In January this year, Christian Aid announced plans to boost its income from fundraising dramatically, by 56 per cent within three years.
If successful, the plans, which include improvements to online fundraising, will increase the
organisation’s voluntary income from £64m to £100m a year, making it one of the UK’s top five fundraising charities.
Christian Aid is the latest sector organisation to realise that, in an increasingly competitive market, a significant ramping-up of fundraising efforts is vital to long-term survival.
Alan Gosschalk, vice-chair of the Institute of Fundraising, says a key piece of advice for any charity seeking to become a fundraising super-achiever like this is to ensure senior management and trustees are prepared to invest significantly in staff and innovative fundraising programmes.
Gosschalk is also director of fundraising at housing charity Shelter, where he has overseen a doubling of voluntary income over the past five years. “Average retention of staff in the sector is about two years,” he says. “It maybe takes a number of months for staff to become productive, so it is vital that you do everything you can to not only get good people in, but to ensure that they stay with you and you get the most out of them.
“If anyone on the board does not see the importance of this investment, he or she should leave. It’s as simple as that.”
Extensive research is also vital to ensure that fundraising efforts have a more strategic focus and that key audiences and potential donors are identified. Research helped Shelter, for example, identify that it is a popular cause among young adult donors, which prompted the development of fundraising initiatives such as its summer music festival programme.
Gosschalk says it is vital that such research involves looking at best practice across the sector as well as within the organisation concerned. This ensures that ideas from grass-roots level filters through to senior fundraising staff.
Another popular strategy is to target wealthy and influential donors and supporters. According to research by fundraising consultancy Compton International, about 80 per cent of most fundraising appeals are met by just 20 per cent of donors.
In 2002, equine welfare charity the Brooke was facing financial ruin, living off reserves already battered by the stock market crash of 2000, making unsustainable annual losses and with fundraising activity at a minimal level.
The charity decided to take drastic action. It overhauled its senior management and recruited a new chief executive, an international director and its first fundraising and communications director, John Trampleasure.
It also invested its reserves in developing a 10-strong fundraising team to carry out more strategic fundraising activity and make its work more attractive to potential donors and partners.
This included a focus on scientific research and a partnership with the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science.
Other improvements included recruiting celebrity supporters, such as William Roache, the Coronation Street actor, as well as developing corporate partnerships, most notably with a number of UK racecourses and with bookmaker BetFair for the charity’s 2006 campaign Courses for Horses.
Five years on, the charity’s fundraising income has almost quadrupled, from £3m in 2001/02 to £11m in 2006/07.
The Brooke plans to increase its fundraising database from 50,000 to 100,000 and develop its online fundraising. This month, it launches its Horses in Need campaign, which includes a campaign pack for local groups to organise their own activities.
Trampleasure says: “It all starts with leadership and trustees who trust their staff and are prepared to take risks.”
Fire Services National Benevolent Fund
The Fire Services National Benevolent Fund has more than doubled its income, from £3m in 2002 to £7.5m this year, after taking drastic action to improve fundraising efforts.
The charity had been making an annual loss of approximately £750,000. The measures taken to address this included a strengthening of the fundraising team and the appointment of Chris Burghes (pictured) as business development director.
“The problem was that a lot of good work was going on, but it was uncoordinated and localised,” says Burghes. “Firefighters are held in very high esteem by the public and are a good brand, but we weren’t tapping into that.”
Action was taken to develop a research arm to identify donors and income-generating opportunities more effectively, and to give a strategic focus to fundraising efforts.
Marathon fundraising, for example, was radically streamlined from 70 events down to a handful, with a focus
on maximising money-making opportunities, such as becoming the chosen charity for the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham.
Other changes included an increase in the number of staff in the fundraising team from four to 40 and the introduction of tougher sales targets. Staff are now expected to bring in £5 for every £1 their fundraising activity costs the charity. An
11-strong team of former firefighters has also been formed to visit fire stations and encourage fundraising.