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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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Developing contactless payments for charity donors

After battling the pandemic, charities across the UK continue to adapt. In a tough economic environment, they face the shared burdens of high energy costs; inflationary pressures; volunteer, staff and talent shortages; and a need and desire to transform and modernise operations, to accomplish the objectives that they have been set up for. Success is dependent on income, revenue and capabilities to fundraise effectively.

But where is funding coming from? How is it being generated? Where do cash, digitisation, contactless card donation terminals and online donations fit in today’s fundraising landscape?

Funding sources today

According to the Benefact Group’s report, The Value of Giving 2022, the total value of charitable giving in 2022, volunteering and donating combined, was £23 billion.

The public is the most significant source of income for charities of all sizes. While unsurprising for some, the report validates that 62.5% of micro and small charities depend on the public for income. For major charities, this changes to 47.7%. Other sources of income for all charity sizes include government (26%), the voluntary sector (10%), investment (9%), the private sector (4%), and the National Lottery (1%). These figures underscore the vital role that the public plays in ensuring the fundraising successes of charities.

Cash and contactless

Within public donations, cash remains king – but it must now share its throne. Mintel’s report, UK Charitable Giving Market Report 2022, says cash is the second largest method of giving (23.13%), after direct debit/standing orders at 51.16%, and ahead of website and apps at 14.61%.

However, consumer payment methods are changing and the use of physical cash is declining. Statistics from the Bank of England show that transactional cash use has fallen from over 50% of payments in 2010 to only 17% of all payments in 2020, with the trend towards cashless payments accelerating during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet cash remains the preferred payment method for 21% of the population. Clearly, if charities are to maximise donations, they need to provide opportunity for both cash and, increasingly, contactless and online payments.

How often, for example, have we walked past a collection basket at a supermarket or village fête with little to no cash in our pockets, wishing we could donate with a contactless payment?

Additionally, some people may be distrustful and wary about giving cash, out of concern it might not make its way to the charity concerned, and be used correctly. This is where contactless, digital collection plates and online donation webpages can offer a trusted answer. What is more, they allow people to give as much or as little as they like quickly, easily and unobtrusively.

Most organisations are encouraged to digitise operations, with the UK government actively driving this – and charities are included. Research from Blackbaud, The Status of UK Fundraising, 2022 Benchmark Report, emphasises both the opportunity and the challenge, stating that almost 80% of charities agree technology helps improve supporter relationships; and 67% admit they understand how technology can help. But, at this stage, only 56% are investing in technology, with only 35% saying they know how to optimise it.

POS versus donation terminals

Herein lies some of the problem about digitisation – choice and usability. Some charities are exploring contactless payment systems designed for retail. Contactless point of sale (POS) devices used in retail do not accommodate the sophisticated fundraising needs of the charity sector; which must be able to receive donations independently of POS tills and manage Gift Aid.

A good example of digital collection, used well, can be seen at charity runs like Tough Mudder where contactless terminals have been set up to collect donations , or at Somerset House where these contactless payments are used to support charitable giving on-site.

Moreover, digital collection plates have been designed to track and present data to charity fundraisers through management portals more effectively than retail POS systems. They provide an array of insights about the state of giving: total amount donated by contactless weekly, monthly and annually, as well as average donations across these time periods.

This enables charities to understand trends relating to donation locations and times; the actual number of people who have donated; and how many donations have been Gift Aided; and more. They enable relationship building with donors, capturing email addresses in a GDPR compliant fashion; so that charities can continue to communicate beyond the initial point of donation. All of which helps improve the donor experience for the charity too.

Making contactless work

As charities consider contactless technologies they should appreciate a few points. On average, individuals donate £12 per time via digital collection plates – a significant amount when the average of all giving, including direct debits and standing orders, is £27 per person per year. Typically, when deploying them, charities recoup investments within a month.

But achieving success requires strong internet access, either via a WiFi or 4G-enabled system. This is because the system makes secure real-time checks with the banks that cards belong to when payments are made.

Deciding where to place digital collection plates is essential. They are often the size of a tablet, and can be affixed to floor stands, wall mounts and countertops. Their size and mobility make them ideal for use in an array of settings like shopping centres during fundraising drives; football stadiums; churches; and even the entrances to large corporate offices or co-working spaces. Key to success is making them visible and known.

Payment data is protected and payments are secure. Terminals are designed so that they cannot be affected by card skimmers. Encryption ensures that if the device is stolen, no money or card details can be retrieved – and, since contactless payments send money to the charity’s bank accounts, no cash can be stolen off-site.

Practical considerations

Device power is important to manage. Typically the battery power on devices lasts around 10-12 hours, and is capable of lasting a full day of fundraising. Additionally, depending on how charities use terminals, they can be housed in custom-built, charity-branded kiosks and be connected to power. Alternatively, devices can be swapped and charged when battery power runs out, or just connected to a charging point.

Aside from this, keeping devices dry is important. Similar to mobile devices they are normally housed in a waterproof casing. This protects them from water or spills. Otherwise, when not cased, if it rains, street fundraisers try their best to stand under umbrellas to protect the devices, or charities try place them in dry locations anyway. For instance, the Lantern Arts Centre, Raynes Park, southwest London, has a contactless device located at the entrance to accept contactless donations from attendees at its theatre shows.

Further, for these systems to suceed, it is important that charities announce to the public and internal teams that they are using them. Don’t hide them away either. Ensure there is an internal champion who is driving the use of the technology, enabling the charity to achieve the desired fundraising, Gift Aid, data insights, and relationship building potential offered.

Gift Aid accuracy

Enabling Gift Aid easily and accurately for charities and donors is key. When people donate cash, charities often have two people counting it together to ensure accuracy, and are required to follow due process when registering it for Gift Aid and HMRC. This can be prone to human error. However, with digital giving the process is quick and accurate. Donation terminals enable donors’ contact details, card information and payment information to be filled in and accepted within a couple of minutes.

In comparison to cash, accounting for Gift Aid with contactless is straightforward – card transactions are automatically logged correctly according to user and contact details, and management portals allow Gift Aid coordinators to download data in a format ready to submit to HMRC, with the right evidence required to claim Gift Aid. So, when Gift Aid transaction claims are submitted, the evidence is ready to use, accurate and easy to submit.

Endless possibilities

The public offers a vital source of funds to charities and digitisation is increasingly important. While cash does remain king, its queen is contactless. However, for these systems to thrive, they need to be complementary to other fundraising strategies as ubiquity grows. They also need to be custom-designed for the nuances of charitable giving – and easy to deploy and use. When harnessed correctly, the possibilities for use are endless.

Dona Donations’ Elroy Fernandes – for these contactless systems to succeed, it is important that charities announce to the public and internal teams that they are using them.
"Contactless point of sale (POS) devices used in retail do not accommodate the sophisticated fundraising needs of the charity sector…"

Expanding your fundraising with streaming

It was only a few years ago that live streaming and virtual events were reserved solely to the domain of high-tech Silicon Valley start-ups. Fast forward two years (and one pandemic) and they are seemingly everywhere. But where do they fit into the world of fundraising?

Let’s start with the industry figures - half of UK charities see digital fundraising as a priority, according to the 2021 Charity Digital Skills report. Yet, says the Charity Landscape Report for 2022, only a quarter (24%) claim they have the knowledge to make this a reality. Additionally, 36% of donors said they would give more funds if it was easier to do so, according to the Non-profit Experience Index.

For digital native generations, this often looks like being able to make charitable donations though video-centric, interactive and engaging content on social media. Remembering that Gen Z are both the most generous and widest donors, it’s clear that a shift to digital is needed for charities, large and small, to keep up with their donors’ expectations and raise more funds.

Digital fundraising needs to be at the top of every charity’s agenda. The great thing is that there is no one way to do virtual events - each one can be adapted to the charity’s audience and needs. This being said, there are a few guiding principles that charities should be aware of before making their own events.

Expand your audience

For charities, knowing their audience and understanding what speaks to them is a huge part of developing live content, and will hugely impact the success rate of their fundraising efforts. However, simply because a demographic has traditionally donated to you previously, it doesn’t mean you can’t branch out – or even that your tried and tested audience won’t appreciate new fundraising methods.

Across almost all generations, the last two years have resulted in an increased level of comfort navigating and utilising technology – partly out of necessity for older generations, and partly driven by a desire to find new ways of connecting with others across all age groups.

Charities needn’t be afraid of alienating older audiences with digital events. Even in their virtual format, events can mirror the kinds of experiences their audience would normally want to be a part of. This is whether it be an online evening of music, a panel discussion with expert speakers, or a virtual museum tour - all with the same end goal of raising funds and showcasing the charity’s work to loyal supporters.

Hybrid events are also very much an option and are still important, particularly now that in-person events are back. It doesn’t need to be digital vs in-person; rather, live streaming can be an effective add-on to an in-person event, which encourages younger generations to tune in (and donate) as well.

Adopting a digital fundraising model also allows charities to tap into new audiences and share their message with a new group of potential donors. Short, frequent, live-streamed events offer a platform for charities to broadcast their current work and increase their reach to younger demographics with minimal effort.

Interactivity should be a key focus when branching out into digital events and looking to reach younger audiences - with audience participation and opportunities for multi-channel engagement between hosts and viewers being a popular way of achieving this.

Access new fundraising streams

Having a strong presence on social media is a must for any organisation in 2022, and most social media platforms now have live streaming options built in. These are ideal for shorter events, where you are able to quickly reach a large audience and capture new viewers, particularly among millennial and Gen Z generations. Gen Z is the most video-driven generation yet – spending 4.5 hours on social media every day, says the National Retail Federation , so online content is the best way to capture their attention.

Nowadays there are a plethora of services and platforms to use for digital events, and many are more accessible and customisable than you may think. Most live streaming platforms – Twitch, YouTube Live, Instagram Live – now offer features that allow viewers to donate to charities while enjoying a stream of live content. Over the course of any Facebook Live fundraising event, about one in 14 people donate on average, representing a potentially huge fundraising stream for charities to tap into.

The pandemic saw charitable donations through streaming platforms increase significantly, with donations via Twitch – a live streaming and broadcast platform – growing by 70%, reaching $83 million by the end of 2020 according to Forbes. This has worked particularly well for any fundraising or educational event that has a performance element, such as a film night watch along or a concert.

For something more bespoke, there are a number of platforms that enable a fully customised experience. This means you can create a totally branded platform to match the charity’s own colours and include unique elements that will enhance the event. Placing a “donate now” button in a highly visible location will increase the chances of bringing in funds. Q&As and voting capabilities are also something that can be integrated into a customisable platform, which works really well for increasing engagement.

Introduce influencers

Believe it or not, influencers can sell more than just beauty products and holidays in Dubai. For many brands across all industries, working with influencers is now an integrated part of their marketing strategy as it offers a personable, relatable, and more authentic way of engaging with your target demographic.

An influencer who aligns with a charity’s cause can work as a brand ambassador and draw people to attend a series of or stand-alone events. Instagram now allows brands and brand ambassadors to post content as “collaborators”, meaning a wider net will be cast when attracting viewers to a post. Charities can even “take over” and host events on the influencer’s personal page to leverage their audience reach.

As more and more brands move towards influencer-driven marketing, it makes sense that charities would follow suit. Not every event may need an influencer, but by working with people whose values align with your own, the chances that your message will reach people who resonate with your mission and are keen to show their support will increase.

Increase your accessibility

For many reasons, live streaming is the most accessible way to run an event. Virtual events can be far more cost-effective than in-person galas and lavish dinners, sparing organisers the cost of both a physical venue and travel, meaning more funds can go directly to the cause at hand. They also eliminates the cap on attendee numbers, meaning more people from a range of backgrounds can join in. An evening with a celebrity speaker suddenly becomes available to hundreds, or even thousands, of donors and is no longer limited to only the very affluent.

Logistically, virtual events are also much more accessible than in-person ones and remove the need for organisers to find and pay for a venue. They also mean high-profile speakers and celebrity guests are able to headline the event from anywhere is the world which eliminates travel fees.

Hybrid events are a good solution that combines the in-person excitement with the accessibility benefit of bringing in audiences virtually from across the globe, again avoiding unnecessary travel costs and also contributing to reducing the charity’s carbon footprint and making events more sustainable.

Hosting your event as a live stream also enables close captioning and sign language to be clearly displayed on the screen for hearing-impaired viewers, certainly something to consider to improve the accessibility of all events.

Make it your own

No live stream fundraiser or event has to follow an exact formula to be a success – each charity should do what works for them.

A charity can start simple and use social media live streams to share an initiative to raise funds and awareness - it could even become a viral trend! Or they can go big and pull out all the stops and use gamification (applying game playing techniques) to create a truly immersive and exciting event that donors will look forward to attending.

For example, in person marathon runners can be joined by runners from their homes around the world, who can use the live stream technology to share messages of support to be broadcasted to everyone watching and at the live event itself.

Quiz nights, a Q&A with a celebrity or influential spokesperson, sharing testimonials from lived experiences – these are all unique events that charities can live stream to take the event to the next level, increase their reach and share their important message.

Groovy Gecko’s Jake Ward – the great thing is that there is no one way to do virtual events; each one can be adapted to the charity’s audience and needs.
"Hybrid events are a good solution that combines the in-person excitement with the accessibility benefit of bringing in audiences virtually from across the globe…"

The right fundraising platform for your charity

It’s safe to say that the fundraising landscape has been on a rollercoaster journey over the years and it’s been interesting to see its relationship with technology evolve. Whilst social media and increased social awareness amongst the younger generation has been beneficial in giving charities a louder voice, slim resources and the tough financial climate have closed the doors of many charities, and many remain struggling to keep funds coming in. Because of this, external support and funding have become more vital than ever, causing a surge in digital fundraising platforms.

Online fundraising platforms are integral with a set of digital tools that charities can use to gain extra donations from donors via the internet. Often, these platforms will include features such as donation widgets, bespoke fundraising pages, as well as tools that redirect affiliate marketing spend when users shop online or switch providers. When researched and chosen carefully, they can provide charities with more than an extra revenue stream, opening the doors to a wider pool of donors and bringing charities up to speed with the latest fundraising innovations.

Plethora of platforms

But with the plethora of fundraising platforms that are currently available to charities, it can be tricky and time-consuming to assess and use each one, and to know how it can benefit you in the long run. Here are some key points to consider when reviewing online fundraising platforms and how to ascertain whether they are the most effective fundraising option for you.

CONSIDER THE DISCRETE COSTS AND CHARGES. Many digital fundraising platforms are free for charities to sign up and use but donations made through the platform are subject to additional fees. These fees can be in the form of set-up fees, card transaction costs or Gift Aid charges.

The most common example is referred to by many platforms as a “donation fee” charge which is often in the form of a percentage of the donation. This percentage varies from platform to platform and will affect the actual donation amount that goes to the charity. Thus if a donor makes a £10 donation, the platform can take as much as a 5% fee, meaning 50p will be deducted from the donation. Almost all fundraising platforms will levy this charge on charities, so it’s about finding the balance and the most manageable fee.

Assessing costs carefully

Alongside the donation fees, using some online platforms will also incur additional costs that affect the actual donation amount to charities. Gift Aid charges and card transaction fees, for example, can affect each donation made via the platform, whilst sign-up fees and monthly subscription costs can also be added extras to be aware of. Charities should assess the costs carefully, ensuring that they are clear about any additional costs that affect the actual donation amount and subsequently their revenue.

FINDING ADDITIONAL FEATURES THAT ALIGN WITH YOUR GOALS. How a charity operates and its overall goals as an organisation will have an influence on which online fundraising platform it chooses. If the goal is to reach more donors, then choosing a platform that offers extensive marketing materials might be the best option. Likewise, if a charity wants more transparency in where its donations are coming from, then picking a fundraising platform that offers reporting metrics is a must. Many platforms will offer added features for free so finding out what features would be most beneficial and seeing how they would fit into existing operations are worthwhile.

More autonomous experience

A fundraising platform should not completely disrupt a charity’s operation, rather it should be complementing the other fundraising routes and provide a fresh stream of donations. Smaller, more local charities, that might not be up to speed on more modern fundraising routes would likely benefit most from fundraising platforms with extra resources that provide a more autonomous experience.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. How would you know a fundraising platform’s true impact if you’re not familiar with how it works as a user? Convenience and ease are key factors when it comes to any consumer-facing service and this is particularly important in the fundraising industry because it can take some convincing to get people to part with their money. Many platforms are free for users to sign up to and use, thus it’s worth getting familiar with the platform from a user’s perspective and figuring out how it works so that you can gauge whether it’s something your donors would engage with.

It’s also a good idea to check out how users engage with the platform and vice versa. A quick scan of a fundraising platform’s social media pages will tell you a lot about how the platform communicates with its audience and how it promotes its charities.

ASSESS THE REPUTATION. How reputable a fundraising platform is can depend on a number of factors. Firstly, the current number of charities which have signed up to the platform is a good indication of the platform’s reliability. If any major well-known charities are signed up, then you know it can be trusted.

Breadth of suitability

Similarly, assessing which smaller charities are signed up to the fundraising services will give an indication of the breadth of charities which the platform is suitable for. The cheapest options may not have the biggest range of charities for users to raise funds for and therefore may not reach as wide of an audience.

INNOVATION CHECK. The online fundraising industry will continue to evolve as technology advances, so it’s important to regularly audit all your fundraising routes and decide which ones are working, in terms of effort put in and the level of donations you receive.

Furthermore, you want to be sure that the fundraising platform you choose is investing in innovation and developing its proposition so that you know it is sustainable in the long term. Even small developments such as how the user interface adapts across devices can be critical to how a donor interacts with a platform, and therefore impact the total donor reach. A good place to spot a platform’s developments is on its news page or blog.

AVOID FALLING BEHIND. It can be difficult for any industry to keep up with innovations and to maintain its status in the market. For the charity industry, it can be even more of a challenge because of time and resources. There’s a range of technology solutions available – something for everyone – and it pays to take time upfront to do a comprehensive assessment to find the right platform for you.

Give as you Live’s Annabelle Risdon – the online fundraising industry will continue to evolve as technology advances, so it’s important to regularly audit all your fundraising routes and decide which ones are working, in terms of effort put in and the level of donations you receive.
"A quick scan of a fundraising platform’s social media pages will tell you a lot about how the platform communicates."

Online is the way ahead for working with demographics

The world of charity fundraising has always been a minefield – persuading consumers to part with their hard-earned cash has never been easy, and it’s even more of a challenge when rather than buying something for themselves, they are spending money on another person, cause or community.

In addition, it’s an ever-competitive market: there are so many different causes which charities raise money for and it’s impossible to say that one is more important than the other – even if you personally can’t imagine any cause worthier than your own, everyone has their own view and experiences.

Now more than ever, charity has gone global. Here in the UK, for example, we are increasingly aware of global issues and as the world gets smaller it becomes increasingly clear that most of our charitable causes are global matters too – whether it’s an illness as indiscriminate as cancer or providing shelter for refugees. Even more localised issues like education or homelessness can be identified with the world over.

Looking overseas

Also, it is necessary for smaller local or national charities to look overseas if they are to gain the support they so vitally need. Sometimes a lesser known cause can benefit from as many places as possible to garner support and it may be necessary to cross borders. Or perhaps the multitudes of UK citizens choosing to live abroad may wish to donate to causes back home, and will need the knowledge and tools to do so.

Another difficult element is that the negative issues around charitable donations have seen a near-constant rise over the past few years, from economic barriers to publicity nightmares. Firstly, many people find themselves willing yet unable to donate as they simply don’t have the cash. Austerity and economic uncertainty can mean those who may have set up regular direct debits will be keeping a closer watch on their finances, or someone who may have run a fundraising event might now feel it is in poor taste to do so when colleagues, friends and family are on tight budgets.

Furthermore, the world of charity fundraising has seen bad press and scandal aplenty over the past few years and while it’s important that any issues are brought to light, this can lead to all organisations being tarred with the same brush and can draw limelight away from the actual message of a charity. Recently, charities like Oxfam have been in the negative spotlight and the public have pulled their support as a result, including volunteering, publicity and financial donations.

Trust is key

Trust is key to the success of any charity – donors are entrusting funds to the charity under the understanding that it will be used to the greatest benefit possible. However, many potential donors may worry that they don’t know where their money will really end up. Also there remains a widely held belief that not enough of the donations made go directly to the cause – often pushed by those who don’t understand all the various elements, such as overheads, which go into running a charity.

Building up trust can be particularly difficult for small charities or ones looking to operate in a new territory. This is why PR and marketing can be so important in helping to develop solid relationships with members of the public and acting as the face of the charity – whether it’s one or two volunteers or an outsourced team of call centre professionals.

Security concerns, in particular data and cybersecurity, are also key nowadays. While charities increasingly push for regular donations in the form of a direct debit arrangement, as this is a useful method which makes it easier for charities to plan spending, people are often reluctant to share their personal bank details, especially now cybercrime is a topic on everyone’s lips. GDPR has also placed increasing public pressure on organisations to make sure they are looking after personal data and has left many citizens reticent to give up personal details.

Finally, a charity may simply not be known about by many people. Whether the charity is new, or even such a part of the furniture people have stopped noticing it, has limited reach or limited funding, the simple fact is nobody is going to donate to something they’re not aware of! This is arguably the easiest challenge to resolve, thanks to digitisation and the rise of social media.

More personal way

You can now reach more people than ever, practically for free and in a more personal way thanks to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In particular, these can help smaller charities build up a following because nobody is better able to shout about your brand, your cause and the hard work of your staff and volunteers than you.

Despite a multitude of challenges, however, it cannot be denied that people are still giving. In fact, according to stats from NPT-UK, 61% of people in the UK donated to charity in 2017, with 51% saying they give from time to time, and 25% giving on a regularly monthly basis. In 2016 the average single donation was worth £18. In addition, UK charities have enjoyed a year-on-year donations rise of just under 3%. And this progress doesn’t look likely to stop any time soon.

According to the website Fundraising, the “millennial” generation (those born around 1982-1997, now aged between 21 and 36) is twice as likely to donate to charity as those generations aged over 55. Millennials are set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and so will likely contribute more and more to charitable causes as they become the group with the most disposable income.

Charities which utilise a diverse mix of fundraising methods to appeal to a variety of demographics are by far the most successful. Take Macmillan Cancer Support, for example – this renowned charity organises events, telephone fundraising to promote regular giving, online and social media campaigns, moneybox donations, as well as individual and group sponsorship events. In 2017, it’s no surprise that the charity earned a whopping £247.7m. Macmillan’s largest sponsored event alone, ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in 2016 raised £29.5m and shows no signs of slowing down.

Mix of options

Having a mix of options which enables people to choose how they support is vital, especially as the millennial generation is renowned for valuing choice and variety. The website Fundraising also found that 71% of charities see social media as an effective tool for online fundraising, and donations made via mobile rose from 14% in 2015 to 17% in 2016. In total, 26% of UK donations are currently made via either a website or social media platform.

Quick and easy is the order of the day for payments, with ecommerce growing the world over, and the generation that will soon be spending the most money clearly expects to be able to do so online.

As well as varying methods, it’s important to keep in mind that different demographics favour different causes, with age being just one factor at play. NPT-UK’s research has also highlighted that, for example, animal charities are more popular with women than men (30% of women would give to these, as opposed to 19% of men), and causes more popular with a youthful demographic included social issues like physical and mental healthcare, homelessness, housing and education.

Older generations were found to favour hospitals, hospices and religious causes when deciding which charities to support. Therefore, it’s not only important to have a mix of methods, but to figure out a lucrative demographic and fundraise in the way that works for them.

Peace Gifts, for example, is a charity that aims to promote the message of peace between the Abrahamic religions while raising money for Abrahamic Reunion England, which promotes interfaith harmony through education, inspiration and action. The charity is keenly aware that selling goods to promote a message and raise funds is no longer about car boot sales in the rain or the dark confines of a charity shop.

The charity has set up an online store to sell its merchandise on a global scale. This way, it can also advertise on social media platforms with direct links to where supporters will be able to purchase the items on offer.

Smaller charity brands

Instead of setting up its own private online store with all the time and cost that goes into this, Peace Gifts chose to work with T-shirt and accessory printing business Spreadshirt. The European company which is fast expanding across the globe allows smaller brands to submit their designs and have some of the hard work done for them. Peace Gifts offers posters, hoodies, aprons, T-shirts and more, and Spreadshirt prints and ships the items far and wide, partnering with global logistics companies and allowing users to opt for a variety of payment methods.

Spreadshirt is also currently developing its mobile platforms to make things even easier for users in any market, whether established or emerging, to buy at the tap of a touchscreen. This is perfect for a global millennial demographic and allows even small, lesser known charities like Peace Gifts to compete with the big players like Macmillan or Cancer Research UK.

Peace Gifts’ Michael Kenton – PR and marketing can be so important in helping to develop solid relationships with members of the public and acting as the face of the charity.
"Charities which utilise a diverse mix of fundraising methods to appeal to a variety of demographics are by far the most successful."
RAF advert

Arts charities and fundraising ethics

Fundraising is hard enough without having to turn down sponsors who want to give charities money. Yet, according to the recent Arts Professional Ethics survey, more than 70% of arts organisation employees feel that their employer is at reputational risk through association with a sponsor or major donor whose own reputation is subject to criticism.

They’re not exaggerating. This year, we’ve seen several high profile cases such as the sponsorship of the Great Exhibition of the North which was brought to a rapid close and the furore in relation to Sackler Trust’s funding of several major arts organisations due to its wealth being created by Purdue Pharm.

Unfortunate spotlight

Even more recently, the outrage surrounding the Design Museum’s decision to host a private event for the defence contractor Leonardo as part of the Farnborough International arms fair put its temporary exhibition “Hope to Nope” in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

When thirty artists and designers demanded their work be removed from display, the sentiment behind Design Museum’s exhibition, which celebrates political protest, seemed hypocritical at best and, to some, an example of exploiting the political spirit without respecting the art itself.

Unsurprisingly, there is a high degree of nervousness from arts charities about what’s appropriate when soliciting funding. Sponsorship must be “defensible”, i.e. it must align with the values of a charity and help them to further their aims. But we also need to support our fundraisers to be able to actively raise funds from as wide a variety of sources as possible.

Fundraising is a difficult job at the best of the times and if we create too narrow a view of what makes an appropriate source of funding then we are putting potential sponsors in an impossible situation. We mustn’t make art too difficult to fund.

Avoiding backlash

So what is a “defensible” policy and how can an arts charity avoid backlash, without ignoring vital fundraising opportunities? Is it possible for organisations to be sensitive to their stakeholders’ views without impacting the commercial success of the organisation? And does due diligence require a thorough review of a potential sponsors’ own stakeholders? If a brand that is funding a charity has links through a parent company or subsidiary to an unfavourable business, does this disqualify it as a sponsor?

Conversations about what constitutes a good sponsor aren’t straight forward and it’s important that there is a structure to any discussion, linking to an agreed upon policy so that individuals who are making decisions can reference the charity’s developed policy and justify their decisions. Opinions run high from a personal perspective when we talk about ethics, and it’s important to remember that as far as possible we should come to an organisational consensus as to what’s appropriate as opposed to an individual one.

Trustee leadership

A charity needs to invest time to consider their position. The first step could be to develop an ethical policy that outlines which associations are acceptable or not. This activity should be led by the charity’s trustees. It’s disappointing to learn that only a little over a quarter of respondents to the Arts Professional survey said that their organisation has a policy in place to help them make ethical decisions.

The policy shouldn’t be a “nice to have” and needs to be fully debated throughout the organisation. Decisions and policies need to be reviewed regularly. Opinions change, reputations change, and we need to make sure that our views are up to date.

The policy is there to help charities make ethical decisions and shouldn’t be prohibitive. Against a backdrop of the continued threat of more public funding cuts, it seems that trustees and leaders of arts organisations are getting more risk-averse. Amidst a range of worries, the last thing that an organisation needs is attention drawn to it through controversy. There is also an underlying fear that taking the wrong sort of private money could impact funding agreements with public bodies such as Arts Council England.

Audiences can be cynical. Many believe that sponsorship of the arts is just an excuse for major corporations to cleanse their reputations. And with this in mind, we absolutely need to understand the position that an organisation represents. The sponsor reports to private interest, and the charitable arts organisation to the interests of the public. Sponsorship isn’t philanthropy, it’s a business exchange, and in this context, if a sponsorship can’t work for both parties then it shouldn’t be entered into.

Ethical sponsorship

London 2012 gave us much to think about in relation to ethical sponsorship. Sainsburys received mostly good press for their sponsorship of the Paralympics which played to their core values and gave them the chance to build on existing programmes such as Active Kids. In contrast, critics saw Atos sponsorship as lacking on moral grounds due to the view that they had treated disabled people unfairly in delivering the “fit to work” programme.

And this is key when we debate the ethics of sponsorship. We have to focus on values. The bottom line is that the trustees of arts organisations need to decide whether taking on a sponsorship will help further the artistic or charitable cause, but also whether the association can genuinely align with core values.

The starting point with developing ethical fundraising has to be that each organisation feels comfortable with its decision-making. An arts organisation needs to have a clear line and understand its core principles long before negotiations with a sponsor start. The buck stops with the charity’s trustees and leadership. It is their job to talk to donors and the public to gather opinions about what’s right, and to rely on their own instincts about whether a practice is ethical or not.

Ethical debate

A well run board will actively engage in the ethical debate and will continue to return to the issue even after a set of ethical guidelines has been agreed upon. Raising money at any cost is not acceptable and waiting to see whether the sponsorship will be noticed outside the organisation, and if so what the public reaction could be, is a risky business.

Cause4’s Michelle Wright - the trustees of arts organisations need to decide whether taking on a sponsorship will help further the artistic or charitable cause, but also whether the association can genuinely align with core values.
"The first step could be to develop an ethical policy that outlines which associations are acceptable or not."
Samten Advert

Safeguarding digital giving from abuse

There have been numerous research reports demonstrating that members of the public are influenced by emotional stories which propel them to donate money. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong, for example, studied the development of charitable crowdfunding and individuals’ donation behaviour between April-July 2017, and found that people are much more likely to donate to a crowdfunding project when they feel empathy for a credible cause.

For example, on Thursday 15 June 2017, a day after a devastating fire engulfed the West London Grenfell Tower block, JustGiving revealed that more than 400 fundraising pages had been set up for the victims, raising over £1.6m. In the same period, GoFundMe reported that more than £300,000 had been donated on its platform for those affected by the disaster, bringing the total raised via charitable crowdfunding sites in the first 24 hours to well in excess of £2 million.

Technology facilitates

What is clear, is that while empathy towards a particular cause or event influences the public to donate money, it is technology that has facilitated the ability to both drive awareness of an issue or goal on a national and international basis, and allow individuals and groups to more rapidly fundraise and donate money in support of those specific needs.

While technology may have been slower to disrupt the charity sector than others, online fundraising is now actively connecting people and communities. As well as providing a means for pooling financial contributions, crowdfunding allows members of the public to express solidarity and quickly provide their support in the wake of national tragedies.

This was evident following the major tragedies of 2017, including the Grenfell Tower fire, the Manchester Arena bombing and four terror attacks in London. According to the Fundraising Regulator, the public’s generous response to these incidents raised more than £38 million for victims.

As Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, recently commented: “The emergence of new crowdfunding and online giving sites has had a positive impact on charitable giving in the UK, making it easy for the public to donate to a wide range of causes and respond quickly to large scale disasters.”

While the sense of community spirit and generosity that online fundraising fosters is of course to be welcomed, it can also be open to abuse. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, GoFundMe reported that it had detected and removed a small number of “suspicious” campaigns from its platform. JustGiving also recently confirmed that criminals are targeting its site for money laundering purposes and that it has shut down nearly 100 fundraising pages in the last 18 months as a result.

Preventing illegitimate donations

Recent concerns around how to prevent illegitimate online donation sites prompted the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator to invite 14 of the UK’s major fundraising platforms to a summit to discuss how to improve transparency around online giving.

The stated aim was “to collectively agree principles that will ensure individuals are supported when setting up or donating to online appeals, help to increase public trust and confidence in charity and online giving, and ensure that charitable resources in the short, medium and long term are used as effectively as possible”. This led to an agreement to work with the Fundraising Regulator to revisit and make relevant the Code of Fundraising Practice with regards to fundraising platforms.

All fundraising platforms have a responsibility to educate and inform donors, grant givers and fundraisers about best practices for funding and fundraising. For example, anyone wishing to donate to charity would be wise to consult authorised bodies such as Companies House and the Charity Commission for a list of approved and registered charities and to donate through an online giving platform that fully vets any person or organisation wishing to raise funds.

Just taking these two simple steps helps everyone to make an informed decision regarding the charities or projects they wish to support. These platforms also have work to do to make it more difficult for fraudulent projects and transactions to appear online in order to deter criminality.

Finally, there must be a faster and more integrated process for any suspicions regarding fraudulent activity to be reported to organisations such as the National Crime Agency.

Whether online or offline, someone masquerading as a fundraiser is nothing new, but online fundraising platforms have the edge in safeguarding against this type of abuse over their more traditional counterparts. For instance, an online platform can prevent money from being paid into an individual’s bank account by requiring all monies to be paid into a verified, approved, organisational account.

Fundraising platforms can also retain payments for a set period of time before disbursement while they verify the source and the destination, rather than allowing funds to be paid in and transferred instantly. This allows time for any anomalies and irregularities in donation making – such as multiple donations from one individual donor for money laundering purposes – to be thoroughly identified and investigated.

Mandatory application processes

Online platforms should also be implementing mandatory application processes as an important safeguard - for instance, requiring applicants to complete a detailed online application form, including full organisational and financial details, plus itemised budgets for each charitable project seeking funds. This can then be vetted before an organisation and a funding project can be listed on a platform.

While ensuring that the claim is valid, this information can also then be made available to potential funders, donors and fundraisers to help inform their decisions regarding which projects and organisations they’d like to support. At the end of a project, an evaluation should also be completed, giving funders full visibility into what was achieved.

The more information a charity, project or individual has to provide and the more scrutiny that is undertaken, the more likely it is that the organisation and project will be valid. Simple measures such as this aren’t overly time-consuming, but they introduce much needed accountability. This extra step is unlikely to discourage genuine fundraisers, but will deter fraudsters looking for quick and easy gains.

Boost transparency and accountability

Ultimately, any loss in public trust as a result of fraudulent activity is to the detriment of the charitable sector as a whole, which is why the online fundraising industry must take urgent steps to boost transparency and accountability.

From vetting would-be applicants before their fundraising projects go live on a platform, to ensuring total transparency over how the money raised is processed and spent, it is essential to make the process as safe from abuse as possible. After all, public trust, the lifeblood of fundraising both on and offline, is hard earned and easily lost.

The Good Exchange’s Ed Gairdner – fundraising platforms have work to do to make it more difficult for fraudulent projects and transactions to appear online in order to deter criminality.
"…there’s every reason for charities to work with partners offering ethical products – they perform well."
Samten Advert

Making use of investor donation schemes

The charity sector has been subject to criticism from some quarters focused on a failure to modernise. A standard refrain has been a perceived lack of technological savvy: the Charity Digital Skills Report highlighted some 61% of charities rate their digital fundraising skills as fair to low, and calls for improvement are common and loud.

Developing these digital fundraising skills is certainly important. But improved digital skills are a means to an end, the end being cost effective fundraising. And fundraising overall is complicated by a limited number of fundraising channels. It is typically done via TV, phone call, text messages, social media, direct mail, email, door-to-door and on the street – and these methods are treated as the only dependable sources of donations. But what if there are other channels that haven’t been explored?

Some 42% of the UK adult population has a minimum of £30,000 of investable wealth at their disposal; better yet, there’s a lot of demographic overlap between charitable/socially responsible donors and retail investors. It’s an audience with more to give, and more inclination to do so.

So how can charities mine this audience?

An unappreciated channel

The UK is one of the world’s foremost financial centres – and the largest retail investment market in Europe. Charities, however, haven’t traditionally thought to turn this market to their advantage in relation to their fundraising efforts.

Maybe charities simply don’t know where to start in this respect. The older generation, for example, remains a huge source of potential donations: a survey of UK financial advisers revealed that 20%-50% of their clients are 70 or over – and 8% claim that this demographic comprises over 50% of their client base.

Targeting a more senior cohort is likely a smart move: those over 45 are more likely to give monthly monetary charitable donations according to the Charities Aid Foundation. At some wealth management firms, the average client age is 40 – and approximately half of all clients are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s.

There is therefore a natural demographic alignment between those most likely to have money under management and those most likely to give money to charity.

How do you get started if you’re a charity keen to explore this channel? STEP ONE: partner with an asset management firm that is able to embed your charity within an investor donation scheme. Such a scheme would offer investors a variety of charities to donate to.

The process is relatively simple. Here’s a quick example of how it works in practice. Let’s say Mrs. Johnson has a portfolio valued at £100,000 at the beginning of the year. She wants to give 10% of her annual gain to a charity and her investment manager has a scheme to facilitate this.

If at the end of the year her portfolio is worth £105,000, the donation then amounts to £500, and can be boosted to £625 by Gift Aid (higher rate tax payers may be eligible to reclaim tax against this). Not an insignificant amount, especially when you consider how much your donors have invested. The key, obviously, is to ensure your charity features as one of the choices in the scheme.

Augmenting the charitable choice

Asset management providers offering these charitable schemes will often pledge a percentage of their fees to the total annual donations – augmenting it further. What’s more, these donations are received without any involvement from the giver. There’s no need for them to sign up for monthly or quarterly payments, or actively remember to make their contribution at all. All they do is select the charity they want to support in the first instance.

And partnering with a firm that offers a charitable giving scheme embedded in an online “non-advised” service for investors provides an even more scalable opportunity.

STEP TWO: focus on ethical and sustainable investments. Donors are naturally imbued with a strong sense of principle – in a recent CAF report, when asked, “How strongly would you say the following has influenced your desire to give to charity?”, 96% responded – “My own sense of morality/ethics”. Donors are not going to be best pleased if their charity get into bed with a wealth management partner which peddles portfolios full of firearms and tobacco companies.

Anyway, there’s every reason for charities to work with partners offering ethical products – they perform well. In the investment world, the popularity of passive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies is notable, with significant inflows, and assets increasing by more than 18% in 2016.

In fact, if you compare the returns of the FTSE All Share Index of UK companies against the returns of the FTSE4Good UK Benchmark of companies demonstrating strong ESG practices, we can see that over a five year time horizon, the FTSE4Good UK Benchmark returned 29.3%, while the FTSE All Share returned 26.4%.

A modern donating approach

Exploring wealth management links to trigger donations is naturally beneficial for charities, but it also reflects the changing preferences of modern donors. It’s less intrusive; it doesn’t require them to sacrifice any of their available resources, and if all goes well, they still make money.

Indeed, the connection between charity and wealth management is a natural one: some 62% of UK investors say they want to support companies that make a positive contribution to society and the environment. At the same time, 51% have never been given the opportunity to invest in socially responsible organisations.

Arguably, if your charity is focused on religion, hospitals/hospices, or disability, then reasons to explore this fundraising channel are even more pronounced, as these charities are more popular with older age groups more likely to have money invested.

Wealth management is an unexploited fundraising channel, but one with clear potential. Make the connection. Donors who simultaneously want to and can help are a rare commodity – and the investment community has plenty of both.

TAM Asset Management’s Stephanie Barkway – the connection between charity and wealth management is a natural one.
"…there’s every reason for charities to work with partners offering ethical products – they perform well."
Deloitte advert

Committing to better fundraising

It’s the million dollar question for charities – how to maximise donations whilst keeping overheads to a minimum?

Throughout the political and economic turmoil of the last 12 months, the generosity of the UK public has remained unwavering. A total amount of £9.7 billion was donated by Brits in 2016, a very slight increase from the £9.6 billion donated in 2015. The general public's willingness to donate has not been dampened by an increasing number of acute causes in need of support.

However, the landscape is ever changing, with new ways to donate being introduced all the time.

The challenge facing charities is how to make a cause as attractive and as easy to support as possible.

To do this, charities need a multi-faceted fundraising strategy, combined with streamlined administration processes, something which on the face of it can seem contradictory. The key part of this is having a strong understanding of how people donate, and aligning your donation options closely with this.

The changing landscape

The latest figures from the Charities Aid Foundation reveal that cash remains the most popular way to donate, with 58% of respondents having given a cash/cheque donation over the past 12 months. This is consistent among all age groups and genders, with over 50% of every group that CAF surveyed having donated cash.

Buying goods and buying tickets for raffles and lotteries occupy the second and third spots, with 40% of people having done both in the last 12 months. Interestingly women are much more likely to give through these options than men – make of that what you will!

This all seems fairly straightforward and is probably to be expected. The fourth and fifth most popular options are different.

The fourth most popular way to donate to charity was direct debit – with 31% of people having donated using this method. The fifth was online giving, with over a quarter of people having used this method. Both methods are increasing in popularity year on year.

Direct debit and online giving largely result in much higher individual donation amounts than cash, goods or raffles/lotteries, generating a much higher return for charities who commit to enabling people to donate via these methods.

It’s hardly surprising. Other research has shown that the average direct debit donation totalled £181 over the course of a year, or £15 a month. Whereas the average cash/cheque donation is just £5, with people likely to only make a one-off donation to each charity via this method. This probably won’t come as a surprise for most people - £300 is a daunting one-off donation, but £20 a month seems much more manageable.

Another interesting point that CAF’s research has thrown up is the changing course of donation habits across the year. Several methods of donation see a spike in November, including on the street (43%), television (35%), direct mail (33%), and the radio (15% vs. 9% on average across the year).

When you think of the number of charity campaigns which fall in November, Red Nose Day, the Poppy Appeal and #Movember, to name but a few, it all makes sense. In the run-up to Christmas donations spike again, December was the key time to be asked to give at work last year (13% in this month vs. 10% average).

What does this mean?

With this in mind, in order to maximise all revenue streams charities need a genuinely multi-faceted fundraising approach, which can be sustained across a 12-month period to account for peaks and troughs in donation habits.

Cash/cheques and lotteries work well to generate volume of donations, but other strategies, including direct debit and online giving, produce a greater value per individual donation. Facilitating different methods of giving can initially appear costly, especially for smaller charities. It is important for charities to identify their most successful revenue streams and maximise them – to do this, charities need to embrace new methods of giving which might hold the key to increasing revenue.

As already identified, people tend to donate more in certain months, however charities have to balance this against the competition for funds in those popular months. A smaller charity might be wise to plan their campaigns in slightly quieter months when they’re not competing with national causes like Comic Relief or Sports Relief.

This raises the question, how can charities, especially smaller charities adopt a multi-faceted, 12-month fundraising strategy, while also reducing administrative costs and overheads? The answers lie in embracing technology and specialist support.

Putting it into practice

There are a range of ways to streamline admin processes and increase donations, below are four that are cost effective and combine both.

Use the cloud

New technology is often seen as costly and a luxury that charities cannot afford. However, using out of date software or software that regularly requires expensive upgrades can add huge administrative costs in the long run. Over the long term, charities can benefit from a significant reduction in costs if they use cloud computing technology that doesn’t require expensive installation or upgrades.

This can include cloud based desktop software, cloud based emails, cloud based payments software, cloud accounting software, cloud based CRM systems and much more.

From a cost perspective, one of the biggest plus points for a charity moving to cloud computing is that they will no longer need to buy or maintain expensive and energy-draining servers.

The cloud also allows easy remote access, so staff can log on and work from any location with an internet connect, as well as giving piece of mind about data security – with disaster recovery coming built-in to many cloud packages.

Clearly, the cloud has a huge potential to reduce long term administration costs. It can also help to increase donations, as the cost reductions created by the cloud mean that methods like direct debit are now much less expensive and more accessible.

Effective fundraising methods

The majority of charities still use telephone or paper based donation systems that are costlier and involve a lot of administration time.

Research has shown that 31% of people in the UK donated to charity by direct debit in 2016, but 91% of charities still do not offer direct debit as a way of donating.

Taking payments by cheque, cash and standing order is a huge administrative burden for charities and fundraising organisations.

Taking donations by credit or debit cards can be more streamlined, but typically costs around 2-3% per transaction plus a flat fee of £0.30p or more.

In comparison, direct debit is easy to set up and costs much less - solutions start from just £0.35 pence a transaction.

Outsource where relevant

Outsourcing is particularly beneficial if you’re working at a small charity.

Depending on the size of the charity, you might not need a full IT department or marketing department etc. The temptation can be to fear that outsourcing will lead to a less effective service, or put donors’ data at risk. However, the reality is that in most cases it not only reduces costs, but also increases efficiency.

As an example, offsite network management, in particular, can lead to fewer disruptions in service, improved network security and increased access to IT services often reserved for larger organisations.

Similarly, using third party providers to run donation strategies, such as Direct Debit, can reduce the internal administrative burden and provide a more cost effective and secure solution that will encourage a greater number of donations.

Also, look at the time spent printing and pulling together materials, as well as the cost of copier maintenance. By outsourcing to a local printer, charities can save up to 30% on printing expenses.

Plan ahead

Charities need to ensure that any campaigns are tailored to take into account popular times for donations, or to cover any shortfalls in quieter months, like January. Likewise, spending habits need to be well planned to ensure that cash flow remains consistent and the charity can always meet its obligations regardless of whether donations rise or fall each month.

Take stock of marketing efforts and ensure all campaigns and fundraising initiatives are well planned and executed at the perfect time. It pays to be patient and hone a great message/ communications strategy, rather than adopt a scatter gun approach that takes time and money and generates far fewer results.

Making the big decisions

Like a business, charities must identify the initiatives that can drop costs and increase income the most – while not burning up a lot of resources in the process. Although, a change might save money, there’s often a time cost to consider. The approach has to be balanced. Ask, as well as reducing admin costs, will this change also positively benefit fundraising efforts? If so, it’s probably a winner.

Once areas to save money are identified, then it’s time to commit to the change, even though changes can sometimes ruffle feathers. Streamlining the charity doesn’t just control costs, it also helps the mission thrive and donations to increase.

First Capital Cashflow's Helen Priestman - the key is to have a strong understanding of how people donate, and aligning your donation options closely with this.
"The challenge facing charities is how to make a cause as attractive and as easy to support as possible."
"...people tend to donate more in certain months, however charities have to balance this against competition for funds in those popular months."
Deloitte advert

Boosting fundraising results with promotional clothing

Making the most of tight budgets and maximising fundraising activity are of upmost importance and relevance to all charities. From participation in running, cycling and triathlon events to charitable stalls and branded partnerships with corporate companies, suppliers will be willing to work with you to ensure you get the most out of the event.

Effectively, it’s a case of developing a strong, ongoing relationship. Developing a firm relationship with your supplier bodes well for PR activity, repeat or fixed costs and, most importantly, a trust in the service it provides you.

My first recommendation to fundraising/merchandise teams is to plan all fundraising activity well in advance of any event. If you can, set out your requirements for all confirmed events in your calendar year. By doing so you give yourself the opportunity to capitalise on discounts available by choosing larger volumes.

It makes complete financial sense to utilise to the full bulk/volume discounts offered by many suppliers, saving you potentially thousands of pounds over the duration of the year. Furthermore, sourcing items from one supplier may help minimise delivery costs and potential conflicts.

What about your charity campaigns? Generic branding allows you the option to reuse products, saving you more money down the line. If you’re in need of campaign or time specific products, look at lesser value items or utilise a high volume order to help drive down any additional costs.

The right supplier

When choosing the right supplier, there are three main aspects to think about; quality, reliability and cost. Look for companies which have worked with similar sized charities, read testimonials and ask for as many examples of products and garments as you can.

As previously mentioned, think about taking on a supplier which can provide you with an "all in one" solution. This will help you maximise your budget against quality and ensure the supplier doesn’t include any hidden costs along the way.

Taking the "all in one" approach will reduce overall costs (often because of volume orders), reduce the headache managing a multitude of suppliers and ensure consistency across print, artwork design and delivery.

Once you’ve moved forward with a supplier and planned out your activity for the financial year against your budget, list all potential requirements in a spreadsheet with rough quantities. This will allow your supplier to give you an initial indication of costs.

Often there is room for negotiation of these costs, particularly if you are ordering large volumes or making a multi-product order. Make sure you discuss this with your account manager to find out any discounts you may be eligible for.

From charity clothing (custom vests, cycle jerseys, running t-shirts and volunteer gear) through to participant accessories, supporter items and event branding, it’s important to scope out all potential options to maximise fundraising efforts and the ensuing marketing and PR coverage.

Work with your supplier to cover this need. The more products you can offer to encourage fundraisers to get behind the promotion of your cause, the more rewarding the overall experience will be for all parties involved.

Perhaps not overtly obvious, but there is a standard expectation of quality from participants for their event clothing. Who wants to compete in a cycle or running event in particularly uncomfortable gear? Provide participants with retail-quality products that they will be proud to use outside of the event, thus further enhancing the presence of your charity.

Work with your supplier to give fundraisers the right tools to reach their goals, at a price that suits your charity. This links back to making sure you research your supplier and get independent testimonials from previous clients who received similar garments.

Reflecting popular trends

Promotional products are often designed exclusively for charity events and vary in terms of their use and longevity.

Here’s a list of trending 2016 items that could significantly help your fundraisers and your charity awareness:

SUBLIMATION PRODUCTS. From cycle jerseys and jackets to running vests and technical t-shirts, sublimation garments (with digital printing of dyes) offer you supreme quality without compromise. When looking for products for longevity, choosing sublimation is an easy choice. Allowing for Pantone-perfect printing without future fading, the products will represent your charity with unrivalled quality.

FEATHER/FLUTTER AND SUPPORTERS' FLAGS. If you’re promoting a specific event, it’s important to get the branding right. Feather (shaped) flags and flutter flags give you the perfect opportunity to showcase your brand to spectators.

From another perspective, hand flags give supporters the power of your charity in their hands, getting them involved in the event - a great many of which will be kept as mementos of the event. Utilising generic branding here will afford you the opportunity to help you deal with surplus quantities in the future.

HEADBANDS AND SWEATBANDS. Low cost and highly effective, these accessories can help increase awareness of your charity and your cause when worn time and again by your fundraisers in public. These can also be used as giveaways at events for participants to wear immediately, improving the visibility of your brand at any sporting event.

NOISE STICKS. Not forgetting the supporters, (inflatable) noise sticks are a cheap and effective tool for encouraging brand awareness, promoting the charity directly to potential contributors. Noise sticks are also great for inspiring an inclusive atmosphere at events by getting the crowd involved in supporting the participants.

CUSTOM CLOTHING FOR VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF. Keep your volunteers as happy as your fundraisers and participants with high quality custom shorts, t-shirts or polo shirts. Many bespoke promotional item suppliers have a range of leisure items, such as hoodies and tracksuit bottoms, available for your volunteers.

Reward their time and help in running your event with something they will cherish long after the event that will encourage them to help year after year.

Marketing and PR

Suppliers may offer you help involving online/offline PR and marketing support. Being associated with your charity is valuable for your suppliers’ brand, so it is viewed as a two-way partnership with all parties benefiting from the increased exposure.

This additional marketing/PR support may not be as important for established charities with an established digital presence, yet it can be a supremely useful additional tool for smaller charitable causes to establish brand advocacy and enhance fundraising campaigns.

Ask your supplier for support. This is a great awareness driver and suppliers are often willing to help by featuring your event/cause on a blog, or by creating exclusive content on their website. Most often, charities will put digital teams and personnel in direct contact with suppliers to help co-ordinate activity efficiently.

Liaise with your supplier to see if there’s any possibility of running joint social media competitions or engagement initiatives to help drive brand/campaign awareness. Competitions are brilliant drivers, and if you can utilise your suppliers’ social media following or their database, this can provide significant benefits.

Finally, in terms of marketing and PR, make the most of every opportunity. Take as many pictures and videos as you possibly can and make sure you do this before, during and after the events.

Thus in a nutshell:

  • Carefully choose the right supplier for you and develop a working relationship.
  • Plan out your annual activity as far in advance as possible to make the most of volume discounts.
  • Ensure the products you choose are the right quality and price point for your fundraisers.
  • Find out whether you are eligible for any discounts or special offers.
  • Utilise your supplier for free PR and marketing initiatives.
Scimitar's Adam Church-Millward - work with your supplier to give fundraisers the right tools to reach their goals, at a price that suits your charity.
"It makes complete financial sense to utilise to the full bulk/volume discounts offered by many suppliers, saving you potentially thousands of pounds over the duration of the year."
"...suppliers are often willing to help by featuring your event/cause on a blog, or by creating exclusive content on their website."
LatchamCGL advert

The overwhelming requirement to engage with donors

“Scandal hit charities need a strong regulator.” – The Guardian, September 2015.
“Charity fundraising techniques ‘a scandal’” – BBC, Sept 2015.
“A sweeping crackdown on charity sharks who prey on elderly and vulnerable” – Daily Mail, Sept 2015.

This piece is not about charities’ moral obligations. Nor is it an assessment of the degree to which the above headlines represented a "just desserts" following charities’ actions, or an indefensible criticism of them. But there can be no denying that, reputationally, charities have had a bruising year. Irrespective of the justification for that battering, the charity sector needs to look again at the way it drives donations if it is to rebuild its reputation, and protect its income.

That change does not have to be painful. New research suggests that a less antagonistic, less guilt-laden approach is likely to generate sustained and improved results.

So this article poses a very simple question: if you change the nature of charitable engagement, can you change the nature of charitable giving?

Alternatively, to put it another way, if charities stop hunting their donors and start farming them, can they achieve better results and fewer adverse headlines?

What is engagement?

Steven Dodds of research group Harvest describes engagement like this: “Supporter engagement is any activity that causes a supporter to invest in a charity – cognitively, emotionally, behaviourally – so that their lifetime value increases.”

In August 2015, researchers Harvest and Boy on a Beach launched a survey, via CreateConvo and ResearchNow, of 1,000 UK charity donors. Each donor supported at least one of the UK’s top 50 charities (as ranked by CBI) and had given to charity in the last 12 months via at least two methods.

Donors were asked about their levels of engagement, their attitudes and behaviours.

What and how we give

In the survey, 9% of donors made 66% of all donations to charity. 91% contributed the other 34%. By far the most typical annual donation was between £10 and £50 (48% of respondents), while the second most prevalent annual donation (at 21%) was below £10.

Only 4% of donors gave more than £250 annually.

By far the most common way of giving was through a one off donation (71%), followed by buying raffle tickets (65%) and mail order catalogues (45%).

Less than half of the sample – and bear in mind that the sample consisted of annually active charity donors – donated by direct debit.

32% of supporters said that they had been supporting their chosen charity for more than 10 years.

Generation Neutral

If this doesn’t exactly sound like a bubbling cauldron of charitable excitement, that’s because, overwhelmingly, it isn’t. When supporters were asked how close they felt to their chosen charities, neutrality was by far the most dominant emotion (79%).

The neutral stance was one that appeared largely unaffected by charity type. Children’s charity supporters were 81% neutral. Supporters of health and medical charities were 77% neutral. Armed Forces charities fared better only in a relative sense, with 67% neutrality.

The cost of neutrality

The research shows that supporters’ closeness to their charities makes a dramatic difference to the amount they give. Annual mean donation amongst neutral supporters is £60.57. Among engaged supporters the annual mean donation rises to £91.53, almost 50% greater.

What’s more, engaged supporters are 10% more likely to give a greater amount next year, compared with just 3% of neutral supporters. When they do, it will be an increase on an amount that is already 50% better than their neutral counterparts.

Creatures of habit

The contrast is stark. On the one hand, we see a picture of donation almost by habit – a frustrating charitable Groundhog Day of giving with little change. Those who have always given continue to give, and next year they will give much the same again.

The survey did not explore the effect of recent headlines and their impact on donor intentions, but it is difficult to see how donations from neutrals could do any more than stagnate, at best, in the current climate.

In contrast, those donors who are engaged are already giving more, and are more likely to give more still.

Can we convert more neutral supporters to engaged? Doing so requires the fulfilment of two key elements:

  1. There must be a desire among supporters to become more engaged.
  2. Charities need to find better ways to engage.

Some encouragement for the first of these issues comes from the survey, where 37% of all supporters said they like to have a close relationship with the charities they support, and 59% like to feel involved in the charity's work.

Yet only 13% of survey respondents make a point of reading everything their charity sends them. And 46% say they hardly ever read it or didn’t want it. If the majority of supporters really do want to get involved, you might think they have a funny way of showing it.

Redefining the relationship

Charitable engagement, the research suggests, is built on two central pillars: reach and attention. A single point of contact, a newsletter, for example, is not enough to drive engagement in more than the narrowest band of donors. Widen the touchpoints and the ways supporters can interact with you, and you create an environment better built to engage.

In the survey, and compared to their neutral counterparts, engaged supporters were 94% more likely to have had an interpersonal relationship with the charity (ie have been to an event organised by the charity, or spoken to a team member on the phone). Engaged supporters were 78% more likely to have connected digitally, by visiting the website or following the charity on social media.

Redefining the language

The language of charities that engage is different too. Traditional campaigns have focused on problems, on motivating by guilt and cultivating a culture of dependence.

Yet the research discovered that campaigns which truly engage work differently, keeping the attention by shifting control from charity to supporter and bringing the beneficiaries closer, rather than preserving the traditional "us and them" of campaign language.

What succeeds, in terms of keeping supporters’ attention, is developing an affinity with the charity’s work. Donors are engaged by progress, a sense that their donation and the work of the charity in general are making a difference. Instead of motivating by guilt, engagement means a shift to personal reward and a notion of empowering the relationship.

So the way forward has to be a fundraising formula which uses ongoing engagement – the cultivation of long lasting relationships – as its driver for increasing donations. The following is suggested:

The effect of engagement

How do you spot progress in making neutrals feel engaged? The language they use is telling. The research discovered that, compared to neutrals, engaged supporters were 135% more likely to feel driven and 117% more likely to feel passionate about the charity. They were 60% more likely to feel involved with their charity, and 40% prouder of it.

Are you engaging?

Is your charity a hunter or a farmer? And if you’re the former, how do you start the shift to becoming the latter? The research identified the following traits as typical of "farming" charities. These are, in effect, the identifiers of the building blocks of engagement:

  1. Donors are real stakeholders in my charity.
  2. Supporter relationships are built on openness, involvement and control.
  3. Donors feel proud to support us.
  4. We understand the emotional value we give supporters.
  5. We know how and when to leverage it.
  6. Our digital/social touchpoints are fully integrated into the supporter experience.
  7. Engagement KPIs are embedded across the organisation.
  8. Our database and IT systems fully support the increased level of integration and personalisation support which engagement requires.

Most supporters want to be involved. When they are, their own passion, drive and pride create the virtuous circle that drives increased donations.

Even without the adverse headlines of the past year, this research into the value of engagement – of farming not hunting – would seem to offer a compelling reason to change fundraising approaches. In the current climate, a strategy that places relationship-building at its heart seems all but irresistible.

Amaze One's Janet Snedden - most charity supporters want to be involved; and when they are, their own passion, drive and pride create the virtuous circle that drives increased donations.
"Charitable engagement, the research suggests, is built on two central pillars: reach and attention."
"What succeeds, in terms of keeping supporters' attention, is developing an affinity with the charity's work."

Providing the necessary leadership in fundraising

I joined Kidscan, a children’s cancer research charity based in the North West of England, in January 2014. It was a crucial time for the charity. Kidscan had recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, the chairman of the board of trustees was preparing to step down, and the founder and scientific director, Prof. Alan McGown, had very recently retired.

Kidscan’s purpose is to fund research into new and improved treatments for children with cancer. Due to the nature of the charity’s work, Kidscan doesn’t benefit from statutory funding, but had managed to build up a healthy supporter base at a grass roots level, funding some excellent research projects in its first ten years.

When my time at the charity began, my vision, along with the board's, was to set even more ambitious goals for the next ten years. Now we are achieving this by building up a new donor base amongst corporates and major donors whilst still taking care of the loyal supporters who have been at the charity’s side since its beginnings.

Engaging the supporters

Keeping such a varied group of supporters in the loop is not a straightforward task, and our methods of contact have to be as varied as they are. We have a database of people who receive monthly emails from us with information about our research and fundraising initiatives, and we use social media to keep individuals updated on lots of the smaller things we are up to.

What I enjoy most, however, is meeting with people face to face and thanking them personally for what they do. It’s really important for us to have a presence at the events our supporters participate in. I also meet regularly with our corporate supporters. A key shift in relating to them has been to talk about the research we carry out, letting them know what their money is doing, rather than focusing on the fundraising work we are doing.

Fulfilling the role

Before I joined Kidscan, I had previously worked for a smaller charity in Wales. When I moved to the North West, I brought that knowledge and experience to Kidscan. Small charities face a lot of unique challenges, including having to be quite careful with resources, haggling for the best deals, and having to use a small team to carry out lots of different kinds of fundraising.

As a result of my previous experience, I am very hard-nosed when it comes to bargaining and have no qualms about negotiating – whether for Kidscan or a well earned holiday! – and I’ve got a good understanding of all sorts of income streams. Something that’s worked really well for us is making everyone’s roles much clearer.

Working with a small team can feel like being part of a family where everyone chips in to help with what needs doing. This can be great, but within a charity it often means staff cannot develop any kind of specialism in any one area of fundraising, and that can hinder professional development. Though we still work really well as a team, we have our own areas of fundraising responsibility which are tailored to individual talents and abilities.

All too often, fundraisers leave the sector due to burnout. Charity work at any level can be an emotionally taxing job, and part of the job is to know more than most people about our cause. This often means being aware of extreme suffering, and knowing a solution is not currently available. If we make our charity’s cause our mission in life, it can be very hard to manage that burden.

To be effective fundraisers we have to be passionate about our cause, but in order to do the job it is essential that a coping mechanism is put in place to allow you to remain in a professional mind-set and stay focused on achievable goals.

Personally, it is important to remember that Kidscan is not my charity. It doesn’t belong to me. This is why the board of trustees is such a vital part of what we do. It is easy for staff to get carried away with new and exciting projects, or for a charity to lose its focus, diversify into other areas, and become less effective as a result.

It is the board of trustees’ role to set out a vision for the charity, and to set parameters for how we work. I work very closely with the Board, and I then go away and plan based upon the work we do. Our board is closely involved with the running of the charity, so the trustees keep me in check and make sure we are meeting our overall aims.

We’re in the process of writing Kidscan’s first business plan at the moment. The final document will form the basis of all our decision making in the years ahead.

Working with the trustees

Whilst I have my own ideas, I have to remember that Kidscan’s trustees are the ones whose necks are on the line. Ultimately, they will answer for my actions, so it’s important I follow their guidance. Our board members come from all walks of life, and have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to share. I have always found it is extremely worthwhile listening to them.

One of the parameters I work to is ensuring all our fundraising activities are cost effective. When I first joined Kidscan, one of the main annual events was a bespoke cycle event. Despite the huge amount of work involved in the organisation of the day, and the large number of participants, the event barely broke even because it was so expensive to put on in the first place. It was a challenging decision to make, but we shelved the event in favour of other, more cost effective options which would better benefit the charity.

Remaining challenged

With things like this to deal with, it’s impossible not to remain challenged in my job. I am faced with a new challenge almost every day. In order for Kidscan to be more effective, I have to push myself to try new things, face daunting tasks, and always strive for innovation. If I don’t do these things, we will ultimately have to wait longer for the day when no child dies of cancer. That’s a pretty strong motivator for getting out of my comfort zone.

Aims and hopes

My hope for the long term is that Kidscan will be instrumental in making a childhood cancer diagnosis no scarier that getting the flu is today. One day, no parent will lose their child to this awful disease, and it’s organisations like ours which can make that a reality. The more money we raise to put into truly ground breaking research, the sooner that day will arrive.

Looking after the team

In the short term, I’m not only looking after the charity’s interests. Working with a small team means I get to know my staff really well, which helps me to look after them too. Through working closely with them every day I can find their strengths and offer opportunities to use them. I recently helped one staff member who was responsible for admin and finance to get involved with community fundraising - an area she loves and is naturally brilliant at.

The charity sector can struggle to retain good staff because the roles are so demanding, and small charities in particular can’t pay very much. It’s important for fundraisers to know the work they’re doing makes a difference, and to be given opportunities to improve themselves wherever possible. Being a charity, we can’t spend too much money on ourselves so we take advantage of any free training and conferences we can find.

A lesson I have learnt

Everything I have done at Kidscan has been part of a steep learning curve for me as a manager. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt might be obvious, but it’s been extremely important: communication. Most people in charity management roles will have a plethora of responsibilities, and it can be easy to get engrossed in your workload and forget to spend time nurturing and supporting staff.

I had to learn to talk to my team about what I’m working on and to share our progress as a charity with them as well as stakeholders on the outside. It’s a personal development I’m really proud of, and which has undoubtedly helped the charity move forward too.

My proudest achievement

One of the greatest achievements I have managed for Kidscan is enabling the charity to fund a new research project in 2016. We achieved this because my team met and exceeded fundraising targets in a year of really big changes for the charity. It’s wonderful to see how our hard work pays off in real terms, and to know that childhood cancer research is moving forward as a direct result of our efforts.

Kidscan's Lowri Haf Turner - it's important for fundraisers to know the work they're doing makes a difference, and to be given opportunities to improve themselves wherever possible.
"Keeping such a varied group of supporters in the loop is not a straightforward task, and our methods of contact have to be as varied as they are."
The fruits of effective fundraising - here is Patrick Killoran at work whose PhD research into a drug for brain tumours in children is funded by Kidscan.
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