2017, quite the year for fundraising and fundraisers wasn’t it? More distrust from the general public for our profession and our output. Scaling back on budgets. Shrinking data pots. Uncertainty on who we can and cannot speak to. Infighting between internal departments at charities and above all an all-consuming sense of paralysis and yearning to ‘do what we have always done’, whatever that was. Depressing, right?
But on the other hand, hope, and clear examples of the direction of travel for the future. We have seen multi-channel really taking centre stage, smaller charities leading the way with innovation, and above all charities succeeding with fundraising when they truly understand their audience. When they are brave and when they are genuinely trying out new things and focusing on longer term, meaningful engagement.
For me personally it’s been a very eye-opening year. I spent half of it charity side, and half agency side, both at SMT level, and I’ve been having exactly the same circular discussions wearing both hats. With that in mind we decided to write our 12 fundraising resolutions for 2018 which are equally applicable to working in a charity or an agency. Here they are:
- Be brave. It’s the only way you are going to survive. If you keep doing the same thing, to less people with shrinking budgets, you’ll get diminishing returns. The logical conclusion to this is a database of one person who gives to every appeal. Well done everyone. You’ll also get very bored and despondent. What the sector needs now is vision, and bravery. So get out there and try new things – Be brave.
- Create the right KPI’s and focus on the longer term. Look where focussing on short term ROI’s got us? Find out what the right measurements are for you. Measure everything, and then measure again. Determine what real success looks like and then change the narrative in your organisation to focus on this.
- Be prouder than ever of your organisation and your role within it. This will help your external communications as well as the internal politics you undoubtedly need to resolve. No apologies. We all need to step up at every level of our organisations.
- There is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ solution to fundraising. In fact, there never was. It just took us a long time to work it out. Stop waiting for other charities or agencies to come up with the answer. Lace up your shoes and go and find out what works for you.
- Understand your audience, or you will never engage them. This doesn’t just mean RFV and pen portraits. Talk to them. What makes them tick? What are they into? Give them the engagement they want, not the engagement you think they want. This is where social really comes into its own. And the phone. Remember that?
- Engagement first IS the answer. We may not be able to measure the success of it at first, but you know deep down its right. Its how every other sector operates. Focus on longer term engagement and storytelling.
- Get connected to your peers and stay connected. People in this sector are uniquely generous with their knowledge. Be like them. Also, be part of the debate, we all have something to give and we are all still learning. All of us. That includes you.
- Your fundraising strategy is designed to support and help deliver your organisational strategy. It helps you decide what you should and shouldn’t be focussing on. If you only have one, or neither, or both but they’re not connected, how will you ever all pull in the same direction, let alone be agile?
- Digital is not a bolt-on. Nor is it a separate department. It flows through everything, like The Force, but for storytelling. If your organisational structure does not support this way of working, fix it.
- Be prepared to make mistakes. Make sure everyone knows that you are going to make them too. Mistakes mean you are trying something new. We need new. (But learn quickly)
- There is no real divide between charity and agencies. There are talented, high performing and passionate teams both sides of this imaginary divide. Find a match that fits. Work in partnership. Trust each other and become more than the sum of your parts. Stop blaming each other if things do go wrong. You’re all on the same team.
- Trust your gut, but make sure that you do have guts. You’ll need them this year.
Here’s to a game-changing 2018. We’re here if you need us.
Audience Fundraising and Communications