Charities will need new ways of asking for donations, fundraisers told

Delegates at a webinar on planning for the future hear that charities will need to show they are sympathetic to donors' financial struggles

People will still be willing to give in a recession, but charities will have to change how they ask in order to retain donors, fundraisers have heard. 

Speaking during a webinar entitled Planning for the Future in a Crisis, Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said that as the Covid-19 crisis developed into a recession, charity fundraising campaigns would need to demonstrate that they were sympathetic to the financial concerns many donors might have.

He said the success of many emergency fundraising campaigns over the past few months – with campaigns outperforming their expected income by an average of 40 per cent, according to IoF figures – had been down not just to people’s generosity, but also to “good communication and stewardship of the donors by charities”. 

Data from the 2008 financial crisis could help to show whether this generosity in an emergency would continue in a recession, he said.

Then, the total value of donations fell by 11 per cent between 2007/8 and 2008/9, with fewer people giving to charity (54 per cent compared to 56 per cent previously) and the mean average value of donations falling from £11 to £10.

“A recession does have a chilling effect on donations but, to look at it another way, we still got almost 90 per cent of the donations we would have got normally,” he said. 

“I think it’s really useful to look at that and what it may mean.”

He pointed to a survey from the consultancy About Loyalty’s Covid Sentiment Tracker, which found that one in five charity donors in a survey of more than 1,000 said they would stop giving during a recession.

Fluskey said: “I don’t believe them. I believe they’ve said that in a survey, but I don’t believe the reaction will follow what they’ve said in a hypothetical question.”

But, he said, the results demonstrated that the idea of recession and financial difficulty was something that was a concern for donors. 

“We have to really recognise that in our fundraising in the months ahead and  respond to it,” he said. 

To do this, Fluskey said fundraisers should acknowledge that the situation was difficult for many people and give donors the option to pause or reduce direct debits in the short term, while still making clear to them that their long-term support was important to the charity and that a donation was a chance to make a difference to others affected by the crisis. 

“Let’s recognise people’s concern and reflect it back and include it, not run or shy away from it,” he said. 

“Because I think once people see that we understand where they’re coming from and what their situation is, they will respond so much more positively than if we pretend everyone can still give at exactly the same levels.”

The webinar was held in conjunction with the Charity Finance Group and Pro Bono Economics.


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