Does a cost of living crisis mean a fundraising crisis?
With so much interest in the mounting cost of living, it’s not surprising that charities are concerned about the impact of the crisis on their income streams. Over recent months, we’ve picked up an increasing sense of anxiety which organisations such as Third Sector and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising have been keen to investigate. So, is the voluntary sector, as many of the commentators think, facing a fundraising crisis of its own?
Pressure on the voluntary pound
Whether the focus is on food prices, energy bills or spiralling rates of inflation, there’s no doubt that pressure on the voluntary pound feels more acute than ever. Not surprisingly, some charities are seeing a direct effect of the crisis on their staffing, budgets and activities, leaving them uncertain about committing to transformational capital projects or programmes.
“These are testing times for fundraisers,” says Andrew Day, “but, there are things you can do to mitigate the risks and build resilience into your fundraising strategy. To begin with, you should return to your case for support and ensure this is clearly demonstrating the impact your work is having.”
Tell your story
Amy Stevens agrees, “We’ve seen just how important it is to tell a powerful fundraising story that feels engaging, persuasive and relevant. So, whether you’re a charity providing low-cost housing to vulnerable people, or a Cathedral running outreach programmes to promote mental health and wellness, the advice is to keep supporters and the wider community informed of the life-changing work that you’re doing at a time of urgent need.”
Lessons from the pandemic
The importance of effective, regular communication was also something that we learned from the pandemic. Rather than put their heads in the sand, those charities who survived and thrived were the ones that saw the crisis as an opportunity to audit, evaluate and adapt. The current squeeze demands exactly the same sort of agility. Charities need to be sensitive to the challenges people are facing and inspirational in their messaging. They also need to diversify their income streams. If there’s been a reliance on campaigns that bring in a large number of small donations, now’s the time to develop a successful major gifts programme whilst continuing to steward existing donors.
“In terms of grant-funding,” says Amy, “there are some encouraging signs that funders are recognising the impact of making more general, unrestricted awards rather than focusing on specific short-term projects. Again, this highlights the need for flexibility and proactivity on the part of grant-makers, so that help can be directed to where it’s needed before charities start to struggle.”