As part of a series on Fundraising for Impact, following our research published alongside PWC earlier this year, Suzanne Featherstone reflects on the current state of fundraising and what the future might hold for trustees.
At a time of so much change in the fundraising landscape, I was glad to take part in the research for the Fundraising for Impact research earlier this year to discuss the challenges we’re facing in our individual organisations.
I’ve worked for lots of different charities both as a fundraiser and as a trustee, and one thing is clear: a trustee who also has experience as a fundraiser is a sought-after human being! Your fundraising knowledge strengthens the organisation and offers a valuable perspective on navigating the road ahead. I know that fundraisers are working hard to adapt to these challenging times, and trustees must do all they can to support their vital work.
It’s not an easy time to be a fundraiser or a trustee, but it’s important to share insights to help our causes to thrive.
So what were the key takeaways for trustees?
Looking ahead to the next few years, charities are aware that supporters, whether corporate sponsors or individual givers, are becoming more ‘donation-savvy’. That means asking more questions about what their money is being spent on and what kind of impact their donation has had.
Hence the move towards more project-based funding over the last 10 years or so, with accompanying monitoring frameworks to provide not only comfort to donors but as a cross-check to ensure that funds are spent as agreed. However charities would counter that without their core costs covered they cannot function. Often social impact charities are commissioned by central or local government to provide essential services so you can understand that they wish to provide a seamless service to their ultimate users.
Fundraising costs vary too geographically – we all know London attracts the majority of charities because of its good transport connections and wealth, but fundraising salaries have to reflect living costs there too.
So the need to make donors feel appreciated has never been more important. Couple this with the twin demands of compliance (such as GDPR) and the lightning responsiveness of social media platforms and you can see the mounting pressure on charities to strive for a better return on investment, delivering great projects while adhering to best practice fundraising standards.
Trends in fundraising are affected by externalities such as (breathe in) Brexit, still being debated as I write. This has not only affected EU funding but matched funding as well that could come from a variety of sources such as Trusts and Foundations and National Lottery Funds. We know that some Trusts have responded by making larger or more grants depending on their funding endowment and so a lot of charities have seen the benefits of hiring trust fundraisers in an uncertain funding climate where corporate funds are becoming harder to source.
How can we make progress in a complex funding arena, when we’re all feeling the pinch? A key tool we can use is collaboration to build our brand awareness. Increasing our focus on partnership working can help charities continue or even expand their activities. In practice, this could mean working with each other for joint bids to pool costs, or operating in a climate of trusted relationships or developing MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) and contracts as necessary to secure the best outcomes for everyone. De-risking has always been a concern for small charities, but we mustn’t let that hold back the entrepreneurial spirit of both trustees and fundraisers.