Five reasons why I think there is a bright future for fundraising
There may be challenges and pressures facing the sector, but there is still a bright future for fundraising, says Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Institute of Fundraising.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been out and about talking to fundraisers at IoF events across the country giving my thoughts on where I think fundraising is and what’s ahead. As seems to happen every time, the enthusiasm, ideas, and energy of a room full of fundraisers learning and sharing together bowls me over and makes me remember why it’s a privilege to be working on behalf of our members.
I’ve been talking about why I think there is a bright future ahead for fundraising – so to sum up 45 minutes of a presentation here are my thoughts on why:
(A health warning: what follows is an unashamedly and deliberately positive take on fundraising, where it is, and where it’s going. If you want to read about why fundraising is going wrong and how it all has to change, you’ll need to find a different blog!).
1. Because we’re starting from a good place! (Even if we don’t always realise it)
Fundraising seems a bit like climbing a huge mountain. We’re looking down, concentrating on getting one foot ahead of the other and avoiding tripping up, and it’s not until we pause, take a breather and look around that we realise how far we’ve come - and then we go back to trying climb even higher. So if we pause and look around what would we see? A profession that continues to do amazing work – that inspires 61% of people to give to charity and that raises billions every year. In 15 years voluntary income from individuals has gone from £6.9bn to £10.9bn, and the UK climbed to fourth in this year’s World Giving Index.
None of this is a fluke – it’s because of the work fundraisers do every day.
And it is this hard work – checking each line of a thank you letter, agonising over a case for support, taking the time to talk to supporters – that means when there are challenging times for the charity sector (as seen this year with the Presidents Club and international safeguarding stories) it doesn’t seem to impact on charitable donations. This is because lots is still going right, both under the radar and behind the scenes, building a strong foundation for when difficulties arise in the sector.
To look at the future you need to know where you’re coming from - and, if you ask me, we are starting from a pretty good place.
2. Because together we are changing fundraising
Just because we are starting from a good place, doesn’t mean that we can’t get better.
Fundraising will always evolve and change, and this year has seen the start and continuation of significant change. The launch of the Change Collective – a movement to kickstart meaningful change in equality, diversity and inclusion in the fundraising profession – will have a long-term positive impact. Fundraising can get better, and needs to have a more diverse workforce to do so. We need to up our game in the profession - it’s a long road ahead, but the launch of this initiative and the commitment from the IoF and across our members and allies can make this change happen.
The culture of fundraising is changing too. There was a lot of wisdom in Marcus Missen’s recent piece in Third Sector about changing from transactions to engagement, which surely is where success will lie in the future.
At the same time, work on embedding and improving the Donor Experience continues – there’s more to be done of course, but it’s great to see that organisations are taking this seriously and making meaningful change.
3. Because of who fundraisers are
This is where I should really just say: “go and read Beth Breeze’s book, The New Fundraisers”. But if you need more convincing – it’s a fascinating look at who is doing the asking. The findings show that fundraisers score more highly on every personality trait and are more emotionally intelligent than the general population, are typically more social in their behaviour (who knew that so many fundraisers have been in a choir or give blood?!) and that as a whole they undertake extra study, collaborate, and learn.
And most importantly that culture of sharing, collaborating, mentoring and learning from others in the profession grows and grows. It’s what you see at every conference and networking event, as well as online forums and informal support. Fundraisers have always worked together and know that we have more to gain through collaboration than we have to fear from competition. That attitude of mutual support cannot be replaced, and as part of a membership organisation of over 6,000 fundraisers, gives me huge confidence on the future ahead.
Seriously, go and read the book. You’ll be convinced fundraising has a bright future because of the passion, commitment, and dedication that is prevalent throughout the profession. It also has the best quote on being a fundraiser in it, from Chris Kerr: “...Among the finest and most effective in the field, there is at work a magnificent alchemy of mind, spirit and creative genius, that somehow generates sums significantly greater than its parts.”
4. Because fundraising gives meaning to people
I don’t think most donors want to be a hero. But they do care about things, and want to see a difference in the world, which can nearly always only be brought about through collective action.
At a time when traditional social engagement is changing – whether that’s political parties, trade unions, high street shops, decline of the prominence of broadcast channels - charities and fundraising offers something different, something tangible.
It allows people to be part of something beyond their everyday lives and brings people together. It makes people feel good and giving to charity inspires positive change in their lives. And it’s contagious! Giving, and having a good experience of giving, makes people want to keep giving and give more.
5. Because great fundraising is happening now!
Fundraising has a rich and varied past, full of innovation and bright ideas.
From the Egyptian book of the dead, through to the first formal charities, and on to the first charity marathons, the first TV adverts, the first public fundraising campaigns, and on to social media; fundraising finds new ways to reach people and to inspire gifts.
This year the BHF became the first charity to build a skill for people to give money through Alexa using voice technology. Innovista this year won the first IoF National Award on the Donor Experience sending personalised thank yous to supporters. We’ve had record breaking years for the London Marathon and Children In Need. Excellent fundraising is happening now, and will continue to generate bright ideas in the future too.
So, has fundraising got a bright future? Yes, I’m sure it does. I could write this blog ten times over, and each time find 5 different reasons why. That isn’t to say there aren’t challenges and pressures out there. There are and there will always be. But I am convinced that we have the history, the learning, the endeavour and the hard graft, and the creativity and mutual support that will give a bright future for fundraising for many years to come.
Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs, Institute of Fundraising