How can small charities find their fundraising edge?

Today we’re reproducing this excellent blog by Lindsay Harrod, which appeared recently in UK Fundraising. Lindsay is Senior Project Manager (Special Projects) at the Foundation for Social Improvement, a registered charity (no. 1123384) established in 2007 with a vision of a world filled with independent, effective and accountable charities with the belief, passion and capacity to achieve their vision. The blog is entitled:

“How can small charities find their fundraising edge?”

“It’s estimated that 81% of the sector’s income goes to the largest 4% of charities (NCVO Almanac 2018), leaving the many thousands of incredible small charities struggling to raise the funds they need.

Small charities tell us that it’s increasingly difficult to generate income and they struggle to compete for attention and support, so it would be easy to assume that big charities have all the advantages when it comes to fundraising.

However, this is not exclusively the case. There are many ways in which flexibility, personality and smallness can in fact be a strength. I wanted to share some of our top tips to maximise this, inspired by the many creative small charities we’ve encountered at the FSI.

1. Help supporters understand how transformational their gift could be:

As a small charity, a £1,000 gift for example could be much more impactful than the same to a larger organisation. This is really compelling to a donor, so tell the story of what impact their donation will make. You can also give them a more meaningful experience in return – £1,000 might qualify as a ‘major gift’ to your charity and warrant exclusive invitations and personalised updates, whereas at a larger charity they might receive just a one-off thank you letter.

2. Build genuine, meaningful relationships, and get your whole team involved:

In a larger charity, it would be nearly impossible for a donor to meet the whole team, especially senior staff/leaders, but having the chance to understand all sides of your work will get supporters even more invested in your cause. You can make sure their supporter journey is seamless, for example if all your staff recognise them at an event, or if another member of the team spots an opportunity to get them involved in a different part of your work.

3. Don’t worry that you’re not as professional as a bigger charity:

You don’t need a glitzy website or huge gala events to impress donors. Often the homemade and personal touches are what make your charity stand out – for example, small charity Word Forest filmed simple low-tech videos on their phones of their work on the ground, and what made them special was creating a personalised video for each donor. Just mentioning their name and showing the areas of the work they’re most interested in will be far more powerful than the slickest professionally-made video – hear more from Word Forest at the FSI Fundraising Conference in June!

4. Identify your USP and what makes you special:

You might have lots of different ones that appeal to different audiences. For example, your deep networks in the local community could be appealing to a locally-focused business, or perhaps you have a high-profile patron that donors would like to meet, or maybe you use a unique model with a high impact and great results. Ask for opinions from different perspectives to identify these, from staff to volunteers to trustees, donors and beneficiaries too.

If you want to hear more about finding your fundraising edge as a small charity, join us at the FSI’s Fundraising Conference, sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), on 20th June as part of Small Charity Week 2019, which is sponsored by Aviva. We’ll hear from a range of experts from both charity and supporter perspectives on how small charities can excel, including:

o Keynote speaker Jhumar Johnson, Director of Development at Open University, will challenge us to think about focusing on relationship-based fundraising: how do we look past labels and constraints to develop strong relationships and create space for curiosity, thought and innovation?
o Businesses who love working with small charities, including Microsoft, Aviva and Travers Smith law firm, will answer audience questions on what makes a good partnership and how to kick start yours.
o Hear from small charities like Word Forest, Tibet Relief Fund and Cockpit Arts that have taken innovative but achievable approaches to stewardship and seen the results.
o How can you make your trust and foundations applications stand out for funders? David Burgess, trust fundraising expert, will share his do’s and don’ts for small charities.
o Utilise low cost resources to access online giving, guided by Rachel Smith of Global Giving.

You’ll also hear from CAF’s Head of Research, Susan Pinkney, on the 2019 UK Giving Report findings, and what that means for small charities.

Caroline Forbes, Head of Marketing at CAF who are sponsoring Fundraising Day, says, “We work with many small charities and we’re so impressed by the creativity and agility they show in tackling funding challenges. Small charities play a vital role in our local communities. That’s why we’re so pleased to be supporting Fundraising Day this year.”

Tickets for the FSI’s Fundraising Conference are just £25 and available now.”