The past 20 months have been uniquely challenging for charities who have had to bridge the gaps in their income while continually adapting their fundraising methods to ensure safety and viability for their supporters.
But against this tough backdrop there is much cause for optimism, according to the latest edition of Charity Pulse from Enthuse, whose recent reports have focused on donor behaviour.
Four out of five (79%) charities feel either fairly or very optimistic about the year ahead as they hope to return to more normal ways of fundraising in 2022. Digital transformation, accelerated by the pandemic, presents an opportunity for the sector, particularly in fundraising. Almost two thirds (61%) of charities see this as a cause for optimism, though there are concerns about data privacy and digital capability, especially among smaller organisations.
Staying afloat: how charities kept the show on the road and stayed optimistic
The effect of the pandemic on charities presents a surprisingly positive result with 61% saying that income had stayed the same or increased. Only a quarter (26%) reported lower than normal income. Larger charities fared better with 69% reporting similar or rising levels but many medium-sized organisations (45%) suffered from either lower than normal or very volatile revenues.
The requirement to work flexibly will be a lasting legacy with the current two thirds/one third split between office and home likely to prevail in six months’ time. That said, half of charities (51%) found the enforced working from home change fairly or very disruptive. Spirits remained high, though, with 84% of charities reporting good or excellent morale and only 1% saying it was bad.
More than half (56%) feel confident that income from fundraising activities and events will increase over the course of this year. Large charities are even more confident (63%) that fewer Covid-related restrictions will lead to more physical, face-to-face – and indeed hybrid – events.
Fundraising: the rise of the hybrid event and social media
Confidence around fundraising opportunities for 2022 is high: 79% are very or fairly optimistic. Those feelings are universally felt across the sector with 86% of smaller organisations feeling very or fairly optimistic.
In the search for reasons behind this optimism, almost half of charities (46%) believe that living through the pandemic has infused people with a greater empathy and thus greater generosity. There is also a rise in the growth of younger donors which has previously been highlighted by Enthuse’s quarterly Donor Pulse report. The willingness to use digital channels is also a significant factor according to 61% of charities.
A third of charities (33%) expect to run a mass physical event with 64% planning virtual events (such as physical challenges at home) and 42% are opting for hybrids where some people take part in a mass, physical event and others in their own time or place.
Understandably, large charities (40%) are the ones with most confidence in planning mass physical events. There are some understandable concerns about the willingness of supporters and volunteers to come to physical events. There is also a belief (78%) that fewer people in a physical workplace will impact on corporate funding.
Social media unsurprisingly continues to have an important role to play, but it is interesting to see that although 28% do not do gaming for good yet, 29% think their income will rise here on top of 30% thinking it will stay the same. This is a relatively new area and one charities should consider exploring.
Digital transformation: can charities catch up fast enough?
The pandemic has accelerated digital changes in the way people donate but that has put pressure on charities’ digital capabilities. Only 12% consider themselves to be advanced in that area, meaning they are essentially a digital-first organisation. Around a third (35%) use digital tools on an ad hoc, campaign-by-campaign basis with 40% saying they are building their capabilities. Inevitably, large charities are the most developed with 19% considering themselves to be advanced and 56% building, while 56% of small charities and 45% of medium-sized ones are in the ad hoc category.
The level of digital capability informs the levels of optimism for fundraising in 2022 with those in the building (32%) or advanced (29%) categories feeling very optimistic. Being digitally mature also leads to the expectation of increased individual giving with 58% of the advanced charities and 46% of those building their abilities expecting an increase.
Improved digital strategies bring concerns too, most significantly about data privacy and GDPR compliance (62%). There is also a worry about platforms collecting data from or re-contacting a charity’s supporters (60%). Another challenge is the development of in-house digital skills with 57% saying this was a significant concern. The larger, more digitally advanced charities are most concerned about data privacy while the smaller ones are most worried about skills.
Enthuse is a fundraising, donations and events registration platform that has helped thousands of charities – including one in three of the top 100 – raise millions.
Enthuse’s solutions are customised with a cause’s own brand, and put the organisation in control of their data. This allows charities to build and nurture a loyal supporter base, raise more funds and increase their impact.