The FSI is a registered charity that supports the UK’s vibrant small charity sector through the delivery of free advice and heavily subsidised training in strategy, governance, fundraising and impact.
It is easy to panic. Petrol now costs £1.83 at my local Shell (who have just made a mind-boggling £9 billion in profit), my power bill has gone up from £83 a month to £125, and to top it all, my eldest child has just migrated from Happy Meals to Big Macs at McDonald’s.
No new news here then.
But what do we do in our fundraising at a time when money seems tight for everyone except the oil barons? Sitting in my living room, jumper on, staring at a rainy Glasgow afternoon, I have come up with three steps to consider.
The first and most important is to hold on to those we have. Our current donors are so precious. It is widely known that retaining a donor is more cost-effective than finding a new one, and this is heightened at times of financial challenge. How are you making your existing donors feel special and connected? How are you drawing them into a deeper relationship with the changes your organisations are bringing about? In fundraising, we call this stewardship – but it is also just decent human behaviour.
It is never too late to start adding value to the relationship you have with your donors. If you act now, you may even change the mind of someone who is thinking of cancelling their regular gift as their daily coffee is now 50p more expensive.
The second step is to think about diversifying your income streams. Don’t go all-in for grants or over-rely on community funding – spread it around. Can you generate income from the delivery of your mission – maybe hold a ticketed event? Can you get creative with corporates or local businesses? Maybe you could spare some time to lobby your local MP for government support – if we all did it, it would work! By diversifying your income streams, you reduce the risk of your cash flow drying up – and when it comes to our income generation, lowering risk always wins.
The third one is talking to each other. We are a funny community us fundraisers. We battle it out for competitive grants and tenders; we try to shout over each other in campaigns and vie for the attention of the same donors. But as soon as someone asks for help or advice, we down tools to offer what support we can (at least that is my experience).
Please talk to each other – don’t be afraid to ask others what they would do in your situation. Call other fundraisers in your locality or who serve the same needs as you, and seek both opportunity and inspiration through a simple chat. We are a community who are so often here to help each other – so do ask. You may even gain a new friend on the way.
A final bonus, and practical thought, is that you may wish to invest in upskilling. I have seen first-hand how effective equipping and inspiring a whole staff team to fundraise can be – one charity I worked with increased their number of donors by 25% in 18 months by chasing this.
I work with the Foundation for Social Improvement, a small charity that exists to train and support other small charities. On our courses, yes, we do have fundraisers, but we also see Trustees, admin staff, researchers, and those who deliver front line services – I even had an accountant once – all from small organisations who understood the power of sharing the load when it comes to generating funds. In a time when cash is at a premium, this just seems like a sensible move.
If we share the load, spread the risk and cultivate what we have, we will get through this. And while petrol will likely never again dip down to the £1.20 my wallet will be happy with, I am confident we can still fund those crucial needs we, as fundraisers, exist to fund.