Bring the evidence.

By Clive Pedley (Director & Chief Executive – Giving Architects).

Important fundraising decisions will be required for many charities in 2024.

The social and environmental needs many exist to serve and solve are increasing in scale and urgency, and philanthropy has an increasingly critical role to play in partnering with effective charities who can demonstrate how, together with their donors, they can make a positive impact on people, planet and place.

Often the opportunity to do more means raising more money and greater giving in all its forms including individual giving, funding, sponsorship, volunteering and advocacy. As a sector, we have an abundance of evidence that effective investment can produce better outcomes in all these areas. This evidence, alongside the evidence of unmet needs to be served, must be presented effectively to the leaders of our organisations so that they are compelled to invest in achieving more and fulfilling their purpose.

Having presented to many Boards who are grappling with the challenge of investing to address unmet needs, here are a few of the key areas where I think fundraising and for-purpose sector leaders need to present clear evidence.

1.Where the money comes from.

Regardless of your current giving portfolios, it is important to regularly present data from the wider charitable sector to show the balance of giving to charities. JBWere have provided some of the most effective evidence in recent years and are committed to continuing with their great work. There are also opportunities to participate in benchmarking groups and to see their collective experience, which can be more or less relevant, depending on their sample and your place in the market.

All of this helps for-purpose leadership understand what sustainable balanced giving looks like and how more could be achieved with investment and time to secure greater resources for impact.

2. The reality of the giving environment.

There is no point sugar coating the declining number of giving households over the past 40 years. There is also no point accepting the narrative that the money is ‘out there’. Donor acquisition and retention, commitment to meaningful and effective donor care and relationships, lifetime value and unlocking philanthropic ambition at all levels – these are all critically important details for organisational leadership to richly and deeply understand if they are to withstand the realities of declining donor numbers and stagnant net fundraising growth.

Simply trying to take more market share of a shrinking pie is not a solution.

3. Critical success factors for different channels vary.

There are wide gaps between the benefits of effectively using AI (not a certainty) and building warm, powerful and mutually enriching donor relationships. Fortunately, not all charity leaders need to be experts in all channels. There are experts and specialist providers. Our recent collaborations with Precision Fundraising, Fundraising Logic, Fundraising Research & Consultancy, Gemelli Consulting and others have shown us and our clients how bringing in specialist knowledge and services for a while can transform donor relationships and the impact of giving. Investing in these effective working relationships, where you and your team are equipped and better prepared for future fundraising success, makes sense at every level. There are numerous Case Studies that specialists can present to demonstrate this.

There is, of course, much more important evidence you need to regularly present to your leaders about what is going on within and beyond your organisation. We cannot expect them to make good decisions about investing in the success of the purpose they serve otherwise.