With charities facing an urgent funding shortfall amid increased demand for their services, Alex Blake, director of KEDA Consulting, explores how charities can fundraise during a global pandemic.
Charities have been hit hard by COVID-19 and its rapid spread across Europe. What can fundraisers do to combat these challenges?
For many charities, large and small, there will be a significant impact on fundraising income this year, with events and all public fundraising cancelled for at least the next few months, corporate partners pulling back due to the business challenges they face and the impact on individual giving that a recession would bring. These challenges are significant, but not insurmountable.
What can be done to address them? I think the most important thing you can do right now is to speak to your supporters. Be proactive, clear and transparent. Fundraising is all about relationships and great relationships are built and maintained with clear communication.
Understanding the impact of the pandemic on supporters
Before you do, make sure you have worked out the answers for your charity to these questions (for each type of supporter):
One example of covering these points that I particularly like is from the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
To take a similar approach, I would start by asking yourself who is your audience, what message do you want to convey and how will you go about it. Don’t shy away from highlighting the challenge to your funding streams, but be sensitive to supporters’ needs, recognising that many of them may be struggling financially or in terms of their health as a direct result of the virus.
Making the ask
I believe that most of your supporters will want to help. We have already seen examples of people donating the money they would have given despite events being cancelled, not requesting refunds for tickets to gala events, people giving the money they are saving by working from home, people giving extra donations because they want to help. There will also be many people who want to do something to help but won’t know what or how. So, make sure you offer them ways they can donate, fundraise or help in other ways.
Whether you can create a virtual version of your event or not, remember that people wanted to support your charity and will likely be receptive to a simple ask or alternative ways of giving. Many supporters will step up to help if given the chance.
Funding from foundations
One group of supporters that have been particularly proactive in responding to this crisis are grant-making foundations. Foundations have experienced a big hit to their investments due to the impact on the stock market, however the overwhelming majority of foundations are long term investors and have shown in previous market crashes that they will maintain or increase their level of grant spend when times are hard, even if their income and capital falls.
Across Europe, foundations are looking at extending grants, delaying reporting requirements and converting existing grants that were awarded as ‘restricted’ for specific projects to ‘unrestricted’ for any purpose in line with the charity’s objectives. Some have also engaged in advocacy to seek government support for charities and some are launching emergency response and recovery funds.
Inevitably the competition for grants is going to be even greater in our new reality, so the strength of your case for support is going to be more vital than ever with funders likely to be looking for evidence of the need, urgency and impact of your work more than ever.
It is vitally important to speak to your supporters. Consider what you want to say and how, but don’t delay for too long. Past experience suggests that if we wait for too long, then supporters go to other causes that seem more relevant, who managed the relationship better or who offered different ways for them to support.
Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring and how long a shadow the coronavirus will cast on the fundraising sector, but with resilience, kindness and professionalism we will survive and go on to thrive.
Alex Blake is founding director at KEDA Consulting. Over the last 10 years, Alex has been responsible for raising £30 million in a range of fields including health, social care, employability and international development. He has transformed underperforming income streams, advised CEOs and Directors on their fundraising strategies and secured major funding from Governments, multi-lateral donors, lottery funders and foundations in Europe and the US. Alex is also a trustee at two charities, LD:North East and Future Builders Uganda. Follow Alex @AlexBlake_KEDA