Fundraising mustn’t fade away in the face of COVID-19
Dominic Will, Managing Director of PFS, looks at what the coronavirus pandemic means for fundraising agencies and where they should turn for help during this time of uncertainty.
The last few weeks have been extremely difficult, not least for our sector as we all grapple to get our heads around the challenges of COVID-19. The weeks ahead will likely bring even more strain. Of all the risk strategies that the fundraising community prepared for, economic collapse due to a global pandemic and some specific fundraising markets closing down almost overnight, were probably not considered a likely scenario during the first couple of months of the year.
I’ve been at the coal face in difficult times before, but this is unprecedented. For charities that cannot now deliver the services they were set up to do, it is devastating. For beneficiaries, it may well be life-changing. And, of course, for all the agencies and consultants that recruit hundreds of thousands of supporters and raise millions for good causes yearly, our challenge is to ensure that we can protect and preserve those services so that we can be there to help the sector heal and recover critically-needed funds.
Many charities, particularly smaller organisations, are struggling to fulfil their typical work programmes; and trying to cope with home working and shifting fundraising models due to coronavirus. Charities of every size will be feeling the financial impact from the cancellation or postponement of key events, from the London Marathon to the local village fete. The need for funds – or at least the promise of funds in months to come – has never been more urgent or widespread.
So, sector organisations are already feeling the effects and solutions are being sought. For every organisation, priorities and plans may vary, but one thing is certain: we must pull together if we are to protect the sector and its future income streams.
What it means for agencies
What does that mean for us? At PFS, as is the case with other agencies and in-house operations, we’ve now stopped our face-to-face fundraising activity in line with the government’s health guidance, doing what we can to protect both our fundraisers and the public. Instead, we're exploring with clients and stakeholders what else we can do to support them during this time, taking a flexible approach around how else we can deploy the resources we have.
We recognise that there's going to be a real need for fundraising and for professional services when we come out of the other side. Still, committed sector agencies and partners can only be part of the solution if we survive the storm. As a sector, we’re well-versed in working within difficult circumstances and overcoming challenges. What we absolutely cannot do is disappear into the ether now.
Support for agencies
Where should agencies turn for help? The promise of Government aid for businesses will be a beacon of light for most fundraising agencies, their employees and the self-employed, if it can come quickly enough. So too is the IoF’s commitment to work with suppliers and their charity clients across the sector during this crisis to keep public fundraising and its importance to the fundraising mix firmly on the agenda, even during this period of downtime. Mutual support between charities and their agencies is also essential, as without it we cannot assume we will be able resume the essential fundraising that will need to take place the other side of this crisis.
Maintaining fundraising activity throughout the COVID-19 outbreak won’t be an easy task, and as much as it feels like an insurmountable feat, it’s important we all take measured and informed action to ensure the sector can once again thrive in the future.
We must now work together to do what we do best – to work collaboratively to find creative solutions that will protect future voluntary income streams, charitable services, professional fundraising careers – charities and agencies alike. Working collectively and utilising our respective strengths, I hope that we can manage the risks in the current environment and in time, come out even stronger.
To share your thoughts and ideas about how we can do this, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominic Will is Managing Director of PFS – UK and Europe and a former trustee of the Institute of Fundraising
See this page for all the latest information for fundraisers about the coronavirus outbreak from the Institute of Fundraising. It will be kept updated.