Charities have to be successful at fundraising if they are to survive. Read the articles below to help achieve fundraising success.
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The ways in which individuals can donate to charities continues to expand, yet to date very few charities have applied sophisticated optimisation techniques to improve the value and volume of online donations. There is no simple, one size fits all approach – not least because visitors to a charity’s website will have a broad array of objectives. From those looking for vital information or signing up for a fundraising event, to receivers of support or advice and those who have their work funded by the charity, very few visitors are actually coming to the site simply to donate.
Most charities present a donation button in the landing page header. But with so many different user journeys there are many, many ways of presenting an additional request for a one-off donation. Timing is everything – ask for a donation too soon and the individual is likely to be disengaged; wait too long and he or she may have already found the required information or pledged support for an event before the call to action is delivered.
Optimisation plays an essential role in refining the message content and determining the best timing. Specifying a recommended donation amount, for example, has certainly proved to increase the average value of donations. An engagement trigger is also a great way of encouraging donations. For example, charities may tailor their messaging to those looking for specific information.
After a certain number of pages, the charity can then present a widget with a message that explains the importance of online donations and ask if individuals would like to donate to enable the charity to continue to provide this information.
Optimisation can also play a key role in achieving other performance indicators, such as ensuring the site meets the information needs of different content users. It is also important to optimise the experience for those who only want to browse the site for information. A good first user experience may lead to a future donation so it is important to make the experience beneficial to suit all user needs.
What counts as success in engagement based campaigns will vary from charity to charity, and from test to test. Charities will often have a time on site target for visitors to reach, but also put into place other performance indicators for example measuring whether the user downloads any PDFs that hold information or if they watch a video presented on the information pages.
Users spending time on a page is generally seen as a positive metric, however high page views could also mean that users can’t find what the information they are looking for so therefore need to spend more time looking for it. Integrating tests with third party heat mapping tools can really help to gain a deeper level of insight in to visitor engagement and help resolve these grey areas.
For example, providing a link with more room on the page can result in increased clicks; changing the titles of menus to better fit the content can improve the user journey and click forwards from a landing page can be increased by personalising the content to send users messages relevant to their location.
Of course, some charities are very protective of their valuable content, opting to retain information behind a log-in barrier. The problem with this model is that casual users have no incentive to donate. There is a clear role for optimisation to play in determining the most effective balance between safeguarding information and demonstrating the charity’s value without requiring log-in, and hence improving user engagement and encouraging more ad hoc donations.
While the timing and content of the message will vary depending on the user journey, combining information about existing donors with the online optimisation process also ensures a far more personalised experience. For example, rather than presenting regular donors with the same message asking for a one-off donation, these individuals can be shown a message that demonstrates the value of the charity’s work, perhaps followed up with a request to increase the regular commitment.
Similarly those who have already made a one-off donation can be asked if they would be willing to become a regular donor.
Having a personalised landing page is a great way to test whether more people are clicking onto a site, but also it is a great way to determine the effect of a localised campaign. Sites can be personalised for local users by having relevant local and recognisable images, as well as the user journey being shortened by users pre-selecting their location. This can then be linked to offline campaigns to further optimise the experience.
Right now there is no clear best practice across the charity sector – and given the diversity of user journeys, which varies from charity to charity, there will never be a simple one size fits all approach. However, there is huge untapped potential, and those charities which are beginning to explore optimisation to improve the relevance and timing of content are reaping the rewards of both greater donations and more engaged visitors.
"A good first user experience may lead to a future donation so it is important to make the experience beneficial to suit all user needs."
Have you heard of the marshmallow test? In the late 1960s and early 1970s psychologist Walter Mischel carried out what became known as the Stanford marshmallow experiment - a series of studies on delayed gratification. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between a small reward - often a marshmallow - provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the test conductor left the room and then returned.
In later life the children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to be more successful, as measured by educational attainment scores, body mass index and other yard sticks
So the proposition of the marshmallow test is simple enough: you can have one now, or wait a little while and you can have two. So what has this got to do with your charity?
Well the theory of deferring instant gratification to enable the fulfilment of long term goals is a scenario which faces all charity marketers. You can employ aggressive tactics and grab a quick buck, or you can take a more measured approach and turn a one-off giver into a long term donor and advocate of your charity.
What does this mean in practical terms? Here are four ways charities can tweak their practices to improve their relationships with their donors.
Engage your visitors
When buying a woolly winter hat you’re probably not too concerned with the brand that makes it, you just want to keep you head warm. But it’s different with a charity, where your story is arguably the most important part.
Charities are brands whether they like it or not, so you need to separate yourself from all the others out there if you want to turn somebody into a patron. People have to like your brand enough to give – they aren’t forced to do so by necessity so you need them to believe in what you’re about.
It’s crucial for you to sell your mission statement and your values – explaining why someone should be interested in your cause and how their donation will make a difference. A visitor to your website should be allowed the time to soak it up without shoutily hurrying them to the donations page.
Show gratitude to donors
We all enjoy the feeling of doing something to help someone else – it makes us feel good to help others and this is a prime driver for people to give to charity. So you should always remind your donors of the positive impacts their donations have on you achieving your charity's mission.
Not all organisations know this. A recent by Charity Dynamics and NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) revealed that a staggering 21% of first time donors were not thanked for their support.
If you ignore that one-off donor, irrespective of the importance of your charity's mission, the success of your philanthropy or the quality of your website, they won’t be donating again. Demonstrating gratitude is not only imperative for building trust, but also for bringing people back to your site, so they can donate again.
If you’re asked to donate £10 a month, that can be quite off-putting for many of us. But if you’re asked to give 30p a day, that’s the loose change you throw into your penny jar at the end of each day. It feels like a rather insignificant sum.
However, the two amounts are actually the same. All you’ve done is flip the perspective and frame the prices to demonstrate the value of the proposition.
If you go a step further and break the price down into terms that resonate with your potential donor, then this can be a real help. For example:
- Just 30p a day will help us build a well that can provide water for an entire village.
- Just 30p a day…that’s less than a pint of milk.
Range of donation options
The days of shaking a bucket outside a supermarket or an oversized cheque being presented to the local newspaper are slowly fading, though you do still see it. But these one-off payments are not conducive to long term giving. What you don’t see is that the proportion of online giving is much higher.
People today like to pay for products by credit card, bank transfer, their mobile, even bitcoin…well maybe not bitcoin quite yet. All this translates to the third sector.
The key is putting the donor in control. The more flexible and agile your payment options are, the more likely your giver will give more regularly. Charities don't have the normal conversion catalysts of free shipping or discounts, so avoiding barriers to quick and easy payment is the key to securing long term patrons.
All of these measures might sound like common sense, which of course they are, but by opting for a more considered approach and the delayed gratification of long term donor engagement you’ll pass the marshmallow test and hopefully see your donations flourish.
Once upon a time, arts fundraising worked like this: organisations vied for a mix of state funding and Arts Council England grants. Private sector giving came next, pursued via corporate donations and gifts from wealthy donors. Individual giving – though still important – came last; a mass of small donations pursued via labour intensive annual appeals, legacy donation campaigns, events and, of course, membership programmes.
Now the landscape has changed dramatically. State funding has been slashed, private foundations have raised the bar for accountability, corporate donations are increasingly tied to narrow CSR programmes and individual giving has been squeezed by shrinking disposable income.
Securing donations has never been easy, but the challenges faced by today’s arts fundraisers demand a new approach.
Addressing the data issue
The issue of increasing transparency and granularity (detail) in results reporting has been with us for years, but many arts charities still lack the tools and expertise to address it – particularly where wealthy donors are concerned.
The result is a state of untapped potential which reflects a general weakness in arts charities’ ability to properly understand the motivations and behaviours of the very people who attend their performances and exhibitions. By analysing the patterns behind people’s giving and the ways they interact with an organisation, it’s often possible to identify those with a greater propensity to give – either in terms of frequency, average size of donation, or both.
It’s a twofold problem that arts organisations need to overcome quickly: how to identify and connect with wealthy individuals, and then how to reassure them that their gifts are having a positive impact.
Overcoming rising data demands starts with tracking activity and sharing information in a way that doesn’t deviate markedly from one organisation to the next. Arts charities need to work towards a sector-wide understanding of "what success looks like". Arguably this starts with the essential issue of standardised reporting that measures outcomes consistently and enables proper benchmarking.
It’s also important to capture the soft benefits arts organisations provide. For example, a theatre’s primary mission is to provide its local community with access to quality performing arts. Alongside that, it may also put on acting workshops for children, provide gallery space in its lobby for local artists, or engage with disability charities to encourage attendance from otherwise marginalised groups.
As chief executives look to extend their organisations’ worth and relevance, donors need to know that sort of non-core activity is taking place, and see it in the context of attendance and impact on the theatre’s financial health. Having the systems and management skill sets in place to capture that sort of holistic data in a meaningful way will soon become essential.
Putting it into practice
Systems and skill sets really come into play where definitions of wealthy are concerned. With the "very rich" at one end of the donor continuum and individual donors at the other, a wide swath of generally prosperous people in the middle fall off the fundraising radar. That represents a huge missed opportunity – in effect, asking people for £100 when they may be willing to donate £1,000.
Consider this. A 2012 report by Arts Quarter analysed the databases of 126 UK arts organisations and discovered that, on average, 3.4% of individuals in their databases had a personal wealth over £1m (excluding the value of their homes). As might have been expected, this was highest in London (5.4%) but even in the region with the lowest number (North East & Yorkshire), it was 1.3%.
If we apply those percentages to a theatre database of 50,000 customer records, 1.3% still represents 650 individuals. Were you to solicit annual donations of £1,000 from just 10% of these you would be able to secure £65,000 each year.
Spotting these potential donors doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you offer the option to give a donation at the checkout, you will be able to identify individuals who included (or increased) a donation at this point. Purchasing premium seats is often a good indicator of high discretionary income. And of course postcode data will also provide insight into average incomes (though obtaining this data will likely come at a cost).
UK databases of high net worth individuals already exist and there are consultancies which can audit your database for free, and then tell you how many of these individuals it contains. There is then a cost to purchase the data, but if budget is an issue you could purchase the data for a subset of your database, focusing on the four most viable segments:
- Regulars (visited 3+ times in the last year).
- Irregulars (visited 1-2 times in the last year).
- At least once (visited at least once in the last 3 years).
- Never (not visited in the last 3 years).
Using this segmentation scheme and the results of the audit, you could initially buy the data for your "Regulars" segment, and purchase the others at a later date. When you do get the data back, you may need some assistance from your system supplier in order to write the new information back into your database.
While it’s no doubt harder to make the case for raising money in the arts than it is for addressing extreme poverty in Africa, or fighting cancer, we do have advantages. We start with knowledge of individuals who have demonstrated a proven interest in our organisation – by virtue of their having attended an event or production. We also know about individuals who are local to our communities. In both cases we can make an appeal based on personal relevance.
This is why it’s crucial that once we’ve identified potential major donors, we continue to take a personal approach. Key to this is using the data we have about them. For example if you have a group of potential donors who regularly come to your family shows, you could run a cultivation event around these.
People giving how they want
From fundraising to marketing to communications and PR, data-driven decision making has to move to the centre of fundraising strategy; partially because of austerity and the lean funding environment, but also because technology has changed people’s giving behaviour.
Wealthy, average income, or somewhere in the middle, some people don't like telemarketing but are happy to respond to email. Traditional direct mail is disappearing and we may be moving to a fundraising environment where all donations are made via mobile apps or other digital channels. With the rise of crowd funding and youth philanthropy, I expect to see the development of more donor networks, comprised of individuals who come together around specific causes, engage in volunteerism, and/or willingly promote the activities of the causes and organisations they support.
Even if the ways people donate become less structured and homogenous, one thing is consistent across all target groups: the desire for a better understanding of how acts of charity are helping others. One only need to look at what Oxfam is doing with its “Tag Your Bag” campaign for a glimpse of data’s role in fundraising’s future. All in-store Gift Aid donations at Oxfam retail shops are tracked – even down to individual donations of clothing – and followed up with an email to explain how that gift is helping someone in the local community.
Technology can do the job
Delivering this level of granularity requires technology that can collect donation and transactional history within the same platform, and then use it to trigger targeted, personalised communications. That requires seamless integration with existing systems such as CRM (customer relationship management) to provide a complete view of each supporter’s history of engagement.
Ultimately, the future of arts fundraising lies in better use of data and technology to support the real reason we do what we do: promoting the joy, exhilaration, sense of fulfilment, and the deep and enduring meaning that results from supporting the art you love. Given how much of political and commercial life has been denuded in recent years, the timing for all this could not be better.
Ever wished it was possible to raise free money for your charity, with absolutely no cost to the donor? Well now you can, by tapping into “shop and give” platforms and harnessing the power of online referrals. Welcome to the world of affiliate marketing.
Unless you go directly to a retailer website, someone, somewhere, is making money out of your clicks when you buy online. The affiliate marketplace is worth a great deal of money - well over £300m a year in the UK alone and growing -- but this pot of gold usually stays untapped. The opportunity to divert this steady flow of cash to charities is too good an opportunity to miss.
This is the world of affiliate marketing - or old-fashioned sales referrals for the Internet age. Typically, this works by paying commission for sales leads. If an affiliate refers someone who spends £100 at a participating retailer, they can offer a percentage of the sale price in return. If this is 4%, this produces £4 as a sales commission. Most of the websites using this referral mechanism keep this money as part of their revenue - product review and comparison sites generate significant income in this way.
Charities can become affiliates themselves and “go it alone” simply by publishing a link on their website so that all sales made will generate free donations for that charity. Under this system, all commissions are kept rather than having to cover a partner's service costs. The downside is that all the donations remain anonymous so charities can't thank people for the donations they generate.
Furthermore, they will have to encourage all supporters to use the links from the charity website every time they buy online. If charities want to work with lots of shops, this adds significant additional administration overheads. Although on paper it looks like they could generate more donations, in practice, it simply does not work.
More personalised experience
Using a "shop and give" model overcomes many of these problems and enables the whole experience to become much more personalised. Platforms charge more or less for conversion depending on whether they are a charity or non-profit themselves, or need to satisfy shareholders. Typically, they will keep between 25% and 50% of the donation as a charge for the conversion.
Shopping platforms support causes whose primary purpose is a social benefit rather than private profit, which includes charities, schools, social enterprises and clubs. These organisations do not need to compete to get on a shopping platform; as long as they are a registered charity they can request to be listed. Many consumers are unaware that their local schools or scouts groups could benefit from their funding, and by joining shopping platforms, supporters can be made aware of new and free fundraising opportunities.
Local charities have the community aspect in their favour. They are capable of gaining support through a common community interest and people see the benefits of fundraising on their doorstep. National charities have the benefit of scale and larger budgets to spend on raising their profile, but distributing money over a much wider area lessens the immediate impact.
In return for continued support, charities need to be very transparent with their supporters about what the money raised has been used for. Direct communication between the charities and their donors is fundamental to guaranteeing an ongoing stream of contributions.
Ways of giving
So what exactly can this form of fundraising produce? Active givers are currently generating around £3 a month but this is significantly below the potential. In addition, like any online audience, only a percentage of shoppers engage with the programme. This can range from 10% to 25% depending on the dynamics of a supporter base. The season also heavily influences shopper habits, with peak periods around Christmas or the summer holidays.
Return on investment (ROI) for fundraising can be measured in many ways - is fundraising best served by efficient cash donations direct from people’s pockets, or is it about unlocking the propensity of more people to give? There is undoubtedly a sweet spot where you get the highest return from a donor base. However, the hidden cost is the disaffected people talking about a negative experience to others. And nowadays, there are so many ways to share dissatisfaction quickly with lots of people.
What if the giving process considered the supporter more? What if you can remove the financial barriers to giving and concentrate only on the act of giving and the engagement with your cause. The conversation then becomes “would you give for free?” and if so, “would you like to help make a difference with us?".
Charities also have a battle on their hands to make themselves heard. Shopping donations platforms often have lists of charities competing for donors’ attentions and they have to be very proactive to ensure they are selected as a recipient of a donor’s money. Local publicity or social media campaigns they can run to advertise themselves on different platforms can help get them noticed. Some giving portals also allow participants to select more than one beneficiary, so multiple charities can benefit from each donation.
Boosting the brand
Generating donations is only one outcome of this form of giving - some other significant findings have arisen. In 2012 one of our retailers was advised by their marketing agency that we were not bringing in enough new customers as a percentage vs. repeat custom. The difference between where we were and where we needed to be was quite small – around 1%.
The agency was not persuaded, even though we outlined how we had been responsible for large volumes of sales and the retailer had effectively benefited hundreds of schools and charities. We were judged against many pure sales websites that were keeping all the commissions.
When we let our user base know, they were angry and contacted the retailer to let them know how they felt. Although we suspected this to some degree, we were unaware of the depth of emotional connections shoppers felt with the brands they buy from. This event was one of several which helped us understand that more fully. In a subsequent survey, over 90% of respondents said that a shop’s participation in giving would positively affect their purchasing behaviour. So why does this change the game?
Firstly, giving platforms do not cost the shopper anything more; therefore it is a behaviour choice. It becomes a positive, emotional decision that research suggests could make people happier. It is reassuring to see that for many, the principle of giving regularly and making sure their causes receive their money is so important to them. In most cases, the amounts may be small but evidence suggests that there is a huge drive to get involved and make a difference.
The second difference is that it is not a “sign ‘em up once and forget for 12 months” mechanism. It is a recurring engagement - people make the effort because they want to. The communication with donors becomes essential here to ensure they are thanked and can feel good about making a difference. It is a sound foundation to building good charity-donor relationships.
To value someone’s contribution even if it is only a few pence values them as an individual, not just as a source of cash. For free giving platforms this is important, because the amount raised is directly linked to donor spending power. The platforms make it easy to personalise this engagement and provide a feeling of belonging and contribution.
Working with retailers
Retailers use affiliate platforms to drive sales, so their measure of success is all about conversion and average sale value. However, as data grows, there is a significant set of research which shows giving makes people happier for longer than personal rewards.
Marketing has long known that buying decisions are often emotional and fundraising has followed suit. So, tapping into the impact of giving has significant impact for customer attraction, loyalty and engagement for retailers too. Furthermore, it enables retailers to make their corporate responsibility programmes part of their commercial model – not just a sidelined exercise with its own ROI analysis.
Customers want to make a difference to their communities and beyond and retailers are beginning to see how helping them can be a meaningful reward for their custom. This will become the next big area for loyalty - enabling retailers to have a corporate responsibility programme that connects directly to commercial business models.
However, signing up to any platform and expecting it to produce income with no effort, is crazy. Charities must take responsibility for initially raising awareness of a new way of fundraising amongst their supporters. This means educating their existing supporter base about how they could make even more of a difference at no extra cost. It means adding this new mechanism to existing fundraising and awareness activities.
With this kind of support and endorsement, it does not take long before supporters are spreading the word to their friends, building momentum and engagement. One of the concepts I’ve seen work well is a concentrated campaign to register a large number of donors onto a platform to develop a recurring donation stream.
Raising awareness of a cause and then asking someone if they would support you for free with a small behaviour change can yield different enrolment results over asking someone you just met for a signed direct debit mandate. The financial barriers have been removed so that charities can concentrate on the emotional engagement.
The other obvious benefit is choice – a giving platform enables the giver to channel donations directly to beneficiaries they care about the most. This can be single or multiple charities, from large national organisations or local causes – any beneficiary can join as long as they are a registered charity. This all adds to the importance of providing a choice to the concept of giving, and especially one where the giving is free.
"Shopping platforms support causes whose primary purpose is a social benefit rather than private profit, which includes charities, schools, social enterprises and clubs."
"Shopping donations platforms often have lists of charities competing for donors' attentions and they have to be very proactive to ensure they are selected as a recipient of a donor's money."
"Charities must take responsibility for initially raising awareness of a new way of fundraising amongst their supporters."
Regular income provides a charity with the confidence and security to plan for the long term. Fundraising is just one aspect of creating a steady and healthily diverse stream of income. Whether you're communicating with a trust fund, a foundation, a corporate donor, looking to win statutory funding or making a pitch on a street corner to a potential individual donor - they're all going to be asking the same questions... Who are you? What do you do? And why should I care?
Entities like charitable funds and corporates will have clearly identified criteria for the sorts of organisations that they're looking to partner with. Individuals may be less organised in their thinking but they're all fundamentally asking the same question… Do I want to partner with you? Do I want to weave you into my story? And a great brand will address these questions head on with consistency and conviction.
To understand the importance of brand in relation to fundraising we must first define "brand". Your brand encompasses everything that your audiences think, feel, believe and say about your charity. A brand is crucial in engaging audiences; it's the ethos, character, personality and mission of your charity and it's embodied not just in your logo, but in the entire experience a potential funder has when they encounter your organisation.
The world's a complex place. We're all time poor. And the competition for precious income is fiercer than ever. So the importance of a strong brand - a clearly defined position, an arresting set of messages, eye catching visual assets and a compelling proposition - has never been greater. The goal is to make you an "easy" acquisition. A no-brainer.
That's going to mean nailing your colours to the mast. A clearly defined brand knows its audiences. A brand can only ever be as attractive as it is repulsive. What I'm trying to say there is you must avoid the temptation of trying to be all things to everybody.
Understand your audiences and their drivers. Hone your brand, your proposition, your story, to appeal to your audiences exclusively. And don't fret about all the other people who will be lost along the way.
Of course, when someone chooses to give long term, they will have a clutch of essential "hygiene factors": Are you legitimate? Have you got a decent reputation? Are you making a difference and delivering value? Beyond those they will want to identify a charity with which they share inherent values. Donors always subconsciously ask: "If I am going to donate, is this organisation in line with who I am, my personal choices and how I want to be seen and understood? Is their work something I am passionate about supporting?"
People who feel organisations resonate with their own values and are compatible with their beliefs, want to acquire the badge - and brand - associated with the organisation. They want to become part of your story and to invite you into theirs.
That is why it is important to research your audiences to find out who your potential and actual primary donor groups are, and what their perceptions of your charity may be. Then through brand behaviours and messaging you can go out to these audiences and engage them with confidence - raising awareness and increasing acquisition.
See how this fits in with the story of the UK arm of an international charity which was facing the specific problem of an ageing donor base. It urgently urgently needed to reposition the brand and visual identity to reinvigorate the organisation and its fundraising efforts.
The charity concerned, SIM, is an international Christian charity with over 1,600 missionaries serving in over 60 counties. The UK branch arm has almost 200 people working around the world. It was once the Sudan Interior Mission, but as its geographic focus changed it began to use the acronym SIM.
Part of the problem it was facing was that SIM didn't mean anything to its audiences, and potential new donors were finding it hard to understand the organisation and its mission. SIM UK needed to increase its recognition within the Christian charities market.
During a research exercise, competitor mapping and stakeholder focus groups identified that the vast majority of the SIM's direct competitors also had three letter acronym names - meaning SIM was undifferentiated via its brand name. Given weak brand recognition and awareness, SIM considered an evolutionary development of the name and a substantial re-expression of its visual identity and messaging in order to increase audience engagement and fundraising.
SIM became Serving in Mission, which had been more of a strapline for the 20 years before the rebrand. Its new logo − a clay pebble symbolising the readiness of members to be shaped by God, their readiness to work with Him in every opportunity and serve together - gave Serving in Mission a clear identity and a clarified hierarchy of key messages.
New calls to action - "Go", "Pray" and "Give" - reaffirmed the importance of donation at the top level of the brand messaging, alongside its work to send volunteers to help communities to connect with the message of Christianity and the practical expression of help.
A healthy focus on brand is a fantastic means of concentrating minds on increasing awareness and deepening engagement. However the relationship doesn't end when someone commits to giving. Charities must nurture the relationship and continue to communicate with donors. They should be thanking them for their support, reassuring them about the difference they are making, communicating where their money is going, and giving them the sense of playing an essential part in all that is being achieved.
"...it is important to research your audiences to find out who your potential and primary donor groups are, and what their perceptions of your charity may be."
It's perhaps an obvious statement, but charities are certainly facing tough times at the moment. With government funding cuts and many traditional income routes drying up, the challenge now is in sourcing new revenue options. However, for many this will mean bringing a whole new set of skills into the business in the form of a corporate or community fundraiser.
But knowing what makes a good fundraiser and how to attract these individuals can be difficult in a constantly changing environment, particularly for smaller charities which perhaps haven't required these professionals in the past. So what should you look for from these individuals?
While the two roles are relatively similar in terms of key requirements, there are differing skills you should look for in potential candidates.
The community fundraiser role
Taking the community fundraising role first, the ideal person will be confident by nature. Building and sustaining relevant relationships in order to maximise income will require an individual to step out of their comfort zone and encourage people to buy in to them and the charity. Without the self-belief - and indeed the dedication to the cause of the charity - it's unlikely that they will succeed in this role.
The position also requires professionals to act as a motivator for staff and stakeholders alike. It's important to identify if an individual is a team player and able to enthuse others to join in with events where required. Experience working with volunteers should be high on your list of requirements, for example.
Due to the very nature of the role, a good community fundraiser should have some skills or experience in event planning, including researching and identifying themes which will attract attendees. They should also be willing to be flexible with working hours, including possible long distance travelling and weekend or evening work. In order to further drive awareness and attendance at events, potential candidates should be able to demonstrate how they have successfully leveraged social media channels to support campaigns.
If an individual does not have prior experience in the fundraising arena, it's possible to look at some of the transferable skills that are relevant such as marketing and sales. Candidates with a background in either of these industries are likely to bring a lot to the table, but remember there will need to be an investment in their training to ensure they adapt to charity sector requirements. Someone with existing links to community groups and individuals, however, should be looked on favourably as these relationships will enable them to better hit the ground running.
The corporate fundraiser role
A corporate fundraiser will need to demonstrate a real business mindset such as account and general management experience. This includes the ability to forecast budgets, understand and implement strategies, produce proposals and communicate well.
The best candidates will be good researchers. A key requirement of the role will be the identification of new corporate partners from non-traditional areas to ensure a steady stream of funding is available. Part of this will include the ability to develop imaginative fundraising activities that really get the buy in from an organisation, such as team building events.
As with the community fundraiser, these individuals will need to be flexible in terms of working hours to suit the audience's availability. They will also need to be confident and motivational, particularly at networking events where they will need to generate multiple new leads.
While the skills above are very specific to each role, one of the key traits charities should look for in possible employees is commercial understanding. Given the pressures on a charity's existing funding sources, including maybe current commercial supporters, one of the more important skills is the ability to source new, more sustainable revenue streams. As this talent is relatively scarce in the public sector at the moment, it's likely that charities will need to look to the private arena to source some of the best professionals for corporate fundraising.
How can charities attract these individuals?
What fundraising applicants look for
As ever, salary will play a part in a candidate's decision, particularly for those who have worked in the private sector. However, there are a number of other elements which many fundraising applicants are increasingly seeking from a potential employer. Perhaps the biggest of these is a genuine passion for a particular cause.
Existing staff, particularly those involved in the hiring and interview processes, need to demonstrate they fully support the work of their charity. A charity whose employees truly believe in the cause will better enthuse and sell the position to an applicant and, as a result, will be well placed to attract top professionals, especially those with readily available alternatives.
These days, people of all backgrounds and experience want more than a job. They want a role that enables them to make a difference, something that a charity can guarantee. Obviously this is a difficult attribute to assess, but consider utilising your volunteer or donation network as a possible tool to recruit these individuals.
It's also important to clearly outline what additional benefits a professional will get from working for your charity. This doesn't require masses of financial investment though. Given that both the corporate and community fundraising positions require flexible working hours, consider how you can "give time back".
It is increasingly the case that candidates want a greater work/life balance, so being adaptable with hours when overtime and weekend work is expected will appeal to individuals. Make sure any job adverts/specs, careers pages on your website and even employee case studies mention that the charity supports flexible working practices.
Don't underestimate the importance of the charity's benefit schemes in the recruitment process either. Clearly outline any bonus or pension packages, for example, in order to attract applicants in a highly competitive hiring environment.
Importance of training and development
It's important to consider what training and development is in place or can be offered. As indicated, applicants will be keen to know how they can progress and develop in a role. Offering the likes of fundraising, donor management or general training will appeal to candidates and will be a worthwhile investment should they stay with the charity long term. Be transparent about professional development opportunities and outline the career path on any recruitment collateral to ensure potential employees can clearly see the benefit of working with the charity.
Remember as well that a charity needs to sell itself to potential employees as much as to other stakeholders. It's important to have a good reputation not only as an employer of choice, but also as a charity which has high expectations for the future. Be open about your plans and projections for the next five years and the role these individuals will play in achieving this.
Again, candidates want to know that they will be able to really make an impact in a charity, so make it very clear just how involved they will be in the charity's future direction. On this point, it is very likely that candidates will want to know that they will be able to put their stamp on a role rather than be siloed into a rigid framework. Identify where your current employees have driven innovative ideas and ensure these are publicly visible - on your website, for example.
Tips for retaining experts
The talent challenge doesn't end once you have an individual on board. Given the high competition for the best professionals, ensuring they want to stay with you is perhaps more important than ever before. Given that, as an Allied Workforce Mobility survey revealed, 25% of new employees left their organisation within their first year, making sure an individual is fully embedded into the team and has access to a detailed on-boarding process will help keep staff longer.
While sticking to the initiatives used to attract these candidates will, of course, be a step in the right direction, there are other considerations to bear in mind during their employment.
We all like to be rewarded when we've done a great job, so acknowledging achievements can go a long way in keeping staff happy. Simple recognition in internal communications or even a gift voucher can ensure employees feel their contribution is valued.
Finally, it is also vital to ensure that you pay what is both deserved and realistic. There will, of course, be some constraints as to salaries and pay rises, but there are cases where larger investments are more beneficial.
For example, for smaller charities the tendency could be to choose the less expensive option when hiring and promoting an individual. However, in the long run it's likely that staff turnover will be higher due to the potentially unsatisfactory financial rewards. In comparison, hiring a more experienced individual who requires less training and is able to make an impact instantly will result in a better return on investment. But it's important that this commitment to paying realistic salaries is maintained.
It may be a challenging time for charities at the moment, but the challenges also present a great opportunity to reassess talent strategies amidst strong competition for the best staff. With the right attraction and retention plans in place, charity employers will be well placed to enable their charities to thrive over the coming years.
Until now, fundraisers have learnt on the job. These days they’re mostly graduates so they’ve had time to develop their critical thinking, but there’s still a whole lot they don’t know. The scope of the role often surprises people; it’s vast. You’re familiar with the fundraisers you meet in the street, and the letters you get through the door. But have you thought about the way websites make giving easy (or sometimes don’t), or the complexity that goes into making a marathon or a gala dinner into a fundraiser?
Even more obscured from public gaze are the bid-writers who secure over £3 billion each year from grant makers. Then there’s government funding and major donors, the wealthy who give back to society. I could go on listing media channels and data management, research and reporting roles. So there’s a lot to learn: legal, theoretical, strategic and interpersonal. We need a degree dedicated to fundraising because charities can’t afford to wait for a fundraiser to get up to speed. The people they serve need that income now not tomorrow - for some it’s literally a life and death issue.
Importance of learning partnerships
At the University of Chichester we’re really excited about the learning partnerships we’re building with companies and charities as part of the world’s first undergraduate degree in fundraising, Charity Development BA (hons). Software and services company Blackbaud, which has a widely used fundraising tool, will sponsor student internships with local charities and also provide free software for undergraduates so students can really apply what’s been taught.
Whenever we’ve asked charities what they want from the degree, practical experience has been up there with knowledge as a priority.
It’s not just about educating fundraisers who can hit the ground running; there’s a skills shortage. According to the National Council for Voluntary Services, there were around 31,000 UK professional fundraisers in 2013 and 15,000 jobs were advertised on the two leading charity job websites in 2013. With 164,000 charities in the UK there simply aren’t enough good fundraisers to meet the demand and it really does matter. If a charity can’t recruit an able fundraiser, it's going to struggle to secure the funding it needs.
That’s what we would call a "case for support" in fundraising. It says: “We need more fundraisers who have the knowledge and skills to generate income immediately, because without them vulnerable people won’t have access to life-changing services."
A three year degree is particularly well suited to achieving this. Firstly it allows students to learn across the skills base, from bid writing, to online engagement, to event management, to direct mail and beyond. Whereas workplace learners find themselves quickly syphoned into a specific field of practice based on where they entered the profession, rather than where they are most able or most needed.
Charities of all sizes can benefit
For smaller charities which may only employ one fundraiser - that’s 97% of all charities according to the Foundation for Social Improvement - having someone who knows their way round all the different approaches is vital. If a smaller charity's fundraiser is only really confident running events, but making grant applications is the charity’s best option, then it may find itself missing out on income that could be vital. Often it’s the ability to work across a range of fundraising skills that’s essential to a secure and regular income stream.
However, the large charities too can benefit from fundraisers who have had time to develop their critical thinking. Fundraising is an innovative and creative job, donors need to be refreshed and inspired, and the same old fundraising formula year in year out just won’t do. Three years of playing with ideas and testing different solutions isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential preparation for creative thinking, a skill it’s hard to grow in the day to day rush of the workplace. There’s a body of theory that can help set it free, if you have time to learn it.
Small and large charities alike also need fundraisers who know the "hard stuff" like the legal frameworks and best practice, as well as the "soft stuff", the interpersonal skills that are the difference between successful fundraising and failure. A fundraising degree needs to cover all of this.
Fundraising is a serious profession
I don’t necessarily mean "serious" as in important, although fundraising obviously is that. I mean "serious" as in being taken seriously a profession. Once upon a time, this bit’s hard to imagine, people said that marketing wasn’t something you could study at university. Now you can study it at pretty much any university.
There’s a vast "academy" of knowledge based on many research papers and the exciting confluence of practical workplace knowledge and academic theory. Workplace experience and theory spark off each other to deliver innovation and better practice.
Creating a professional academy isn’t just about creating better practice though. It also results in important debates about ethics, value to society and the creation of rewarding careers for individuals. These are all discussions that we should be having about fundraising. Launching a new degree isn’t going to do this singlehandedly, but I believe that it helps lay the foundations by inviting the professional and academic worlds to come together to help take this important sector to the next level.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way either. Back in 2011 one of the leading thinkers, Professor Adrian Sargeant, wrote: “There is not a single undergraduate degree in fundraising currently available in the United States. Degrees in marketing are plentiful, yet a degree to prepare an individual for a career in our profession is notable only by its absence." But it isn’t just the US that lacks an undergraduate degree in fundraising, it’s the world, and until September 2014 it’s still the case.
In the meantime, academics like Adrian Sargeant and Beth Breeze are doing important research that creates a more robust body of knowledge, so that training can be based on new insights, tested knowledge and not just what what’s been done before.
Not losing out on the best talent
Another impact of not offering an academic career route into fundraising is that the charity sector loses out on some of the best talent and we can’t afford for that to happen. Fundraising is of such importance to so many that it is vital to attract those who are best at it and trained to do the best job possible.
The degree in fundraising at the University of Chichester is accredited by the Institute of Fundraising. As Paul Marvel, its director of professional development, commented: “We are pleased to accredit the course against our Certificate in Fundraising. This (degree) represents an enormous step forward for the fundraising profession and for young people seeing fundraising as a credible and desirable career.”
"With 164,000 charities in the UK there simply aren't enough good fundraisers to meet the demand and it really does matter."
Great fundraising practices are essential to a charity’s success and, most importantly, the cause it is fighting to support. I feel it is fair to say that some members of the public are ill-informed on what fundraisers do. I can recall being asked many times whether I am "one of those annoying people who stops me in the street or rings me badgering for money?"
The answer, in short, is yes. I follow questions like these with an explanation of why it is my job is to convince people to donate money. Transparency is essential in fundraising, and I always point people towards why we do our jobs – the charity’s cause.
For me, good charitable fundraising comes from a mixture of being extremely thorough in your methods and truly engaging with your donors. After nine years of working for charities, here are a few things I’ve learnt about how to ensure that you are successful:
Do the simple things well
It may seem obvious, but being highly organised and having clear processes are the foundation of successful fundraising. It can be easy for small things to get overlooked, yet these can be vital to ensuring that things run smoothly further down the line.
I started my career as a charity administrator in a very small team, where everybody had to get involved in every aspect of the fundraising process. This taught me the importance of taking the smaller things seriously. When a supporter calls to tell you that they have moved, make sure the address is updated immediately across all relevant documents. Ensure that the member of your team who answers the phone knows who everyone in the charity is and what they do, so you appear professional and well-organised from the start.
All of these things seem like little details, but they have a knock-on effect on the impression people get of your charity and the confidence your donors have in you.
Be amazing at supporter care
Charities cannot exist without donors, therefore treating them well is of huge importance. Always say thank you, say it promptly, say it sincerely and say it more than once. Then keep in touch; make sure they know what they have helped you to achieve. By taking care of your donors, you build a bond with them, which can lead to a lifetime of loyal support. If fundraisers build a strong relationship with their donors, they are also much more likely to spread the word to other potential donors.
One of my proudest moments as a fundraiser was working with a donor named Anne Hughes, who had lost her husband and was donating two automated external defibrillators to St John Cymru Wales in his memory. I felt honoured to be a part of something so personal to Anne, and something that would also help so many people. I became friends with Anne, helping her to learn more about the charity and thanking her for her support. We remain good friends and she has gone on to do a great deal for the charity.
Test, test, test
The money that we raise isn’t ours, so it goes without saying that we need to be really careful with it. This being said, sometimes you do need to take risks in order to run a campaign that will make a big difference to your charity’s funds. Rigorously testing a campaign means that you can be careful with funds by only taking risks you are sure will work.
The first time I worked on a direct mail campaign, I almost made a big mistake. The team and I had devised what we thought to be a strong campaign, but in the test phase it underperformed significantly. We realised that the campaign wasn’t strong enough just in the nick of time and as a result saved the charity from wasting a lot of money.
I now make the test phase a big part of any campaign. I make sure to work closely with creative agencies to target a campaign correctly, getting a focus group’s view, and then testing the campaign on 5-10% of the total campaign recipients, leaving plenty of time to analyse the response. If a campaign underperforms, a telephone survey of recipients is essential to find out why it didn’t work. Don’t ever discard the campaign as a ‘failure’ and forget about it, you might just need a few small changes to make it a success.
Trust your data
Much of good fundraising is about passion, but gut feelings can be wrong. You need to make your decisions based on what you know, not what you think.
As fundraisers, we are always surrounded by the cause that we work for. It can be hard to remove ourselves from the situation and see things in the way that a member of the public does. The best way to do this is through thorough testing combined with strong data analysis.
This is where your database is vital. Look at your donors' giving habits, your key donor demographics, and your response rates for previous campaigns.
Having these facts in front of you means that you can remove any preconceived ideas from the equation, focusing on what is shown to be true.
Keep training your staff
Training your staff properly is incredibly important. Regular training keeps staff fresh, gives them new ideas and helps them to see what can be achieved.
I have really benefited from fundraising courses and networking with other fundraisers. The Institute of Fundraising and Directory of Social Change run excellent courses, and there are plenty of networking groups across the UK. It really is worth going the extra mile when it comes to educating both yourself and your staff.
Looking to the future
There are still so many avenues of fundraising that are yet to reach their full potential. One of the biggest of these is legacy giving. Fundraisers need to sensitively educate donors on how they can give a gift in a will, and make the most of the public becoming more aware of tax effective giving. Only 7% of the UK population currently leave gifts to charities in their wills, so this is something that needs to be explored further with dedicated donors.
Always looking to the future, whilst being thorough and ensuring that the basics are covered, is the key to successful charitable fundraising.
Motivating people to give to a charity when the cause has not directly affected them or their loved ones is one of the biggest challenges that charities have to face, and figuring out how to do it is always at the heart of a charity's work. But getting people to give to your charity isn't just a competition against other charities whose goals are similar to yours - you're also competing against all the other demands on an individual's attention, time and finances.
Fall in number of people giving
Despite Britons being famously charitable at times of crisis - notably in overseas aid efforts, such as tsunami appeals, international conflicts and other flashpoints of human emergency heavily covered in the media - the financial climate of recent years has made bringing in donors that bit more difficult for charities. Thus there was little surprise when a survey carried out by UK Giving in 2012 revealed a general fall in the number of people giving to charity.
Indeed, the survey went on to highlight that many people don't actively plan to give to charity; a large percentage of donors are merely responsive to events when contributing to a cause.
Yet as the country continues to climb out of recession - and hopes for greater donor activity may come true - new data published last month by my own organisations has shed some light on donations made after people pass away. While charities perhaps rightfully avoid directly targeting people to contribute to their cause through a will, it still accounts for large chunks of funding to keep their operations continuing.
Attitudes to legacies
My firm commissioned a YouGov poll of 2,064 people which revealed that six in ten people don't believe it's important to leave a donation to charity in their will; only a quarter of those surveyed said that they are planning to support a charity as part of their last wishes.
Obviously, a quarter is still a relatively high proportion, though as data from the campaigning group Remember a Charity has revealed – and as many charity managers know all too well – there is a big difference between intention and action. According to the group, only 7% of people actually do leave something to a good cause in their will. This issue is further exacerbated by the high number of people who don't arrange a will at all.
The low number of people choosing to leave behind a charitable donation could be seen as tying in with another finding of the survey: people seem to become
less likely to leave money to charity as they get older. According to the survey, one third of full-time students said they planned to leave money to
charity in their will, compared to just 22% of retirees.
It's possible that younger people see will-giving as an ideal for the distant future, while retirees recognise their own mortality as a more immediate concern and prefer to prioritise covering medical costs, or leaving money to support family members when they pass away.
So why are legacies so important? After all, many charities get plenty of support from one-off donations from businesses and events, as well as smaller, regular donations from individuals. However, the advantage of will donations is that they tend to be larger than the amount someone would give during their life. Once any debts and inheritance funds have been dealt with, there's nothing left for the individual to save towards, so they can give more generously.
Personal connection is biggest motivator
Understanding why people choose to leave money to charity in their will could go some way to helping charities harness the power of will donations. According to the survey, 58% of people want to support a cause they have a personal association with, while a similar proportion (56%) said they wanted to help others. Interestingly, only 5% said they would do it for tax reasons, even though charitable donations can considerably reduce an inheritance tax bill.
Of those who said they are planning to leave a donation to charity in their will, cancer charities were the most popular cause to support, with 45% of people choosing these. For 29%, animal welfare was an important choice, followed by charities working with other terminal and degenerative diseases (26%), child welfare (23%) and mental health (20%).
Further data from the survey confirmed the importance of a personal connection in people's charitable preferences. The poll revealed that people with children are more likely to support child welfare charities over animal welfare, while retired people show the strongest preference for cancer charities. It was also discovered that women are almost twice as likely to support animal welfare charities compared to men, and that London is the region where people are most likely to support a charity in their will.
Charities should promote will-giving more
Charities around the country depend on donations from their supporters to carry out their work, and some of the most generous contributions are often left in wills. However, the data in the survey, combined with previous research, suggests that more could be done to encourage people to remember a charity when they're drawing up their last requests. Given the tax benefits of leaving money to charity, there are a lot of good reasons to consider this route when planning a will.
Charity managers should perhaps be giving more consideration to how they can make people more aware of the tax benefits of leaving money to charity, especially as only 5% of those surveyed said that it would be a consideration. This could be down to them having other motivations, or it could be because not many people know about the tax benefits of leaving money to charity. Either way, it is something that charities could potentially leverage in their marketing strategies.