Stephen Cotterill: We thought the pandemic was bad...

08 Jul 2022 Voices

Economic storm gathers pace with inflation set to hit double digits...and we thought the pandemic was bad.

As if two years of pandemic weren’t testing enough, charities are now facing a cost-of-living crisis that will pile more pressure onto already stressed income streams.

Anecdotally, fundraising leaders are saying that the looming economic challenges of higher food and fuel prices, and increased inflation, are likely to have a far greater impact in the long run than the shock of the pandemic.

Despite fundraising channels being closed down and traditional routes to market severed during Covid, fundraisers pivoted quickly, engaged digital innovation and to some extent managed to mitigate the loss of income from in-person events, and street and face-to-face fundraising. It’s testament to the resilience of fundraisers and the continued generosity of the British public that more charities didn’t succumb to financial insolvency during this period.

However, the tremendous efforts of the fundraising community and the outpouring of support from the public were unprecedented and ultimately unsustainable. The forces that are now shaping the giving environment are more insidious and prolonged. We hadn’t seen a pandemic before in our lifetime so felt compelled to help those affected. But we have seen economic hardship and recession before, and know from experience that it can take years to recover, on a micro and macro financial level. People’s future finances are uncertain, so they will need to make cutbacks... and that might include regular gifts to charities.

The challenge for fundraisers now is to drive donor loyalty and appeal to those regular givers to keep giving. If they can’t keep giving, fundraisers need to be flexible in what they can offer – perhaps reducing monthly amounts or direct debit frequency to get through hard times, with an eye on restoring previous levels of giving in better times. Leverage those digital skills acquired during lockdowns to keep donors engaged and show how much their support means. It is going to be tough, but fundraisers have new tools at their disposal and a renewed sense of purpose as their charities’ services will be needed more now than ever.

@stevejcotterill is editor of Fundraising Magazine 

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