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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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
“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.
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:
- There must be a desire among supporters to become more engaged.
- 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:
- Donors are real stakeholders in my charity.
- Supporter relationships are built on openness, involvement and control.
- Donors feel proud to support us.
- We understand the emotional value we give supporters.
- We know how and when to leverage it.
- Our digital/social touchpoints are fully integrated into the supporter experience.
- Engagement KPIs are embedded across the organisation.
- 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.
"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."
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.
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.