Following the publication of the Fundraising for Impact report last May, Daniel Chan, Senior Manager at PwC, looks at the views of stakeholders and addresses return on experience, as well as looking to the future.
Our joint Fundraising for Impact report with the Institute of Fundraising last year explored the current and future fundraising landscape for charities, and aimed to spark discussion and debate in the charity sector. Since then, we have canvassed the views of a range of stakeholders, including trustees and leaders as well as finance and fundraising professionals.
Financial return on investment was, unsurprisingly, seen as important in decisions to invest in fundraising activities. Indeed, we heard that this was, in certain cases, an overriding and predominant factor. However, the importance of the supporter experience, and how fundraising investment decision-making should be taking this into account, was the topic that sparked the most interest. The focus on the supporter experience aligns to many of the intangible benefits that also result from effective fundraising, including raising public awareness and increasing brand recognition of the charity. There was widespread agreement across the breadth of stakeholders that building deep and authentic relationships with supporters is vital.
Financial metrics, including return on investment, are undoubtedly important when appraising fundraising approaches, but the supporter experience should also be at the heart of decision-making. A shift in focus to the return on experience means ensuring that the supporter experience is a priority. This is about investing in how supporters interact with the charity – the end to end experience as part of the fundraising journey – and the organisational culture that they feel. Importantly, this is dynamic and needs to continually respond to the views of supporters.
There is no one size fits all, and it needs to be tailored to the charity’s supporters, developing over time, testing hypotheses, gathering data and evolving the supporter experience. This will help to drive loyalty to the charity and enable longer-term engagement and success.
A key enabler of this is to ensure that fundraising is not performed in isolation but instead integrated with other activities of the charity. How a charity’s supporters feel about their experience of a charity is not just the responsibility of fundraisers, but for all in the organisation. A charity that is unable to speak with one voice will not provide the authenticity that supporters increasingly demand. There should therefore be a genuine organisation-wide focus on the supporter experience.
A particular area where this could apply is around digital fundraising, which a number of charities are actively embracing and integrating into their fundraising strategies. This has worked well where it complements rather than replaces other ways in which fundraisers engage with supporters. While there is a spectrum of opinions around how effective it is in generating financial returns, the digital medium has often been helpful in marrying supporters with charities in which they are interested and passionate about. Making the connection between them where they may not otherwise be aware of each other has been very valuable to charities.
A supporter reached through digital means may only make a one-off donation initially, or even just sign up to receive further information. However, charities have the opportunity to, and should build a relationship with them through future communications. Digital fundraising should therefore be considered as a long-term investment rather than a one-off fundraising effort, especially as it should attract a younger generation of supporters who may be likely to donate more as they become older.
It was widely felt that fundraisers were both resilient and optimistic. With increasing demand on charities and the rapid rate of change in the charity sector, these traits will be important. Fundraisers will need to be agile, innovative and open to trying new approaches. Moving towards a mindset where success is measured through more than just the financial return, but rather the holistic experience that a charity is able to offer, has never been more important for charities.