Charities must innovate to meet challenges, says Macmillan's fundraising director

Claire Rowney says communication with supporters is key in the face of great challenges to fundraising

Claire Rowney
Claire Rowney

Charities must innovate to meet fundraising challenges such as public trust, changes in technology and data-protection rules, the director of fundraising, marketing and communications at Macmillan Cancer Support has said.

Claire Rowney told Third Sector that the voluntary sector was facing challenges to its fundraising capabilities and communication with supporters was key to charities’ long-term effectiveness.

Macmillan’s fundraised income, excluding legacies, has fallen slightly in recent years, from £165.2m in 2015 to £163.2m in 2017, although it rose to £168.1m in 2016.

But over the same time period, legacy income rose by almost a third, from £63.8m in 2015 to £84.5m in 2017.

This echoes the findings in Third Sector’s analysis of the top-10 fundraising charities, including Macmillan, which found that, although overall donations had grown in the past three years on average, legacy growth had masked the fact that other forms of donations were stalling.

For Macmillan, income brought in by direct marketing also fell by 15 per cent, from £43.2m to £36.7m.

Rowney told Third Sector: "The whole sector continues to face challenges in raising enough money to meet the needs of their beneficiaries, and Macmillan is no exception.

"These challenges include public trust, technological advances, the General Data Protection Regulation, sponsorship fatigue and competition. In addition, changes in consumer behaviour mean donors are increasingly asking charities to demonstrate exactly where their individual donations have gone and the impact they have had, or favouring causes that ring-fence donations. This can be challenging, especially for national charities such as Macmillan."

Rowney said that, despite the challenges, the charity was pleased that fundraising events had continued to perform well, having risen from £53.7m to £59m.

"Now, more than ever, we recognise that innovation is critical," she said. "We talk to our supporters and the public to understand how they would like to raise money. We also monitor new fundraising trends across the country and around the world to identify what resonates with different audiences. We are committed to trying new things and also make changes when something isn’t working."

She said she believed that the recent focus among charities on legacy income and promoting this method of giving was "good news for the whole sector".

"The first step to increasing any organisation’s legacy income is raising widespread awareness for legacy giving," she said.

"Growing the whole sector is the first step and increased promotional activity from charities will support this."

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