Research Roundup: The role of digital, corporates and legacies in building back better

19 October 2021
Data, Research and Analysis
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An individual putting money into a fundraising collection bucket

Charlotte Sherman, Policy and Information Officer at the Chartered Institute, looks at the key pieces of research published in 2020 Q4 which give an insight into giving and the impact of COVID-19 on charities and fundraising.

The pandemic has affected every charity differently, making it hard for fundraisers to know if their donors’ behaviour is unique to their situation, or part of a wider trend. This is why we decided to compile key pieces of insight into giving and the impact of COVID-19 so charities can benchmark their own work against others and make plans to navigate this tricky period.

Over the past few months there has been some very useful research which help us understand how digital fundraising, legacies and corporates are adapting to the pandemic. However, we’ve found some great pieces of insight for every fundraising team, so make sure to have a look at the full collection of resources here.

Charities are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic, but the future is optimistic

Despite nearly half of respondents reporting a loss in income, Blackbaud’s ‘The Status of UK Fundraising Benchmark Report’ (September 2021) found that over 60% were optimistic their organisation would thrive in the next 12-18 months and would meet fundraising targets. These findings are mirrored by Pro-Bono Economics’ Charity Tracker (September 2021) which shows us that even though demand for services continues to increase, over a third of charities are optimistic about their operating environment.

The tracker also highlights that ways of working are adapting to the new environment. Charities are investing more into their staff and resources, 25% plan to invest in training and 44% expect to increase spending on digital technology, IT and equipment. It is also reassuring to see that even though the furlough scheme ended last month, only 7% of charities thought this would have a negative impact on their workforce.

Over the past 18 months the sector has proven to be resilient and adaptable, but now we are seeing this translate into planning for the future. We hope that as we enter into 2022, there will be more investment into fundraising so charities can continue to use their learnings from this time to reach new audiences.

Digital transformation remains the end goal

Blackbaud also found that there is strong support across the sector for digital transformation. Over 60% of respondents believed it is critical for success, that technology improves how their organisation operates and that data can improve performance. Although the benefits are clear, only a minority consider themselves digitally mature. It’s clear that this is the end goal for most charities, with over two thirds of respondents stating they are either digital adopters or digital rookies.

With plenty of room to develop, the sector now has ample opportunities to use digital transformation to improve service delivery, income generation and supporter experience. Those who are digitally mature are able to collaborate with colleagues across their organisation to create fundraising strategies and track the effectiveness of their fundraising. It is therefore unsurprising they are gaining more supporters than they are losing and are optimistic about reaching new audiences.

Although digital transformation has many advantages, budget and resource are still holding many charities back. Blackbaud found 65% of respondents didn’t have the budget for tools and systems, 53% lack the skills required for digital integration, and 34% said their data was disorganised. This would explain CAF’s findings in their ‘UK Giving and COVID-19’ report in October 2020 that 62% of charities reported they conducted no online fundraising whatsoever and 1 in 10 charities could not afford the technology necessary. It’s vital that we address disparity so that charities of all sizes can continue to adapt and innovate as we move out of the pandemic.

Shared value corporate partnerships remain a priority

Motivations to for corporates and charities to partner have remained constant for some time- corporates are looking to improve their reputation and boost credibility, whilst charities want access to funds. The “C&E Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer” (September 2021) confirms this, but also shows us that shared-value partnerships remain the most effective way to achieve both partners’ objectives. Going forward, problem-solving partnerships will remain a priority, with 71% of corporates and 33% of NGOs confirming they are already creating them, and a further 70% of NGOs stating this is their end goal.

The challenges of the COVID-19 have likely accelerated this shift, as 78% of corporates and 50% of NGOs stated the pandemic has made their organisation actively engage is social and environmental issues. Priority areas for corporates were emergency pandemic responses – such as food inequality –as well as improving social mobility or reducing social exclusion through digital access. Anti-racism also continues to be a priority, with many stating EDI will be factored into all future partnerships.

Legacies proving long-term financial stability

Despite a need for immediate funding, legacies are proving an effective way to future-proof services. In Remember A Charity’s ‘Building back stronger with charitable legacies- Scottish Report’, (September 2021) Legacy Foresight estimates that the number of charitable bequests across the UK will rise by 30% in the next decade, and that legacy income will double in real terms by 2050. Many fundraisers across the sector recognise that a strong legacy pipeline is vital for financial resilience and are strengthening their focus on gifts in Wills.

Scotland has a burgeoning legacy market, currently raising over £90m annually and growing faster than the rest of the UK. Of the 500 Scottish charities named in Wills each year, 64% are small charities. There is still room to grow, as demand for end-of-life planning is increasing, and we hope to see more Scottish Charities develop legacy giving programmes.

Charlotte Sherman
Charlotte Sherman
Information and Policy Officer at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising
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