Beyond Bidding and Begging
With numerous scandals and bad publicity around charities and fundraising in the media over the last few years, public trust and confidence in charities has been badly undermined. I even have clients who have been trolled on social media just for being a charity!
In my view the sector needs to change the way it thinks about supporters, offer more in return for their support and try new ways of engaging and motivating supporters, including thinking beyond money.
In March 2017, I spoke at the Community Impact Bucks 2017 Community Funding Fair on precisely these issues. This post summarises and update some of the content of that talk.
My aim was, and is, to be provocative; to get people thinking differently and creatively. I don’t have a magic bullet that will suddenly start the money rolling in to any charity I choose to share it with. I’d be a rich man if I did. But I do know we need to change the way fundraising is done or many charities will simply not survive.
The fundraising mindset needs to change
We need to shift the mindset reflected in the language used by fundraisers (and their bosses). In my view, the old language around fundraising (which I still hear far too often) is too transactional, technical and, frankly, cold. It reflects an old-fashioned view of a donor’s journey from first gift to legacy; it is too focussed on the size and form of giving not the donor’s interests and needs.
Fundraising is about relationships
It should be much more relational, supporter-focussed and warm. Fundraising is about them (the supporters) not about us (the charity); how we talk about it should reflect a radically different approach to the supporter’s journey that is much more about their interests and needs.
Dramatic declines in public sector grants and many contracts being awarded to much larger (private sector) organisations have led to substantially more competition for both charitable grants and pubic donations.
How your charity can stand out
Charities need to set themselves apart from the competition and pique supporters’ interest. They need to have a great, and honest, story to tell about the difference they make (with evidence) and about how they live out their values with integrity. And they need to offer people many more ways to support their cause than just putting loose change in a bucket, writing a cheque or donating online. Without that, no matter how many sexy new fundraising techniques they try, the sustainable income that everyone wants just won’t materialise.
Beyond shifting the mindset and getting the story right, of course fundraising techniques will need to change for many charities. Some new techniques are in large part about grabbing (or keeping) supporters’ attention. SMS, App, gaming and other tech-based ideas are often about just that and, of course, about making giving as quick and as simple as possible. The, as yet unresolved, question is how can you build relationships with your supporters using these methods (especially with the tighter rules around Data Protection and recent scandals about use of personal data collected through social media and online)?
New fundraising ideas
In my view fundraising is becoming much less about altruism and much more about a two-way engagement; supporters want something in return for their money.
That could be as direct as purchasing merchandise or services. It could be much more intangible, for example through a supporter feeling doubly good about recycling knowing the “sale” of their old stuff is helping a charity or feeling less guilty about shopping because some of what they spend will go to charity. It could, and most often will, be a mix of direct and intangible rewards, for example through a crowdfunding donation that both supports the charity/project financially and secures a specific reward for the supporter.
Buying branded merchandise, recycling old tech gear and consumables, crowdfunding, charity lotteries, give as you buy schemes, social investment options, match funding schemes and all the other myriad ideas out there all sit somewhere on this spectrum from altruism to transaction. The key is to know where your supporters are likely to be on that spectrum, which options fit best with your charity’s values and to use the two-way engagement these techniques require to sustain and deepen relationships with your supporters. Building loyalty and making engagement enjoyable are essential so that people will support your cause in multiple ways; as advocates, as volunteers, through in-kind gifts (e.g. of equipment or consumables) and, yes, as donors.
I hope this post has whetted your appetite on this difficult subject. In the autumn I plan a series of posts to explore some of the specific techniques mentioned above. Other future posts will pick up on some of the underlying themes including how (and why) to evidence impact and how to ensure everyone associated with your charity behaves with integrity.