A reflection on the year in fundraising

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis | 21 December 2018

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, looks back on 2018 and says that now is the time to think longer term about what we really want to achieve, and how we want to get there.

This last year has seen charities once again tested in the political and media spotlight, with questions about the ethics and behaviours at the heart of many discussions with politicians, regulators, and trustee boards. The international safeguarding scandal understandably concerned governments and the public; charities have responded strongly, and donors themselves have proved incredibly loyal, showing the true depth of trust donors have in the causes they support.

We’ve also had the biggest changes to data protection regulation in years with GDPR coming into force in May. This rightly demanded a huge amount of focus in the fundraising community as charities not only put in place essential changes to get this right, but used this as an opportunity to really focus on the best way to engage and inspire their supporters and the wider general public.

This has of course all taken place against the backdrop of the political and economic uncertainty of Brexit, and the social and economic divides that lie beneath that turmoil. In this context, the continued generosity of the public, foundations and companies around the UK is surely something we should really celebrate.

‘Retain our focus’

But we cannot take that generosity for granted, nor should we. We need to retain our focus on inspiring our supporters, and providing the best possible experience for them. It means continuing to invest in innovative and creative ways to engage new people and organisations in our causes.

And whilst being ambitious about raising more money for our causes year on year, we need to be realistic about what’s achievable in the short term. We need to make sure we, and our CEOs and Trustees, understand the realities of the external environment. Now is perhaps the time to think longer term about what we really want to achieve, and how we want to get there. It is perhaps a time to really understand what motivates our supporters, what keeps them loyal to our causes, and what really inspires them to give.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to capture the public mood, excite and engage people in ever more creative campaigns – we clearly should. But we also need to ensure we invest appropriately in developing and nurturing those relationships that will pay dividends in the longer term.

‘Our profession is not as inclusive as it should be’

We must also seek out and embrace more systemic opportunities. We know that our profession is not as equal, diverse or inclusive as it should be. We are committed to changing this. All the evidence shows more diverse fundraising teams will make better decisions, as well as lead to better engagement with the ever-growing diversity of the UK population.

We know excellent fundraising works, not just to bring in vital funds for our causes, but to engage people more widely in our causes. And while embracing the new, we absolutely have to remember the basics. Everything we do has to reflect the values of our causes. We need to continue to demonstrate our trustworthiness – telling donors what we will do with their support, thanking them for it and then reporting back to them on what they have achieved.

If we do all of the above, I am sure the fundraising community will go from strength to strength, continuing to raise those vital funds that enable charities around the UK to make the world a better place.

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive, Institute of Fundraising

The IoF has produced its first ever edition of IoF’s Year in Fundraising, available exclusively for members. This overview draws together research from a variety of sources to provide a snapshot of key trends and relevant data in fundraising, building an overall picture of the UK fundraising community in 2018.

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