Existing model of fundraising 'broken', says WaterAid director

Marcus Missen, the charity's director of fundraising and communications, warns that if the current approach does not change the sector will no longer be relevant


The existing model of fundraising is broken with 90 per cent of charities using a "transaction-led approach" to securing donors, according to Marcus Missen, director of fundraising and communications at WaterAid.

Speaking at the session ‘Can a soft sell be as effective as a hard sell in the new fundraising world?’ at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands this morning, Missen said charities should instead be focusing on engaging potential donors over a longer period rather than immediately asking them for money.

Making reference to WaterAid’s recent brand marketing efforts, he gave the analogy that charities should socialise with donors in the wine bar before asking them for donations rather than rattling a tin in their faces upon first meeting them.

"The existing model of fundraising is broken and has been broken for a very long time," he said. "We just hadn’t realised it was broken and have gone more and more towards getting people in as cheap as possible and upgrading them – it’s the perfect storm."

He continued: "At WaterAid, we passionately believe that if we don’t change the model, as a sector, we will no longer be relevant. At the moment, we’re not relevant. We’ve got to catch up to get our relevance back."

After the session, Missen told Third Sector: "Most of the charities in the UK obsess about face to face and getting repeat donations. The model is ‘get them in cheap, increase their value’ and if you lose 60 per cent of them in the first six months, it doesn’t really matter."

He said this was exemplified by the way charities referred to donors using transactional terms such as "regular givers" and "cash givers" and how they often asked for a donation the first time they had contact with someone.

Missen said that WaterAid had banned these terms from its organisational lexicon. "It’s all about the supporter," he said.

He also said he expected WaterAid would only exist for another 14 years because it will have achieved the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, ensuring that all people have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.

"Wateraid’s not going to exist beyond 2030," he said. "We passionately believe that and we’re driving towards that, so we haven’t got time to play the long game and think about how the sector’s going to change and morph and evolve."

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