Blog – The Good Exchange looks back on Fundraising Week 2018

Blog by Marina Stedman – Third Sector’s 2018 Fundraising Week took place in late May, with two days of insight on offer at the Fundraising Conference. With so much taking place across the sector, the event was well attended by fundraising professionals.

Given the timing of the conference, it was expected that GDPR would be a hot topic and John Bines, Director of Fundraising at RNLI admitted that they had lost £5m (almost 10%) in donations when they switched to opt-in based e-mail marketing in preparation for GDPR back in 2015/16.  As they now have over 500,000 opted-in subscribers, they feel confident that this was the right approach but are also exploring the concept of ‘legitimate interest’ to see how it fits into their contact strategy.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive and David Boorman, Head of Fundraising and Communications at Bliss, a much smaller charity for premature and sick babies said that less than half of the 95,000 people who had premature babies in the UK in any 12 month period had donated to the charity.  They had therefore taken the opportunity go digital as part of their GDPR plan, implementing a new website and CRM system and introducing social media (LinkedIn and Facebook) advertising.  They are now looking at how they can use legitimate interest to contact previous donors for research purposes to try and increase their opt-in rates.  While they have found Facebook to be a good source of unsolicited donations, the opt-in rate for these donors is very low and therefore not a good source of donor data.

Mandy Johnson, CEO of the Small Charities Coalition, co-presented an interesting talk on creative thinking and selling a small or difficult cause. The session explored how best to fundraise for a little-known or unpopular cause, and offered advice on how best to utilise storytelling to engage supporters online in a competitive environment.

Mandy started her session by revealing some startling statistics, including that while only 44 UK-based charities have a turnover of more than £100m, they hold 41% of the total fundraising budget and the top 3% of the 167,000 UK-registered charities spend 67% of the fundraising budget.  With 59 percent of small charities’ income being donated by individuals, it is important for these small, but vitally important good causes to communicate effectively on the right channels. Johnson discussed the importance of putting a face to statistics to show what donors’ money really means to the ultimate beneficiaries. Dr. Morgan Phillips of The Glacier Trust – an organisation that aims to create positive change through training and technology in remote villages in Nepal – elaborated on this, explaining his experiences of engaging with supporters on social media with short, and often non-professionally produced films, which can help to bring stories to life quickly and without great expense.

Meanwhile, in the Meet the Grant Funder segment, Deborah Smart from the Social Investment Business, discussed her organisation’s use of social media and directories to promote their grant programmes. Smart revealed that many people find out about the Social Investment Business online via the Funding Central database, and interestingly noted that applicants that take this route would be required to apply for each grant separately.

Ed Gairdner, COO and Marina Stedman, Head of Marketing at The Good Exchange, presented to a full room of delegates, talking about the role of technology in closing the funding gap and what adopting ‘technology’ and ‘going digital’ could practically mean.  Ed talked about how the administrative grant application burden could be cut by introducing a single, streamlined application process and Marina gave some examples of how charities can access digital marketing software and services free or at very low cost (e.g. $10,000 a month for Google Adwords and linking your own fundraising project 9e.g. on The Good Exchange) directly from the Facebook Donate button so you can build a more direct relationship with donors).

In this era of platform technology, there is a prime opportunity to streamline the shortlisting of applications. This also makes it far easier to delve deeper into applicants’ objectives, while also seeing the support they’ve received from other funders and donors. Platform technology also improves transparency and greatly simplifies matters for applicants, who then need to complete only one application form for consideration. This is just another example of the many ways in which technology can transform the charitable sector for the better, to the benefit of us all.