Taking up the Gauntlet – Rising to the Challenge in a Difficult Market

It is becoming a cliché but we live in challenging times. Any fundraiser in the UK will have felt this acutely over the last 18-24 months. Many charities have had to forecast income downwards as the changes in the regulatory situation took hold. Impacts on individual giving and major donor funding have been well documented. So the gauntlet has been thrown down: how to try and minimize the shortfall?

Community fundraising has seen a resurgence over recent years. For THINK, Community fundraising has always been the core of any good fundraising mix and it was surprising to us that it became unfashionable for while. However, community is now firmly back as a core part of most charities’ fundraising programmes.

Alongside this, we have also seen some clients place more emphasis on corporate fundraising. This has been an interesting development as corporate fundraising has been quite depressed since the global financial crisis in 2008. Whilst other areas of fundraising bounced back quite quickly post-2008, corporate fundraising, at least in hard cash terms, declined and has remained pretty flat ever since[1].

Yet difficult times cause resilient fundraisers to think differently and ask different questions. The trend for strategic engagements between charities and companies has continued and many charities are thinking more creatively then ever about how to harness the power of a business in order to drive forward the charity’s objectives.

This does not always mean cash donations; instead, thinking smartly about engaging a business means looking at how to leverage the business’s assets including its brand, marketing reach and expertise. There have been some good examples of partnerships where charities have utilised corporate expertise to take costs out of their operation.  One such example that we saw recently involved a medium sized INGO utilising the surveying and project management capabilities of a corporate in order to take a large up-front professional cost out of the set up expenditure of development projects.

On the ‘hard cash’ side of things, we have also seen the beginnings of some fresh energy behind charity of the year / fixed term charity partnerships. This has not just been confined to big players targeting large partnerships but some savvy smaller charities have looked hard at themselves and recognized they have something to offer those companies with a ‘medium sized’ (i.e. circa-£100k) partnership.

By looking at the key driver for these types of partnerships – employee motivation – THINK has seen some strong corporate propositions for smaller charities. The key here has been to focus on one of the core basics of great fundraising: stories. If the charity can tell inspiring stories then it is half way to creating a proposition that will motivate a prospective partner’s staff. Put this with some prospect research aimed at those companies with mid-sized partnerships (most likely services companies such as those in the law and finance sectors), and a small or medium sized charity can create a cost effective income stream at a time when other areas of fundraising are under pressure.

[1] NVCO Civil Society Almanac 2015

Grahame Darnell, Partner Consultant