Fundraising is at a point of peak uncertainty. We recognise that the existing paradigm is increasingly challenged, but we don’t yet know what we’re evolving towards.
The warning signs are there for all to see – in the declining response rates to our cold appeals, reduced volumes of sign-ups by direct dialogue and increasingly hard feedback about fundraising approaches. That’s not at all to say that there aren’t organisations really maximising the existing ways of fundraising and getting great value out of that, but in terms of longevity and in terms of where the sector will be in 10 or 12 years' time, it is necessary for us to evolve.
In the future, there’s going to be a greater emphasis on relational fundraising and on creating more meaningful engagements and relationships with supporters, with an even greater focus on lifetime value.
Hopefully we’ll be making ever greater use of digital technologies and we also know that our engagement is going to be much more multi-channel, rather than forever sending appeals to somebody on our warm pile.
But within that great fluidity of approach, we’re still going to have to find ways to create predictability of income, and that’s going to be a real challenge for us as a sector going forward.
One of the key issues is consumer expectations: people want different types of relationships with the organisations they engage with. We’d have to be responding to that even if some of the traditional channels were still available to us. We’ve only got to look at the news reports about what is happening in the high street to see that if you’re not adapting to consumers you’re going to struggle. Increasingly, consumers or supporters of charities want to know what the impacts of their donations are, and we need to get more systematic about demonstrating how someone’s gift has made a difference.
We need to have a credible and coherent story about what proportion is going to the end user, and that is just about having a grown-up conversation about what it takes to deliver services, rather than a race to the bottom and saying that for every pound 99p goes to the end user.
Charities need to be ever-more effective in terms of storytelling, bringing to life the causes and the impacts in a personal way. Of course, fundraisers can’t do that alone – it’s about the whole organisation working together to create that narrative.
What is within the gift of fundraisers is to ensure we’re deploying the right amount of resources in order to examine our audiences, their support and what motivates them. With that actionable insight, we’re then able to make really informed decisions so that we can make sure we’re where our supporters want us to be.
Ultimately, being prepared for the future is about ensuring you’ve got a vibrant, progressive and wide-ranging programme of income streams, being agile in terms of identifying new ways of working and ensuring you’ve got a strong emphasis on innovation.
Paul Amadi is chief supporter officer at the British Red Cross