Is integration the key to income? When fundraisers, managers and service providers work together on shared objectives, charities often find it leads to greater efficiencies. Emma Maier finds out how to think outside the box.
A popular supermarket chain once combined information from its loyalty card scheme with its sales log and discovered that many young fathers buy nappies on their way home from work. When out with their friends at the weekend, these same men popped in to buy beer. The supermarket soon stacked the beer near the nappies and started to sell a lot more beer.
Whether or not this story is a myth that has become immortalised in marketing textbooks is unclear. True or not, it illustrates a good point: the complete picture is more telling than a single perspective. Knowing that nappy sales increase between 6pm and 7pm doesn't get you far. Knowing who buys them and what else they buy is seriously useful.
The voluntary sector isn't as far removed from beer and nappies as you might think. Traditionally, fundraisers have viewed their task and the donors they encounter from a single direction. Yet fundraising happens in the context of campaigning, service delivery and countless other tasks, while many donors are also volunteers, service users and ambassadors.
Increasingly, charities are choosing to integrate their fundraising with other organisational functions to capitalise on these links.
"There used to be two kinds of charity: those that were fundraising-led, and those that were service-led," says Peter Cardy, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Relief. "Recently, a third type has evolved - one where service and programme people and the fundraisers work together to achieve shared objectives. They are usually joined by a third key element. At Macmillan, the 'virtuous triangle' is services, fundraising and communications."
Integrating fundraising means something different to each organisation that approaches it. For WWF-UK, it meant consolidating 14 databases that were maintained by different departments to give a more complete picture of each supporter (Third Sector, 14 April 2004).
For Macmillan Cancer Relief, integration meant getting senior management and trustees more involved in fundraising. For others, it might mean convening a monthly consultation group where staff from all departments feed ideas into the fundraising strategy. Some organisations even merge their fundraising team with another department.
In the case of the supermarket, the benefit of an integrated approach is clear: more sales and more profit. For charities, the pay-offs are more subtle but no less remarkable.
"If fundraising is disengaged from programmes and services, fundraisers struggle to find the rationale for their work," says Cardy. In an integrated organisation, services, programmes and beneficiaries feed fundraisers and communicators with important stories and messages.
American fundraiser and author Mal Warwick believes that fundraising should be more than a way of raising money to achieve the organisation's mission. "I try to look at fundraising not as an end in itself, but as a tool box that can be put to work in the interest of an organisation's mission," he says. "Looking at the bigger picture allows an organisation to view the non-financial as well as the financial return on investment from fundraising."
Maria Ros Jernberg of the Swedish Cooperative Centre was involved in integration when she was an employee at Amnesty International in Sweden, and has advised and studied other organisations as a consultant. "The main advantages are a clear and consistent message with one voice and look, a stronger brand and increased efficiency," she says.
Integration can also make it easier for organisations to recognise new opportunities. "Opportunities rarely present themselves in the boxes on the organisation chart," says Ros Jernberg.
The establishment of Macmillan's mobile information service attests to this. "A corporate sponsor said that they would give us some money for something innovative, so someone developed the information service in response," says Cardy. "It would never have happened without the stimulus of the sponsor and the fundraisers."
There are also some pecuniary benefits. Speaking about the benefits of integrating fundraising and campaigning, Amnesty International's Campaigning Manual advises the organisation's national sections that "integration allows for multiple use of the same materials, thus saving money."
However, integration is more than piggy-backing a donation-line phone number on to the bottom of an awareness-raising advert. Resource Alliance director Simon Collings, who was involved in a major integration process in his former guise as fundraising director at Oxfam, says: "Real integration is when all the different bits of the organisation are deliberately planned to achieve collective goals.
"A first step might be to make sure public campaigning and fundraising materials look alike. But real integration is when the fundraisers plan activity to complement a media campaign and link their ask into that theme. For example, timing a fundraising mailout with the release of a media-grabbing report."
Gill Moody, director of Craigmyle fundraising consultants, says that staff can suffer when fundraising exists in a bubble. "If the fundraising department is isolated from the cause, it can become compartmentalised, and fundraisers, in turn, increasingly become demoralised," she says.
The good news is that integration isn't just for the household names.
"Most organisations can benefit," says Ros Jernberg. "It has little to do with size. In fact, maybe it's even easier in a small organisation because it is less complex."
When it comes to putting the integration into practice, buy-in from staff and solid planning are vital. Moody says: "You can talk about integration until you're blue in the face, but it is only really when you have a team objective, jointly owned by trustees, CEOs, fundraisers and communications professionals, that you can see how integration works in practice."
This requires strong leadership. "In my experience, the most common pitfalls are lack of internal leadership and lack of a shared vision, which means there are no shared goals, and people don't see the benefits," says Ros Jernberg.
An appropriate organisational structure is also important. "At Macmillan, we re-structured our regional teams so that fundraising, communications and service development were tied together at all levels of the organisation," says Cardy. "This meant elevating the status of communications in the regions."
Reviewing organisational culture often goes hand-in-hand with structural changes. "It is important to make it possible for, and to encourage, people from different teams to work together both formally and informally," says Ros Jernberg. "Nurturing a culture where all parts in the organisation are seen as, and treated as, equally important is also key."
Getting IT right
For many organisations, integration will involve the use of complex databases and other technology. This brings extra challenges. "In the worst situation, you get managers who are very cautious, don't understand it and so invest nothing," says Collings. "On the other hand, you can't just throw loads of money at technology." Integration with the IT team can be as valuable as with the marketing team. "You really need people in the IT department who understand the business of the charity and can translate what the technology can do in support of the business."
Consultants can play a valuable role in helping to forge healthy relationships between the range of functions and training and communicating plans to staff. External experience can also be a bonus. "It might be helpful to have someone neutral from the outside, with an open mind and experience from other organisations," says Ros Jernberg.
However, it is certainly possible to go it alone. "At Macmillan, we didn't use a consultant," says Cardy. "We had pretty high motivation and it was something I had done before at the MS Society and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, so I knew what I wanted."
The decision to integrate has far-reaching consequences and may force fundraisers to tackle some difficult issues.
Mal Warwick is keen to point out that working in an integrated way means that fundraisers must consider the consequences of their actions on other parts of the organisation. "This includes looking beyond the financial rewards at the wider impacts of techniques such as cause-related marketing agreements, corporate partnerships and face-to-face street fundraising," he says.
Ultimately, the results speak for themselves; at Oxfam the campaigner database was doubled in months. At Resource Alliance, the number of independent visitors to the website increased from 20,000 a year to 40,000 a year.
And Macmillan has an acclaimed mobile information service that would never otherwise have existed. It may seem like a long road, but it is possible.
"Start with small obvious things that can be of benefit and build up from there - you don't have to crack the whole thing at once," says Collings.
- Peter Cardy, Simon Collings, Maria Ros Jernberg and Mal Warwick are speaking at the Resource Alliance's International Fundraising Congress, 12-15 October. See www.resource-alliance.org
- Does your chief executive understand the fundraising strategy and show personal support for fundraising activity?
- Do fundraisers take time to explain fundraising plans to senior management and trustees?
- Do fundraisers, campaigners and programme staff all have an input into strategic planning?
- Do staff from different departments exchange useful information?
- Do fundraisers have access to all the information about individual donors?
- Do fundraisers work with project staff when preparing grant applications?
- Does your latest fundraising campaign feature your current campaign priorities?
- Do your fundraising and campaigning materials convey a consistent image?
INTERVIEW WITH MAL WARWICK: PUTTING SUPPORTERS BACK AT THE CENTRE
Is integration popular in the US?
I've never actually come across an organisation here that has formally integrated its fundraising. But in my book, The Five Strategies for Fundraising Success, I encourage fundraisers to take a bigger view. I've had a good response from readers in the US as well in Asia and Latin America.
What makes integration appealing?
Starting many years ago, even before Ken Burnett wrote Relationship Fundraising, there were those who saw the missing element in fundraising as the human touch. Fundraising had become all too mechanical - the donor had become lost.
I believe that this question of integrated fundraising is intimately related to whether the donor is at the centre of your universe and, to my mind, there is no successful long-term strategy in fundraising that does not rest on that realisation.
The fact is volunteers are, by a factor of three, more likely to be donors to an organisation than non-donors. Volunteers as well as clients are more likely to become bequest donors than donors or even major donors.
Can integration work hand-in-hand with relationship fundraising?
Relationship fundraising was most enthusiastically received in the UK, but there is now a revisionist view that it is hard to justify financially. Looking at the bigger picture allows fundraisers to see the non-financial as well as the financial return on investment of their work.
If you take seriously the assertion that the donors' preferences, needs and interests are the most important consideration, then you must make use of the insights that relationship and integrated fundraising can bring to light.