The funding crisis means that now, fundraising is everybody’s business, says Jo Swinhoe. Fundraisers need to encourage themselves, and others in their organisations, to start talking about the good they do.
Every year we hear stories of charities being unable to meet their fundraising targets, of voluntary income dropping and the threat to the charity’s work as a result. Every year some charities do fail, and the rest perhaps breathe a small sigh of relief, examine their strategies and dive into the next year of raising money.
This time it feels different. This time, those charities which are ‘recession proof’ are few and far between. Ideas can help. There are big strategic ideas – like backroom resource-sharing between charities – and everyday ones – like strengthening communication on your unique selling point and delivering the promised outcomes for the money you receive.
But what else can be done differently this year which will change the economic environment from a threat to an opportunity to think and act differently?
I believe there are three things which need to shift considerably, and we can all do them.
The first is about our own personal commitment as donors. Many people in the UK are very private about giving. We rarely talk about money. We choose to conceal our donated amount on Justgiving when our friends run and climb in aid of their chosen charity. Whether it is £10 or £100, it’s a donation to be proud of. We shy away from talking about a donation we’ve made in case we’re seen as boasting – and yet by talking about a donation to a great project we’re passionate about, and the difference it’s going to make, we may well encourage others to donate too.
So let’s speak up about our giving!
The second is the work many of us do as volunteers: a couple of hours of free consultancy to an arts centre, giving time as a helpline adviser; the work done in the many charity shops and Cards for Good Causes shops across the UK, there is so much volunteering already out there.
Is this exciting stuff? Of course it is. It’s the stuff that saves and changes lives. Having a supportive and knowledgeable person who is able to listen to your situation and give you advice right at the time of picking the phone up can save lives. Having the right mentor who has the interests of the mentee right at the forefront of their mind and who gives unbiased advice at certain points in your life can literally turn it around.
Let's hear it for volunteers
It is impossible to listen to a person who is passionate about their favourite volunteering activity without responding to that enthusiasm. And fundraising doesn’t happen without volunteers.
So let’s speak up about our volunteering!
The third thing we can do to help protect our organisations is this: Believe and live the fact that fundraising is everyone’s business.
What does this mean in practice? No charity can operate without money and when getting that money is more difficult than usual, pulling together is more effective than pulling apart.
‘Fundraising is everybody’s business’ means board members should examine the reasons why they are personally involved in their chosen charity and take the initiative to offer suitable contacts, networks and income-generating opportunities. Let’s not wait to be asked.
‘Fundraising is everybody’s business’ means working with the volunteers who actively support the work of the charity and seeing them as the best champions for the value of the charities’ work. Use them. Allow them space to speak, to tweet, to blog, to show passion, to be the living advocates for the charity. Let’s not contain that passion.
And the fundraisers? Respond to the opportunities which will come your way from the board, your volunteers and the stories that your charity can tell. Give donors their space and not see every conversation about giving as an opportunity to follow up with a request for more funds. Build a longterm relationship which appreciates the small and large donation, and every bit of volunteer support as philanthropy in action.
The funding crisis facing the sector is everyone’s business. And so is fundraising.
So let’s speak up about our fundraising!
Jo Swinhoe is managing director of the Tinnitus Clinic