There are some certainties in these uncertain times for fundraising...

... if charities don't integrate their marketing functions and make better use of data, they will struggle to compete, writes the fundraising consultant

Tobin Aldrich
Tobin Aldrich

There's still lots of uncertainty how all the changes to fundraising and data protection regulation will work in practice. There's plenty of frightening statistics being bandied around about the potential financial impact of the Fundraising Preference Service and the new EU data protection regime.

Professor Adrian Sargeant of the Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at the University of Plymouth has estimated the likely reduction of UK charity income from these changes as £2bn a year, a stupendous figure representing an enormous amount of charity services that won't be delivered. But, the truth is, until we see how these changes and the many questions of detail that they raise are implemented, we don't really know.

We do know, however, that the new world of UK fundraising will be one where the active consent of individuals will need to be obtained before they can be directly communicated with. That consent once obtained will need to be maintained actively. In effect we will need to secure permission to ask. Again and again.

This will be enormously challenging for charities. For those that have individual giving programmes with large numbers of supporters, developing and managing an effective permission based fundraising approach creates a host of practical difficulties.

But I maintain that this change will be, in the long run, a good thing and in fact creates tremendous opportunities for those organisations that can develop methods of reaching and engaging supporters in the new environment.

I think we can see what will be the keys to a clarity of strategy and the reasons individuals should support the charity in the new fundraising world. A move away from campaign based or channel-based activity to a holistic supporter centred methodology. Integration of messaging, approaches and, above all, data across the whole organisation. An end to "fundraising" and "communications" departments as jealously competing baronies and a tumbling of the barriers that divide the charity's mission activities from how they are communicated and marketed. Proper information systems that everyone in the organisation uses to make evidence based decisions.

What is needed is an integrated marketing approach that is fundamentally data driven and is implemented across a plethora of channels and platforms, all of which work in parallel to engage, motivate, inspire and ask. It will be digital at the core because it is about data. But it will encompass all methods of communication and interaction from a coffee morning to a virtual reality simulation.

Many organisations have been doing all this for years. The trouble is, not many of them have been charities. The Amazons and Facebooks have been operating on this basis since they started. Charities have been agonisingly slow to move in this direction.

We are seeing lots of charities talking about making these kind of changes. Some are already implementing them. Those who get this right will dominate the UK charity sector in the years to come.

All of this is easy to say. It will be really, really hard to implement. There will lots of false starts and blind alleys. There will be snake oil merchants peddling panaceas to be avoided. But this can work. This will work. And the time to start is now.

Tobin Aldrich is a fundraising consultant and chief executive of the direct giving charity the Misfit Foundation

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