Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?
I have been working in the not-for-profit sector for almost 20 years and have worked with charities all over the world. On a global scale fundraising has changed. We have seen countries and areas such as the UK and Europe lead the way in new fundraising techniques to countries such as Australia and the US coming up with incredible new digital and other fundraising techniques.
In terms of the relationship between charities and donors, there has been a paradigm shift. When I started working in the sector people were less informed and had more of an inherent trust in how charities work. This attitude has changed and donors are more aware. They rightly want transparency and accountability from charities, which is something charities have to react to quickly.
What is your charity’s main income stream? What are the positive aspects of that, and what are some of the challenges?
When I started at the charity in 2017 we were heavily reliant on mail, mainly because the charity had a large presence in Europe and was still not very well known in the UK. In countries such as Germany you can mail your donors monthly and get great returns every month. In the UK, mail responses and the number of mail donors were starting to decline.
One of the biggest advantages of this is that I have never seen such a loyal and engaged supporter base – people who know a lot about the organisation and are personally connected to the charity. The negative side is the declining pool of donors and the expense of acquisition. However, this has also given us an exciting blank canvas to try new things, so we are embracing digital and social media to acquire regular givers as our main focus
What advice would you give to a new fundraiser just starting out?
First, really celebrate the small wins. Being a fundraiser is a challenge: people will try to denigrate what you do and the fact that you get paid. Some people will say (often condescendingly) that "it must be so rewarding". On a day-to-day basis it isn’t always, and that is why you need to celebrate and remember your wins, no matter what size. Second, don’t be content with the status quo. New fundraising ideas are out there: you should constantly be trying to think what they might be and test them. Failing at something new is more important than just doing what everyone else is doing. It is also a lot more fun and challenging.
How did you get into fundraising?
I was working in marketing for very large commercial organisations, making them money. It was very unfulfilling for me. I got no personal sense of doing something worthwhile. We then got one charity client and everything changed. I enjoyed working for them, knowing the money was being used to help animals. So I left my job and got a role at an agency that worked only for not-for-profit clients. It made all the difference to me and I found I had a real ability in this area. It was a watershed in my life.
How is your charity using digital to fundraise?
We have recently started to use digital in a transformational way. We are one of the first charities in the UK to use Facebook and Instagram to take supporters on a journey that leads to regular giving. Along the way we get petition signatures, phone and email leads. It’s in its early stages, but we have high hopes.