Fundraisers have key role after coronavirus, says CAF policy head

Rhodri Davies tells Third Sector's Fundraising Conference that charities might have to think in new ways and focus on new models of giving

Rhodri Davies

Fundraisers have a key role to play in ensuring charities are able to adapt to changes in society brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, a leading sector thinker has said. 

Speaking on the first day of Third Sector’s online Fundraising Conference, Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation and leader of its in-house think tank, Giving Thought, said societal changes meant the sector would need to think about how it could make a clearer case about the full value of what it does. 

In a wide-ranging talk, Davies said charities might need to start to think in new ways and focus on new models of giving, such as crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising, supporter-led fundraising or focusing on the decentralisation of the fundraising function away from the organisation itself. 

“Fundraising brings in money to organisations, but what is the value of it above and beyond that?” he said. 

“This is where I’d argue that because fundraisers are the front line of contact with supporters and the wider public for a lot of charities, they have a key role to play in making some of these broader arguments. 

“In the future they will need to become advocates in addition to income generators."

Davies said he realised that fundraisers had a lot on their plates already, but he hoped he was bringing an empowering message at a time when the landscape was changing enormously. 

“If fundraisers engage with some of these bigger-picture issues, then I think they can play an absolutely vital role in ensuring charities are able to adapt to whatever the current years bring,” said Davies. 

He said there was an interesting question about whether people were increasingly looking for more than just passive, transactional relationships when they gave to charity. 

“I wonder whether that’s part of the appeal of these networked movements like Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter and others,” he said. 

“It’s not just what they do; it’s that participation is baked into the model of them and people find that appealing. 

“The question is whether charities are meeting that need and, if not, what do they do to tap into that?

He said people wanted to feel a sense of ownership and agency when they donated and be part of a two-way conversation. 

Davies added that the voluntary sector was facing increased competition in doing good from the private and public sectors. 

“One thing we’ve seen during the current crisis is how many companies are responding, and doing so because they have a social purpose.

“And it’s interesting to think about the extent to which that brings them into direct competition with charities. 

“The public sector is also in competition with the voluntary sector, if not by design, because the current wave of love for the NHS is leading to the lines between charity and state provision becoming a lot more blurred in a lot of people's minds.”

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