At times, getting through 2018 reminded me of a line from a song by The Mountain Goats – “I’m gonna make it through this year, if it kills me” (It should be required listening every New Year’s Eve).
It was a year of contradictions – record money raised for the London Marathon (again), but Sport Relief raised less than previous years on the night. There was an increasing rise and adoption of digital payments and contactless technology, yet when a mooted proposal from the Government about withdrawing pennies was announced, there were concerned voices. And while stories have been prominent across the sector on how charities should treat those we work with (whether in international safeguarding, or closer to home with the Presidents Club) there probably has been more work done about supporting fundraisers in the workplace as well as looking at equality, diversity, and inclusion than in years before.
It's usually not until years in the future that we’ll be able to look back and see what was important and what was a bit of a flash in the pan, but my guess is that if there's one thing from 2018 that will probably make the biggest difference to charity fundraising, it’s GDPR. But, as another contradiction, it’s not the legislation itself that will have the long-lasting effect (although undoubtedly that’s a big part of it), but rather the wider cultural and conceptual discussions it has triggered – moving from ‘what channel can we use to contact an individual’, to ‘what kind of communication will give that person the best experience.’
New year’s regulations…
Before I hear the sound of thousands of smartphones being smashed, 2019 is going to be the year when we find out what will be in the new ePrivacy regulations - the rules that govern electronic communications and data protection coming into effect in 2020 - and also a new version of the Code of Fundraising Practice. These are just part of the continual evolution of regulation that we work within, and charities need to be ready to embed the changes as we know about them. We need to learn the lessons of incorporating GDPR this year – not to panic, to get a whole organisational approach, and to avoid hasty decision-making.
What are you going to do for your donors?
I’m expecting 2019 to be full of creative, innovative, and inspiring fundraising. Content (as always) is going to be key. We need more of it coming out from every charity, using all the channels we’ve got to continually get out stories to our supporters as well as to potential new donors. To borrow a phrase I heard this year from Grant Leboff, we need to think like JFK in our fundraising – asking not what our donors can do for us, but what we can do for our donors. If we’ve got their attention in this crowded and overwhelming world of messages and ever-decreasing attention spans we’ve done well, we now need to follow that up with relevant and engaging content throughout the year.
What do the real fundraisers say?
I’m not a fundraiser – so I asked some real fundraisers what they’ll be working on next year. It seems the broad themes are the same: supporter experience, digital engagement, and a focus on quality interactions.
Sam Butler, director of fundraising at Tibet Relief Fund: “The aim for next year is to provide our supporters with an experience that aligns itself with their outlook on life, whilst bringing them closer to the work we do around preserving Tibetan culture. With our merchandise, we shall promote the stories of the Tibetan businesses that we support through promoting their goods, and using this unique selling point, engage customers directly with our beneficiaries through videos of them telling their stories.”
Emily Casson, digital marketing manager at Cats Protection: “2019 is going to be all about broadening fundraising options for potential supporters. Just one example of the ways Cats Protection will do this is to provide resources and a variety of activity to encourage gamers to engage with us. Online streaming is growing exponentially, as is the appetite for raising money through Gaming for Good and this is a huge area of potential, especially with attracting new supporters who are a different demographic to our current supporter database. We are also going to be focussing on the retention of supporters when they join the Cats Protection community; less ‘batch and blast’ communications and more interaction with our supporters in a relevant, timely and meaningful way.”
Joe Jenkins, director of supporter impact & income at Children’s Society: “I’m hopeful 2019 will continue to see the rise of movement building in civil society, as communities organise to tackle some of our most serious social problems and charities recognise our role is to help mobilise, connect, inspire rather than claim to ‘own’ either issues or supporters. It’s here, with new models of attracting support, digital engagement and most critically, through great storytelling, that we’ll see the greatest reinvention of fundraising.”
Meredith Niles, executive director of fundraising and engagement at Marie Curie UK: “In 2019, we have two key objectives. The first is to demonstrate our relevance to a wider audience. Although Marie Curie is well known for our hospices and nursing service, we are here to help anyone with a terminal illness, and we want to ensure that everyone who needs our help knows that we are here for them. The second objective is to add value to our existing supporters: we know that we need to keep earning their support – it’s not something we can take for granted – and we are committed to learning from our supporters how we can continue to offer them an experience that adds meaning to their lives.”
So there you have it – I’m anticipating some great fundraising next year that inspires supporters, understands what is important in their lives and responds to meet and exceed their expectations. It’s exciting to hear the plans that are afoot and I can’t wait to see the creative fundraising campaigns and activity that they’ll bring.
Bring on 2019!