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5 steps to developing sustainable funds

Charities are experiencing a challenging fundraising environment; funding from local authorities is being cut or moved to competitive tenders, voluntary income is flatlining and there is increased competition for funding. Then we have the incoming GDPR and all of the changes this will bring. Alex Hayes explains how charities can develop sustainable funds...

At the Foundation for Social Improvement, we have been following these trends for a number of years through our FSI Small Charity Index. This quarterly survey provides a snapshot of the small charity sector and the latest index shows that income generation has stagnated Ė worryingly, income has not risen in line with the increased demand for these charitiesí services. Last quarterís index found that voluntary income remained static with 50% of respondents reporting no change and 8% reporting a decrease in statutory income.

Many charities speak to us about their fundraising or income generation strategy as being largely in their heads or just scribbled in a notebook. Although there is no right or wrong way for a strategy to look, there are important things to consider along the way. 

Below are five things to think about when you are developing your strategy, which should give you a good basis to develop sustainable funds: 

1.Build on strengths and successes

What has worked really well for you in the past and why? We work with a range of organisations to produce strategies and I am always interested in what answers are given when we ask about their successes. Sometimes charities talk about large grants or donations and other times they focus on the fact that they bought in new volunteers or their first ever donor in a particular fundraising stream. 

Equally, learning from what didnít work well can be valuable too. Ask yourself, what would we do differently next time? Spend time with a range of people in your organisation and ask for their opinions, as well as going back over the finances and accounts. Try to look over a few years and donít focus on one-offs or blips. 

2.Take into account the short term and the long term

If you are looking to grow (and you donít always have to Ė it should be based on the needs of your beneficiaries) this should be based in the medium to long term. 

Often with the fundraising strategies we produce we will show how to maximise income from your current sources in the short term and then think about which new areas you might be able to move into over the next couple of years. Donít forget stewardship and looking after your current donors too. 

3.Focus on opportunities

There are lots of different ways you can raise income Ė some of these are on the rise and others are not growing as quickly. What will be right for you? You need to consider a range of things here, especially the potential return on investment, amounts you can raise, internal skills within your organisation and the type of cause you are. I usually find there are lots of opportunities for charities, but donít try to do too many things Ė focus on a few fundraising streams and ensure you do them well. 

4.Invest if necessary 

To grow or diversify your income you will need to invest. This isnít always in terms of employing new staff but it could be. Think about the resources you will need within different fundraising streams and make sure your trustees are on board. Donít plan for immediate wins and ensure this investment is balanced. If you are looking to employ your first fundraiser, find out how here

5.Be ambitious

Your charity was undoubtedly set up as someone saw a need and it has grown through the passion of staff and volunteers. Try to be ambitious in your fundraising in order to make the biggest difference you can for your beneficiaries. For example, if you want to engage with corporates and see a synergy with a very large company, why not approach them? 

I recently read about how Autistica were able to grow their fundraising and they did this a number of ways, including:  

  • Growing their fundraising team
  • Raising income in new areas especially corporates
  • Creating clear proposals Ė translating academic proposals into those which inspire donors
  • Developing their stewardship programme

Their successes included raising £1.1million from Deutsche Bank, which shows the ambition of the organisation. 

Bearing these things in mind and thinking about the processes to go through will give you the best chance of success Ė best of luck with your fundraising. 

Alex Hayes is Consultancy and Development Manager at the Foundation for Social Improvement, which offers training and advice to small charities, as well as in-depth support through their consultancy service

Alex will be speaking at the Successful Fundraising: Preparing for the future conference at the De Vere Holborn Bars, London on 6 December. To find out more and to book your place, click here. 

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