ANTHEA IVA, Director of Redstone Marketing,
asks three fundraisers for their perspectives
TOM DUGGAN, Head of Individual Giving, Plan International Australia
The biggest threat is charities assuming that their donors don’t want to be asked to give money. It’s true that as we head into 2021 we are in the midst of the deepest recession in living memory and we face greater uncertainty than most of us have known before. Sadly, that can translate into some organisations shying away from asking, in fear that donors will be offended.
Of course there have been very real reasons across some key channels and products why we couldn’t ask donors.
Face-to-face acquisitions and events were the most prominent channels hit at the start of the pandemic. In- person contact is incompatible with health responsibilities in a pandemic and the industry acted quickly to put the public first. However we are gradually opening up and industry bodies such as the PFRA are guiding us in the best approach to restarting.
Other channels and products pose next to no transmission risk, and if anything seem to be flourishing. Many organisations have reported an increase in the previous year’s tax appeal, and this doesn’t even take into account COVID-specific appeals. Plan International has run two very successful appeals to support our global response to the pandemic and local organisations such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence to fund their response. Organisations have adapted and invested more in digital than ever before — and it seems to be increasing results. Major donor giving continues to increase and gifts-in-wills managers are reporting some of their highest ever level of confirmations. Against many people’s intuition, corporates seem to be maintaining if not increasing their giving. All this confirms that demand from donors to give remains.
But there are organisations that have decided not to ask. There are instances of organisations hesitating to restart face-to-face, putting their direct mail acquisition on hold for a while or even cancelling appeals. This comes from the idea that “now is not the time to ask for money”. This is unfounded. When the world is at its worst, giving gives donors power to help make it better. If they cannot afford to give, they will say no, but it is not our place to decide for them.
Even more importantly there is a duty of care to our beneficiaries; pausing activity due to concerns about donor sentiment will leave a hole in future fundraising revenues. It’s vital to continue to professionally, respectfully ask for support for our organisations.
CHRISTINE ANDERSON MFIA CFRE, Head of Fundraising & Marketing at Variety – the Children’s Charity of Queensland
The biggest threat is excluding fundraising from the boardroom. If your charity’s leader does not report to the CEO and isn’t part of the exec team, your organisation is missing the mark. After a tumultuous year, it’s never been more crucial to ensure that fundraising leads from the front in 2021 if you want to build a culture of philanthropy and fund your mission into the future.
Many nonprofits consider fundraising a non-strategic role so they distance it from the CEO and bury it with teams who report to managers with little or no fundraising knowledge.
CEOs and boards talk about wanting to build a philanthropic culture, yet they relegate fundraising to a non-executive role. Fundraising leaders are charged with achieving ambitious targets to fund an organisation’s mission, yet they are often excluded from the meetings where fundraising decisions are made.
To this day, there are charities where the CEO doesn’t know the fundraising leader’s name and fundraising targets are increased in board meetings without their approval.
If this strikes a nerve, don’t accept the status quo. Share this article with your CEO and respectfully request a discussion about elevating the importance of fundraising.
Keep working on building your professional identity — become a FIA member, do professional development, get CFRE accreditation and hold yourself and your charity accountable to the FIA Code. If we want a seat at the table, we have to show CEOs and boards that fundraising is a profession that is committed to excellence.
What if you’re a CEO? As CEO, you’re the fundraiser-in-chief, but you’re not expected to be an expert in fundraising. The best way to build a culture of philanthropy and ensure fundraising best practice is to elevate fundraising within your charity. Make your fundraising leader a member of your executive team, support their professional development and involve them in shaping your organisation’s strategy.
You’ll see improved donor experience, greater accountability, innovation and growth in fundraising and more impact for your organisation in 2021 and beyond.
JUSTINE LEWIS, Individual Giving Manager, Starlight Children’s Foundation
2020 has obviously been a really tough year for everyone. No doubt we’ve all experienced some, if not all of the following: pressure to raise more income but spend less; having no money; team members leaving and not being replaced, thus putting pressure on existing team members; endless pivoting of campaigns and endless Zoom/Teams meetings.
Add onto this a lockdown or two, home schooling, isolation from friends and family and working from home in a sometimes less than conducive working environments and everyone is exhausted!
That’s why I see the biggest threat to fundraising being burn out, fatigue and exhaustion for our most important asset: our people. This isn’t unique to fundraising, but in the charity sector we’re already squeezed tight on resources, so the effects of these pressures are more keenly felt.
I know in a previous world when we all used to get together at conferences we would all enjoy a good discussion about the challenges we faced, but those conversations seemed to have gone to a stratospheric level now. I’ve had numerous conversations with good fundraisers who are really struggling during this time — they’re working in organisations that really aren’t focused on the wellbeing of their people.
Through all of this, I feel extremely lucky to work at Starlight. We’re one of Australia’s ‘Great Places to Work 2020’ and during this crazy time I know why. Positive psychology underpins everything we do at Starlight and we’ve needed to draw upon those skills during this time. Ensuring we’re practicing self-care and making sure our cup is full is an essential starting point.
If we don’t practice these basic things and focus on our wellbeing then it’s hard to be resilient, especially when there’s lots of pressure. This means you have less energy, and if you have less energy your brain stops being able to be innovative, creative and focused on problem solving. And right now we’re in an environment where we need to be able to do all of those things really well!