5 sector experts consider the key mantras that will influence and inform fundraising in the year ahead
James Wainwright, individual giving and membership manager, Epilepsy Action:
In 2017, more than ever before, as fundraisers we must first win people’s trust before we can win their support.
Looking at a typical supporter’s experience of giving to charity, trust is key, every step of the way. When we first come into contact with a charity, we’re unlikely to support that charity if we don’t share its vision of a better world. We have to trust that they’ve identified a viable solution to a genuine problem if we’re to take the relationship any further. That established, we must then trust in that charity’s ability to achieve the things that will make that vision a reality.
At this point, we might reasonably want to find out more. We might even make a donation! Either way, trust is again to the fore. Will the charity keep my personal data safe and only contact me in the way I’ve asked? Will they spend my donation wisely, and only on things that really will make a difference to the problem we both want to beat? Despite the bad press, for the vast majority of charities, the answer to those questions is yes. In 2017, we need to get better at telling the world that.
Valerie Morton, fundraiser and consultant:
We all know that regulations are tightening on data protection, but it is very difficult getting definite statements on what we should be doing. We are hearing from donors that they do not want inappropriate contact, and yet when we do our best to analyse information so that supporters receive communications that are appropriate for their circumstances (such as wealth screening) we get told that this in itself is inappropriate.
We develop innovative corporate partnerships, and then get criticised when they generate income to support our beneficiaries. So, in 2017, trustees and charity managers will be spending a great deal of time weighing up the risks relating to all aspects of fundraising.
Hopefully this will result in a year when all charities are following best practice and relationships between donors and causes continue to improve, but alongside this I believe fundraisers will be mindful of the next story to break in the press, and wonder whether they can do anything right. I just hope we can showcase excellent fundraising and prove that being a fundraiser is the best career in the world.
John Baguley, CEO, International Fundraising Consultancy:
If the fundraising watchword of 2017 is ‘relationship fundraising’ yet again I will lose the will to live. Anything else will be a merciful relief and show we are not marching lockstep into the fate of our empty churches, boarded-up high streets and the retreat from Europe. Not that there is anything wrong with relationship fundraising, it is just that we need to raise our gaze from a look at the cosy glow of the past and its slogans to face the challenges of the future.
I’m not sure if a watchword can be two words, but if so then ‘take risks’ would be my choice. If we were all prepared to embrace the occasional failure and invest in new fundraising ideas, ingenious plans and inspiring goals then I think fundraising would have a brighter future than the over-regulated profession afraid of its own shadow that it could easily become.
Let’s make 2017 the year that fundraising stands out as an exciting profession prepared to take risks and succeeding in amazing the public with its brilliance and audacity.
Emma Malcolm, associate director for fundraising and supporter engagement, Rethink Mental Illness:
Every day, Rethink Mental Illness looks after people who are really vulnerable and it’s only right that we do the same for our supporters and donors. We have made some really big changes to our fundraising approach and the way we communicate. I’m so proud of the work that we have done. It just feels right!
Having consulted with beneficiaries, supporters, staff and trustees, Rethink Mental Illness decided to go ‘opt-in’ for all their fundraising communications in June 2016, which means someone needs to provide express consent before we make any marketing approaches. This may become mandatory for all charities in the coming years but we wanted to do this right away, as part of our supporter promise.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive, Beating Bowel Cancer :
I am not a fundraising professional. But I am fundraiser – everyone in every charity should be. My focus for 2017 will be very simple. The word will be “why”?
Why we fundraise sits at the core of every charity. Even those who raise income through contracts for services need to remember why they do it. Charity in our society is about delivering change, helping people, making a difference. Without us, society would be poorer in every way.
We should all come to work with the question “why are we here?” at the top of our minds. Every conversation between fundraisers and their colleagues should be framed with, “why I do my job is because…”
If we use “why” every day, we will remember the people we help and will stick to the vision, mission and values that should drive us. Every decision should become easier, as it is the positive outcome that we are always looking for.