achieve their values at a time when the societal issues they care about are becoming increasingly critical.
THRIVING OVER SURVIVING
Simon’s top tips to thrive during a crisis instead of just surviving:
- Communicate with your supporters – have a conversation (not just you telling them things) in which you reassure them that supporting you helps them make the change or have the impact that they want to see.
- Create organisation-wide support for your fundraising – not everyone in your organisation needs to be a fundraiser, but they all have a role to play (eg colleagues in service delivery providing impact data and case studies to help fundraisers shape cases for support). Be a fundraising organisation, not just an organisation that fundraises.
- Take fundraising seriously – invest time and money into it, resource it properly, try things out, get feedback on your fundraising activities and make changes if it isn’t working. Make sure you’re compliant with the Code of Fundraising Practice.
TRAINING AND RESOURCES
WCVA will be running various fundraising related training courses in the new year. Keep an eye on our training and events pages for further information.
We have created a resources page for the cost-of-living crisis, including a section on funding and fundraising.
Simon Scriver is the co-Founder of Fundraising Everywhere, an online community which provides professional development, peer support and networking for fundraisers and future charity leaders.
For more information on this topic check out this piece by Siân Eagar, WCVA’s Resilience Officer, reflecting Bev Garside’s tips on how to navigate risk and uncertainty and make decisions in a crisis.
Siân has also summarised the key learning points from Gus Williams’ recent talk on financial management in the cost of living crisis.