Last July we asked our diverse readership of contacts from across the charity fundraising sector how the last 18 months has changed their working environment, strategy, team size and priorities. The results were clear – and reflect a period of immense change in the sector, a move towards bold new methods of interacting with donors, and a shakeup of fundraising schedules and their associated teams. Read on to discover how the sector has reacted to the upheaval and opportunities...
Working from home is the new normal
There is no doubt that the pandemic has provided a long overdue catalyst for change to the traditional 9-5 office-based working pattern. Many in the sector have now settled permanently into their new mix of working locations, with the majority expecting to have a hybrid of home and office working and use of virtual tech such as Zoom.
Has your charity fully embraced zoom, virtual and remote working?
However, several charities are hoping to return to previous working routines, and are hoping – even expecting - staff to return to the standard “pre covid” office working pattern:
“My organisation wants everyone to return to the office rather than being open to hybrid working.”
“We are zooming a lot with each other and are not allowed to work from home 1 day a week”
“Remote working was only an emergency measure not normal working practice”
The jury is still out on virtual fundraising events
From the very start of the first lockdown, virtual events proved to be a logical choice for those charities who wanted to keep their income pipeline flowing from during the various lengthy lockdowns. At one stage there were virtual quizzes everywhere, often hosted by a celebrity supporter - with charities choosing this quick and easy method to bring together a large crowd in a short space of time. As we move forward into 2021, charities will need to expand and elaborate their virtual event offering to keep donors engaged and keep this lucrative new pipeline of income coming in – something William Makower refers to in his August article on digital fundraising (LINK).
Many charities found the relative simplicity of virtual event logistics, with a low-cost base and potential for new larger audiences - to be a winning combination and one that also kept their charities’ brand at the forefront of people’s minds during the long months of 2020.
Have you switched to virtual fundraising events since March 2020?
High-value events, or major donor style dinners with a premium cost per ticket, cannot be effectively replicated in a virtual setting when so much of the event is about location, company, and person to person interaction.
“Our focus is high-value events - these don't seem to work as well remotely”
“We ran a hybrid event, with donors hosting friends at home in person, but engaging with our charity online.”
Stewardship and relationship development of donors and supporters via a sometimes glitchy and problematic Wi-Fi has proved tricky for many charities, with the human connection between charity and supporter being inevitable lost or diminished.
But the real measure of success is whether charities will remain with virtual events in the future? Our results showed…
Will you continue with virtual fundraising events after restrictions have been lifted?
The first era of widespread virtual fundraising events produced a wide range of choices - from the ubiquitous quiz night to virtual sports events and auctions. We asked what respondents found to be their most successful type of virtual fundraising event that they’d run over the last 18 months.
What type of virtual events did you find most successful for engagement at your charity? Please list them below
- Virtual walks / virtual runs
- Exercise challenges
- Memorial events (light a candle)
- Movie Nights
- Online auctions
- Online dinner nights
- Games nights (virtual board games)
- Interviews with drag queens
- And of course…. Quizzes
If you are using virtual events – have they filled the shortfall in live events income?
The social factor
Aside from connecting with their donor audiences – how have charities been managing their own relationships with colleagues, team members and others across their organisation? Remote working has, sadly, taken the social factor out of the working day for many people - with a definite majority stating their day currently revolves around more meetings, more emails, fewer phone calls and hardly any “work” socialising or social chats at all.
However, it’s important to note that this survey was conducted before lockdown was eased at the end of July, and before many have returned to the office on a part- or full-time basis. Therefore, we should see this area improve significantly as the charity sector returns to face-to-face interactions, meetings, and fundraising events.
Scaling up or cutting back?
The combination of income loss, the move to remote working and new technology, and a combination of other unusual factors have brought about several waves of restructuring and redundancies throughout the sector since mid-2020. Many fundraising teams are a fraction of their former size, as charities look to cut back, reduce costs and overheads in a highly challenging era.
We asked whether charities had already reduced their team size and if they were planning on expanding or decreasing their staff numbers going forward?
Has your fundraising team moved to 100% remote working?
Has your fundraising team reduced in size since March 2020?
Moving on? Job satisfaction in the charity sector
Following on from the uncertainly of restructuring and the significant additional challenges placed upon the charity sector – we asked our audience how likely they were to remain in the charity sector – or indeed had they recently made the decision to move away from fundraising?
Strength through adversity?
Aside from the obvious negative effects, the pandemic has brought about in many charities – income reduction, smaller team sizes and limited resources to name but a few- we asked our respondents to list the positive changes they’ve seen in the last 18 months.
Has working through the pandemic made your charity more innovative?
What will 2022 bring?
Suddenly we are approaching the autumn of 2021 – a second year that fell under the cloud of Covid19 - and finally charities can begin to look towards the new year and plan for better times – with face-to-face meetings, mass participation events, and a fundraising strategy that will mix together the new and the old. We asked our respondents to list their hopes, priorities, and challenges for the coming year – in order of popularity were:
- Re-engaging donors
- Raised fundraising targets
- Increasing Resource
- Finding new donors
- Headcount - Expanding the team
- Returning to live events
- Headcount – Reducing the team