Pandemic has made it easier for small charities to attract donations, conference told

The Covid-19 pandemic has “democratised the fundraising space”, making it easier for small charity brands to attract donations, the Third Sector Fundraising Conference has heard. 

Speaking as part of an online session about the lessons of the past year, Eoghan Beecher, country manager for the UK and Ireland at the fundraising software company iRaiser, said the pandemic had also created more opportunities to improve accessibility to event fundraising for donors. 

Charlotte Urwin, head of policy at the Fundraising Regulator, said the regulator would also consider how it could offer hybrid live and digital events in the future. 

Beecher told delegates that over the past year, “the fundraising space has become democratised”. 

He said that one of the key challenges for a charity brand looking to raise money had previously been “how much you have to invest to get to a reasonable position to talk to donors”. 

This, Beecher said, created a barrier for smaller organisations, while “people who can afford television adverts, people who can afford presences in major high street shops and retail outlets, and people who benefit from very large corporate partnerships because they’re big brands themselves, have always done OK”. 

But, he said: “Now people haven’t been walking down high streets, now that people have been working from home, the opportunity to have your name and your cause in front of a donor is much easier, it’s much cheaper and much quicker.”

This meant that when donors were making a decision to donate, “they are given a choice which allows lots more charities to be that choice and make that money”. 

He said that while other forms of fundraising might have dropped, when it came to digital fundraising, there were “loads and loads of indication[s] that there is more money in the market and it's much easier for charities to access”.

In the same session, Beecher also said that the prevalence of digital events during the pandemic had helped to make events and community fundraising more accessible for donors. 

“The old adage that ‘all roads lead to London’ – where you had to go to the big cities to take part in things – that has been completely torn up,” he said. 

He pointed to the success of the Captain Sir Tom Moore fundraising campaign, which raised £32m from “a man walking up and down his own back garden”, as a sign that “those barriers of what should traditionally happen in the fundraising world have been broken”. 

Whereas previously, fundraisers might have been restricted to the spaces others were willing to give them – for example, the use of a building or shutting down a street, which created restrictions that fundraisers had to work around – “now we can start with a blank sheet of paper and say: ‘We want to build to a fully inclusive fundraising product and we can consider all those things from the very start,’” Beecher said. 

But, he added, this came with the responsibility for fundraisers to ensure that their online events were as accessible as possible. 

“Sometimes in the past, charities have often – because of a genuine commitment to saving money – cut corners somewhat in terms of accessibility, but there are now tools available for very little money that allow you to be accessible,” he said. 

Urwin agreed that online events had allowed organisations to reach more people geographically. She said the Fundraising Regulator’s own annual event, in February, had experienced far greater levels of attendance than it would have done had it taken place in person. 

“For us as a regulator: yes, absolutely we need to be thinking about our offer, and our offer to the small charitable sector and the fundraisers there in particular, and… going forward, we will be thinking about what we can do as a regulator in terms of hybrid events.”

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