The fundraising landscape is ever-changing and being adaptable and having foresight is vital if we’re to continue to sustain our organisations. I believe we’re at our strongest as a sector when we share insights and learn from each other’s experiences. Therefore, I was very happy to contribute to the Fundraising for Impact survey and subsequent roundtable discussion. It was great to meet peers in the sector, to hear a variety of thoughts and viewpoints. Many of the participants were from small organisations, which was an important reminder of the breadth of our sector and the resulting range of challenges and opportunities.
From the majority of fundraising conversations I’m having and hearing now it’s clear that innovation and improving the supporter experience are top priorities, and rightfully so. We can only keep up with the pace of technological and societal change if we invest time and budget into innovative fundraising. The world doesn’t sit still, and neither can our fundraising. Finding new supporters will always be a priority, but it’s encouraging to see that fundraisers are recognizing the importance of retaining existing donors by identifying it as a high priority. With ongoing economic uncertainty, it is vital we keep already-engaged supporters with us. It will always be more cost-effective to look after existing donors than to go out and find new ones, particularly if a recession hits. Any organisation that isn’t thinking along these lines will hopefully do so upon seeing the consensus in this report.
At Friends of the Earth we’ve seen a huge shift in our donor recruitment channel mix in the past few years. We closed our street fundraising operation in 2015, which had previously been our primary source of new regular givers. Now, in 2019, it’s been replaced by paid social. In between we tried out various channels and asks. Regulatory changes were a big determiner in making much of our previous telephone fundraising unviable due to a drop in contactable volume. As we emerge from the recent period of being fully immersed in adapting to new compliance requirements, we will focus on further development of new donor recruitment techniques, as well as scaling up our retention activity. In a busy world of asks and approaches, and a sector that is seeing an ongoing rise in demand on its services, it’s increasingly important that our campaigns are relevant to our audiences.
Gone are the days of writing a fundraising strategy and not updating it for 3 or 4 years. Of course, we still need a long-term strategy, but it needs to be revised on a regular basis to remain relevant and valuable. I don’t expect our current channel mix to remain as stable over the next few years as it was when I joined the organisation in 2010. We need to be quick to respond to opportunities, and we need to anticipate the future direction of our programme in order to plan effectively.
Conversations about how to measure value of supporter experience, and return on investment in this area, need to beyond the standard KPIs and measures. This is a challenge for a lot of organisations, including mine. We have talked for some time about measuring supporter satisfaction, but now is the time to make a start in actually doing it.
This report will be a useful conversation-starter between fundraising and finance colleagues, directors and trustees. I’ll certainly use it to inform my thinking around short and longer-term challenges and opportunities, and how we can plan the right response and the right fundraising approach for Friends of the Earth.
Read the Fundraising for Impact report here