What a difference a decade makes…

2006 was a very special year… Twitter was launched; Daniel Craig debuted as James Bond and THINK’s Community Forum was born!

THINK’s Community Forum was established to champion, what was then, the Cinderella of fundraising.  It brought together senior fundraisers working in community and events who had the drive and passion to develop and raise the profile of this vital income stream.

Back then, they were working in an environment where community fundraising was poorly understood and often became a dumping ground for activities and initiatives that were of no interest to other departments.  Programmes were largely staff led and there was limited volunteer empowerment. Community fundraising departments often lacked strategic vision and tended to have a weak infrastructure which could not properly support and drive the business.  As a result, this fundraising discipline did not have a strong, professional reputation.  Indeed, community operations were often considered to be the poor relation, described as the ‘blue rinse brigade’.

The Forum’s founder members worked hard to bring professionalism, rigor and efficiency to community fundraising and to wave community’s banner within individual organisations and throughout the sector. Data collated from mystery shopping and benchmarking projects has been used to improve practices but also to further the sector’s understanding of community fundraising.

And this hard work and commitment has paid off as today, many organisations recognise and appreciate the true value of community fundraising, and value both the financial and non-financial contribution that it brings, with many positioning community fundraising at the very heart of their fundraising mix.

Community staff are expert volunteer managers and relationship fundraisers, with staff led events being assigned to history. There is commitment to and investment in staff and volunteer training, succession planning and career development. And strong strategy is underpinned with sophisticated systems, data, KPIs and reports. Groups and committees, DIY fundraising, volunteer speaker and ambassador networks and quality supporter stewardship all serve to strengthen community fundraising’s offer, and form the basis of long term, sustainable charitable income.

THINK’s Community Forum now has 24 members, together representing a wide range of causes, over 1000 staff and a staggering £178 million gross income! Members meet quarterly to debate strategic and operational issues, network with peers and share insights, learnings and experiences.So, as THINK’s Community Forum celebrates its tenth anniversary, we salute one of the oldest and most traditional forms of fundraising and look forward to its continued journey over the next ten years.

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