"How to Raise Funds for Unpopular Causes" by Emma Beeston

Sep 19, 2016

"I have recently taken part in the panel selecting organisations forThe Funding Network’s next ‘live crowdfunding’ event in Bristol. As well as all the usual things looked for like financial sustainability and social impact, we also needed to choose a spread of organisations that had appeal. After all, this is a fun evening and groups need to engage the audience to elicit donations.

It got me thinking about being popular – why would some groups have more appeal than others? And the question I often get asked “how do I raise money for unpopular causes?”.

The statistics in CAF’s UK Giving report show that most money goes to medical research, children, hospitals and animals. So what do you when your cause is not on the list? Here are two ways that shifting your mindset might help:

1. Not currently popular - What counts as popular and unpopular changes. You can see this clearly with funding for refugees and asylum seekers. This work used to fall into the unpopular cause category funded by a small number of institutional funders. Now there is a public swell of support and many individual philanthropists are looking at where they can best help. The UK government has even set up a system for matching offers of support to need. It is impossible for a single fundraiser to turn the tide of popularity or influence the world events behind these trends. But instead of focussing on your cause being unpopular, perhaps it helps to think of it as ‘not currently popular’? As well as being more motivating, it could lead you to seek out potential funders who like to be at the cutting edge of new trends.

2. Popular with the right donor - Is your cause really unpopular or is there a poor match between cause and donor? You are going to be hard pressed to raise money for organisations working to rehabilitate domestic abuse perpetrators through public collections and sponsored events. But similarly, there will be plenty of institutional funders and philanthropists who are not interested in funding holiday play schemes, day centres or community transport. They want to fund more edgy work with gangs or those struggling with mental health issues.

Instead of focusing on your cause being unpopular with the general public, put all your efforts into finding the people who get what you do and making the best case you can to appeal to them."  

Emma Beeston Consultancyadvises funders and philanthropists on giving strategies and processes; selecting causes and charities; assessments and impact monitoring. Services for charities include external perception reviews; bid reviews; training for fundraisers and non-fundraisers involved in bids. For more details visit Emma's website or

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