Thirty four months since we believed the world of fundraising would change forever, but where are we? We continue to get flashes of insight into economic developments and challenges, but let’s be honest none of us are really any the wiser; the key thing is our ability to accept that things are as they are and that there really is no visible horizon of when things will change. In planning terms, this means shorter cycles, sharper realistic visions and right up to the minute reporting and insights.
So many theories and projections; and it seems to me that a lot of us underestimated how long genuine changes and challenges would take to come through the system. 2011 does really seem to be the year when things are truly hardening on all fronts, driven by the pressure from public funding which is impacting us all, whether or not we rely on it.
In voluntary income terms many charities are struggling to meet targets. Even if they are ‘holding their own’ in total income terms, they are falling short on donor numbers, event participants and generally building foundations that will protect them moving into the future. Donor recruitment has pretty much shrunk to a level that makes it like ‘panning for gold': painstaking, slow, labour intensive, high risk and difficult to plan for/with. Donor conservation has been taken on board as the critical survival and growth area, but I am still surprised to see little new thinking emerging, despite the context and need. Corporate fundraising is alive and kicking, but the new agendas are certainly about providing more support to fewer organisations; this is increasing competition and demands for creativity, originality and professionalism. I believe that the foundations structure of the UK has done a good job so far, holding strong in difficult times, and trying to weather the storm back to calmer waters, a journey that amazingly many of them seem to be achieving.
The point? Stepping back is now no longer an annual excerise, it needs to be done monthly if not weekly. Forming an informed view of your position is critical. Challenging your organisation to align to realistic ambitions is a necessity; this includes confronting the finance director more often and more passionately. Focusing on your people and the team is more important than ever, people are the only true factor that can make a difference in our business.