When there are fewer resources and increasing demand, it can appear logical to be more secretive about how we are managing challenges. In times of austerity, all organisations have a heightened awareness of their financial security and it’s natural to become a little withdrawn in order to retain a commercial edge.
Unfortunately, this is the position the UK charity sector finds itself in at the moment. According to the most recent UK Giving Report, the proportion of the population donating to charity fell by 8 percentage points between 2019 and Q1 of 2022, with 13% considering reducing charitable donations in the near future due to financial pressure.
These are demanding times for a sector that is reliant on the generosity of others for large portions of income, which funds services that are vital to the wellbeing of so many.
At the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), the challenges of the pandemic and economic downturn have impacted us, and the people we are here to support. But it is with pride that I am able to say that through collaboration and receptiveness to new ideas, we’ve been able to strengthen our response and improve our services. Here’s how a collaborative approach could help you.
Listening to lived experience
Before having difficult conversations about cost-cutting and budgets, first consider what is working and why. Look to what the people using your services tell you is helping, what enables them to access what they need from you, and if there are elements that are less useful now. So much has changed in the last few years, it is a good time to review formal and informal feedback on your services.
At NAPAC, something we have benefited massively from is having people with lived experience as part of our staff, board and governance teams.
As a disclosed survivor myself, being able to unashamedly bring my experiences and insights to this work helps me be more effective. It’s also so beneficial for NAPAC to have lived experience within the organisation, as it provides a wider range of insights into what service users may want, opening up new ways of thinking and asking different questions, enabling us to prioritise which aspects of our service make the biggest difference.
Raise awareness together
If there are fewer people able to donate, and less money being donated, we need to reach more potential donors and help them make informed decisions about their philanthropy. Collaborating can help reduce the cost of campaigns through sharing expenses and amplifying a collective goal.
This sort of collaboration doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sharing blogs and social media posts with organisations that are also supporting some of your service users.
Collaborating on fundraising and awareness campaigns with organisations that you are already working alongside, even unofficially, can make sense to service users and donors. In the minds of a prospective donor, the added weight of a partner charity further legitimises your goal and shows new audiences that you are open to working together.
Follow your own signposting
We work with a range of organisations because they are also essential for our service users, including law firms, NHS departments, police forces, and other charities. Those partners you would consider working with on awareness raising campaigns might also be able to act as a critical friend and help you analyse your organisation’s performance from a different angle.
Gaining external insights from those who know your sector can help refine messaging, improve planning, and avoid costly mistakes. Making partner organisations part of your evaluation process and integrating their contributions can help in identifying new revenue streams and reaching new markets (both service users and professional clients). A transparent working relationship with partners (i.e. sharing insights) will arm you with the information to tailor your service to the needs of your service users, both current and prospective.
Our solidarity will benefit service users
Applying for funding is increasingly competitive, with challenging timescales, and decreased chances of success. Even if funding is secured, there can be delays in grant payments and other stipulations that impact cash-flow.
We can be mindful of the needs of our service users by also showing solidarity with other organisations in the way we conduct fundraising and collaborate on bids.
Thinking of adult survivors of childhood abuse, so many people find NAPAC because there are no other services able to provide the specialist support they need, sometimes there is simply nowhere else for them to go. NHS waiting lists are still recovering from the pandemic, and the cost-of-living puts private therapy out of reach for many.
Unique services like ours are so important because we can meet specific needs, but we cannot do this alone, and we do not want to. We value all organisations across our networks that we can signpost to and who signpost to us – and our collaboration increases the information and range of choices and support available to those who need them most, which at the end of the day, is what we’re all striving for.
Kim Bond is head of development at the National Association for People Abused in Childhood