Fundraising: Pessimism increases in fundraising community

British fundraisers are more pessimistic about the future than they were six months ago, according to confidence index figures for the sector released this week by Bristol Business School in partnership with Henley College.

The Philanthropic Giving Index includes an indicator of expectations, which measures how confident fundraisers are about their income in the months ahead. The index reveals that confidence has declined by almost 2 per cent since last August.

It also found that every category of fundraising income fell well short of fundraisers' predictions for the six months to February 2006 (see table).

For example, 84 per cent predicted major gifts would be successful, but in the event only 45.5 said they were. The index is derived from a twice-yearly survey of the directors of fundraising from the largest 500 UK charities.

"In February 2005, after the tsunami, we found general pessimism," said Adrian Sargeant, professor of non-profit marketing and fundraising at the school, who led the project. "Everyone seemed to believe that international aid agencies would take the available money. Many local fundraising groups switched their efforts to support areas affected by the tsunami at that time.

"By August, it looked as if the tsunami would not have as great an impact on fundraising as was feared. Fundraisers were very optimistic, perhaps too optimistic.

"In previous periods, we have found that fundraisers were able to make good predictions about the future. In this period, however, the difference between predicted and actual performance is marked."

But Sargeant believes the latest wave of pessimism is a correction to last summer's optimism, and a response to uncertainty about the future, particularly in relation to the Charities Bill.

Matt Goody, head of direct marketing at Shelter, echoed Sargeant's observations.

"We found no dip in income after the tsunami last year," he said.

However, Goody's expectations about new media fundraising activities are out of step with the index. "I'm optimistic about some sources of funding, and less so about others," he said. "I'm most optimistic about committed giving, internet and email."

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