Joe Saxton: Fundraising will be very different five years from now

Our columnist offers his thoughts about the good, the bad and the devious aspects of fundraising in the future

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

The new Fundraising Regulator will soon be up and running, the Fundraising Preference Service is coming into operation and EU legislation is on the horizon - so raising money is going to get harder. Fewer communications will go to fewer people, with donors not only in control, but also potentially hard to reach.

Given these changes, fundraising from individuals will be completely different five years from now. Here are my thoughts about the good, the bad and the devious aspects of fundraising in the future.

Major donor and legacy fundraising are my two predictions for major fundraising growth - it's amazing how little some charities invest in these two areas. The mantra in a world where it is harder to reach people will be to ask for more from those who can still be reached.

Asking for more dovetails with the demographic changes we are seeing as baby boomers hit retirement age. As children of the 1960s, this generation is wealthier and more interested in changing the world. They have bigger houses, more wealth and better pensions than almost any generation in history. And there are many more of them - they are baby boomers, after all.

Getting substantial donations from them as they live ever longer is a real opportunity. They are more used to being in control, and less dutiful, than those now in their 80s, so it will be vital for fundraisers to listen to them. The sector annoys them at its peril - witness the harsher regulatory regime now being introduced.

I wish I could tell you that digital will replace paper or phone-based fundraising. But no one has yet found a mechanism for online income generation that really harnesses donors' money. We await the fundraising equivalent of WhatsApp, Snapchat or Instagram.

I think we will see a growth in activities that combine different aspects of charity: "fundteering", which combines raising money and volunteering to harness both the additional time and money of those baby boomers in retirement; and "fundpaigning" (yes, the names need work), in which supporters both give money and campaign for change. Many of these schemes exist already in embryonic form. As the William Gibson quote goes: "The future is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed." Every charity would be wise to keep a really good watch on its peers.

Alongside the positive and exciting developments in fundraising will be ever more ingenious ways to sidestep new regulatory requirements. Street fundraising, doordrops and doorstep fundraising are currently outside the claws of the FPS, so expect big growth in those. And expect the new Code of Fundraising Practice to launch a pre-emptive strike to ensure that donors and the public are protected.

We can also expect a growth in membership schemes, lotteries and fundraising events, all of which appear not to be covered by the FPS. A charity would be far-sighted to turn its body of direct debitors into members so it could go on talking to them.

To finish on a positive note, I think now is the time for a unified sector push on improving Gift Aid, as compensation for all the other government initiatives that are putting on the squeeze. An easier, streamlined, less bureaucratic Gift Aid might help some charities balance their books.

Joe Saxton is the founder and driver of ideas at the research consultancy nfpSynergy

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