5 things to think about as community fundraising returns

16 August 2021
Community Fundraising
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People taking part in a charity run

Gary Kernahan looks in this blog at community fundraising and identifies five things for community fundraisers to think about as they prepare for its recovery.

Historically community and events fundraising has always been key sources of income for Scottish charities.

I’ve felt for a long time that too many of Scotland’s 24,000 charities are reliant on too few income streams. One of these income streams is community fundraising, an income source that has been affected most by the pandemic.

Organisations have approached community fundraising in very different ways throughout the pandemic. Some have shut shop, placing the majority of the community team on furlough and/or opting for major restructures/redundancies. Others have refocused the community fundraising resource using these skilled relationships managers to steward and cultivate supporters. Others have been innovative and have found ways to stimulate support throughout the pandemic.

What’s next?

As the legal restrictions begin to be relaxed in Scotland now feels like a good time to consider what’s next for community fundraising. 

I think the community spirit we’ve seen throughout the pandemic will help community and events fundraising make a full recovery over the next 2 years. Here are 5 things for community fundraisers to think about as you prepare for the recovery of community fundraising:

1. Offerings to stimulate activity

Community fundraising activity continued throughout the pandemic, it just looked different with individual challenges and virtual activities. Some charities were very successful in stimulating activity amongst their supporter bases. Have a look at the Rangers Charity Foundation who managed to transform their annual ball and fun run into a virtual offering that raised £84,000!

As we emerge from the pandemic, I think offerings to stimulate activity will be required. At Children 1st we recently brought a proposition to market – the Let the Kids Win scavenger hunt – which was targeted at a specific audience (families with young children) and exceeded our target for registrations by 500%.

2. Prepare for a surge in mass events participation

The last mass participation challenge event in Scotland must have been the 2019 Great Scottish Run. Since then, many more people have embraced, and fallen in love with, the outdoors and others have taken up walking, running, cycling, etc. I therefore think there is a new audience out there who will be keen to test themselves in a challenge event.

There is evidence to suggest people are keen to return to all forms of live events (look at the numbers of people flocking to football grounds all over the country). So, when you combine this new audience with those existing ones who would normally participate in a challenge event, I think there are reasons to be optimistic for challenge events in 2022.

3. Marketing as a key skill set

Fundraisers ought to be asking now how they can stand out? What will make running the Edinburgh marathon in 2022 for your charity more appealing for a supporter than another? How will you market your new community proposition to the target audience? 

I’d add marketing to the already long list of skills required to be a successful community fundraiser. Going forward it’s never been more important for community fundraisers, especially those working in smaller charities, to understand channels (which one’s to use and how) and to create engaging content.

4. Donor expectations and motivations will have changed

There are some things that after a year and a half of living in a pandemic and in lockdown we will be keen to put down (I don’t ever want to take part in another a family zoom quiz!) and there will be some we’ll hold onto. 

The experience of the past year will have changed donor expectations and motivations. Understanding and acting upon the expectations and motivations of your supporters or potential supporters will be key. People are passionate about supporting causes important to them – focus more attention on warm supporters, make people feel great about donating, show them the impact of their support and work to maximise these relationships.

How well do you know what your donors want and need from you and your charity?

5. Make it easy!

Online purchases can be made with just a thumbprint, but charities offer a limited amount of payment options and crucially many don’t offer the simple, streamlined, experience that people are becoming accustomed to.

At Children 1st we’ve experienced success recently at creating interest in an activity but found the cumbersome online registration process put people off and resulted in a small number of the people who visited the webpage actually registering. Have you tested how easy it is to support your charity?

To realise this recovery of community fundraising there is much work to do! A good, and important, first step could be to grow your understanding of your audiences and use those insights to create propositions that will appeal to them and marketing plans that will help you reach them.

After a difficult period, there is reason for community fundraisers to be hopeful. Pre-pandemic we were in the midst of a resurgence in community fundraising, community fundraising will come back and there is a tangible opportunity out there to capitalise on.

Gary Kernahan
Gary Kernahan
Director of Fundraising and Business Development at Children 1st
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