In 2021, WCVA commissioned the first Voluntary Sector Income Survey to find out more about the landscape of fundraising across voluntary organisations in Wales. Here, Sustainable Funding Manager Alison Pritchard considers the findings of the report.
The report was researched and completed by Richard Newton Consulting.
WHY DOES FUNDRAISING MATTER?
Wales’ voluntary sector is historically grant-reliant. As a graduate during the 2008/9 financial crash, I can only listen in wonder as colleagues tell me of the “halcyon days” of the money flowing into sector in the early noughties.
However, those days a long gone and not likely to return. Whilst more funders are now exploring how they can retain the flexibility they displayed during the pandemic, ‘holy grail’ unrestricted grants (probably most commonly used for covering core costs like rent and non-project salaries) are still elusive. Arguably the best way to guarantee unrestricted income is to fundraise it; where you are the ones who decide what that money can and be spent on.
Monthly income from individual giving direct debits is reliable in a way that grants aren’t, legacy gifts can provide injections of cash that can lead to whole new services and sponsorships can lead to years-long relationships with businesses that can provide all sorts of opportunities and added value.
Fundraising in Wales is worth over £550,000,000 to our communities and beneficiaries.
And yet, we see time and time again the reluctance organisations have to actually invest time, people and financial resources into generating voluntary income (income given to you voluntarily, rather than in return for goods, services or service delivery).
WHY WE DID THE RESEARCH
In the 2019 Sustainable Funding for the Third Sector report, we committed to gaining a better understanding of voluntary organisations in Wales and their income. Most knowledge about voluntary sector income comes from annual reports submitted to the Charity Commission. But this does not account for micro-charities who don’t need to complete returns, and provides little insight into how voluntary organisations raise funds through more “traditional” fundraising methods such as events, individual giving and sponsorship.
Having a clearer and more detailed picture of the Welsh voluntary sector’s income through the survey will:
- Provide a more current understanding of the prevalence of different income streams and fundraising methodologies
- Provide voluntary organisations and their fundraisers, where applicable, insights into where to invest vital resources for income generation, and
- Give WCVA and other infrastructure and support bodies a basis on which to plan and provide appropriate support to help voluntary organisations diversify their income generation activities.
WHAT WE FOUND
Beyond defining the value of fundraising in Wales, the report identified that there are many differentials and challenges across the voluntary sector as a whole and between different sub-sectors (for examples arts, education and social care) which, if addressed, could result in even more fundraised income for voluntary organisations in Wales.
The report illustrated the clear return on investment in respect of fundraising. It confirms for us – WCVA, the county voluntary councils and other support bodies (such as the National Lottery Community Fund, Fundraising Regulator, Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Community Foundation Wales to name a few) – that quality support around fundraising is vital if we are to ensure that organisations can be confident about their long-term future and contribution to the wellbeing of communities in Wales.
Condensed versions of the report’s recommendations are outlined below:
- Wider understanding needs to be generated in respect of fundraising, presenting it as an essential function for voluntary sector organisations and not an activity that is restricted to fundraisers.
- In developing a wider understanding as to power of fundraising, work needs to be undertaken with service planners and commissioners to understand the value of fundraising and the role that it plays in enhancing public and community life, often adding quality to statutory services.
- Fundraising start-up support should be considered for small organisations who may otherwise struggle to make initial steps to start fundraising.
- Workforce development and planning must be key priorities for organisations that fundraise. Workforce planning needs to establish fundraising as a viable and equitable career option.
- Infrastructure and funding bodies across Wales must come together to meet the distinct needs of small voluntary organisations, who say that they need additional support but are not accessing it.
- Funding should be available to support the development of fundraisers and fundraising skills, over a period of several years, to allow organisations to realise the financial and other benefits of a skilled fundraising workforce.
- The sector must also consider how it meets the needs of Welsh language charities specifically.
- Non-Wales-registered organisations need support and motivation to articulate the voluntary income that they fundraise in Wales so that their key contribution to the sector can be effectively communicated.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The report rightly identifies that fundraising is ‘an essential function for voluntary sector organisations and not an activity that is restricted to fundraisers’. But how many organisations and people within the sector think and act as if fundraising is essential to their organisation and not a nice-to-have thing that we need to try to make time for?
Recently, representatives from several organisations (those mentioned above, as well as Cwmpas, Lloyds Bank Foundation and with the support of Welsh Government) have been exploring how we can, individually and collaboratively, further the recommendations of this report (and others) through existing and new support and funding offers. We will be publishing our thoughts and proposed action plan on this later in 2022.
EXISTING WCVA AND TSSW FUNDRAISING SUPPORT
In the meantime, check out the TSSW Knowledge Hub for information sheets and e-learning courses on a variety of fundraising and income generation topics.
Interested in upskilling your staff team? Get in touch with our training team to discuss bespoke training courses such as ‘Introduction to Fundraising Strategy’ and ‘Planning and Writing Successful Funding Bids’.