The Giving Architects team across New Zealand and Australia had the privilege of working on some truly transformational projects this year with several amazing for-purpose organisations. A few interesting observations were made as we navigated through this year with these projects and mingled and participated in fundraising focused events with fellow fundraisers on both sides of the Tasman. Based on these observations and best practice, here’s a few key learnings from the team to take with you for a more sustainable and effective strategic approach to achieving your mission in 2023 and beyond:

Long-term focus in donor care efforts will yield results

Thoughts from Clive Pedley (Director and Chief Executive at Giving Architects)

All the data and trends in 2022 continued to point to the fact that individual giving was the important backbone of philanthropic revenue in the for-purpose sector.  More specifically, it highlighted that the gifts of significant monetary value were an increasingly significant component, even during the challenges of the pandemic and emergence of a high inflation environment.

This should be no surprise.  It is part of an ongoing trend and reflective of fundraising norms that stretch back decades in most western economies. The challenge is that not all for-purpose organisations are prepared for or able to adjust the investment of resource, time and effort that is required across the whole organisation to achieve optimum fundraising outcomes.

Long-standing donor relationships, only made possible through great donor care and the demonstration of impact made possible through generous support, are the most significant factors in for-purpose organisations achieving great outcomes in this space.  What we observed in 2022 was that careful and deliberate work is required to capitalise on what are ultimately limited opportunities, or that organisations need to commit now to a long-term effort when it is apparent that the key ingredients for gifts of significant monetary value are missing.

 Building sustainable futures – A powerful story alone is not enough

Thoughts from Iyanthi Wijayanayake (Director at Giving Architects)

Adversity brought about by a global pandemic and impending economic uncertainty impacted organisations in different ways in 2022. Change is inevitable. But change also brings about opportunities for organisations. Forward thinking sector leaders and fundraising professionals who were agile, encouraged cross-functional engagement, committed to understanding and measuring impact and engaged with their donors with authenticity had great fundraising success 2022.

While meeting the needs of our beneficiaries is critically important, it is only a part of what for-purpose organisations do. Critical to meeting the needs of beneficiaries are the teams and donors. Focussing only on beneficiaries alone is potentially short sighted and unsustainable. Organisational leaders must support and encourage donor centric fundraising to unlock the philanthropic ambition of donors. Communicating to donors on their critical role in partnering to deliver greater impact is a necessity. Organisation can only do this if they commit to focus more on defining and measuring the impact of organisations. Measuring impact will allow organisation to measure the success of programmes and communicate with clarity on the difference made and how the organisation is fulfilling its purpose.

The strategy to keep overheads low by not investing in fundraising talent, developing and supporting teams to work together, not committing to developing the impact strategy and not encouraging innovation will only see organisations survive rather than thrive. Surviving is not enough! Organisations cannot fulfil its mission by just surviving.

Meeting the organisation’s purpose and fulfilling its mission is about your people and your donors as much as it is about your beneficiaries. Developing the impact strategy is critical to be able to measure and report on the impact. Leaders who commit to investing in these important areas will be successful in meeting needs of their beneficiaries and delivering on their mission.

In 2023, just sharing powerful stories is not enough. These amazing stories must be backed by data. 

There are no stories without numbers and there are no numbers without stories.

Fish where the fish are…

Thoughts from Nigel Harris (Founding Partner – Giving Architects Australia)

 The giving trends data paint a challenging picture. While giving is growing, householder giving is declining. It’s a trend that is consistent internationally. And a trend that has been evidenced for up to 40 years. And it is not explained by the events of the past three years. The data largely predates this period.

So, what is going on? And what should you do if you are engaged in fundraising? While these are big questions with bigger answers, there are some immediate messages to take on.

Pay attention to the data and what it means for your organisation. Think about your market and how and why you are engaging support. Understand that fundraising is based around relationships rather than transactions. Consider the real and complete cost and benefit of what you are doing. And to best serve your purpose, engage donors on their terms, not yours. Which may mean challenging what you are doing and why. One thing continues to be clear from the giving trends. You need to fish where the fish are.

 The Great Resignation to Quiet Quitters.

Thoughts from Emma Zigan (Associate Director at Giving Architects)

 I’ve heard many times this year about the great resignation and have seen from first-hand experience how it is negatively affecting organisations. It is a real shame that really good people are leaving the for-purpose sector all together.

I’ve also heard more recently of the new term quiet quitting: when the usually highly productive employees start doing the bare minimum and learned of a few more ‘quiet’ terms such as quiet firing: when employers quietly make employees lives so unhappy, they leave and even quiet fleecing: when organisations don’t give pay salary increases for years or pay their employees so poorly under the guise of ‘it’s your passion’. We do have a lot of passionate people in the charitable sector.

In 2022 it seems to me that many good people have left or are unhappy and our for-purpose organisations are missing out on the value of retaining great staff at all levels for lengthy tenures, who put in their best work, for the good of those they serve.

So what is going on? My observation is that there is a lack of the proverbial time, talent and treasure (TTT) put into the ‘human resources’ side of our sector. That is one of the fundamental differences in the for-profit world. They invest a lot more in hiring and importantly retaining the great people who make their companies thrive.

So why is it so hard for our sector to invest in their people? I wonder if our for-purpose sector (not all) feel the imperative to focus more on who they are working so hard to raise the money for, and mistakenly overlook the needs of those working for them. This can lead (and likely has led) to perpetuating the great resignation and adding more and more quiet quitters to our sector. That saddens me greatly.

Educational institutions – Project fundraising or Campaign?

Thoughts from Robert Brooke (Associate Director at Giving Architects)

Many institutions have traditionally lurched from one building project to the next, often with five or more years of silence, no engagement with past or prospective donors, and lost data in between. Now, across the board, Advancement and Development in Australasia is more professional, sustainable, with improved donor-stewardship and data management.

But as a sector we still appear to struggle with creating a culture of giving, with an over-arching narrative for development. Individual giving is still so transactional, e.g. ‘I’ll support your sports complex project because my child loves sport and will benefit’. While we do not say no to this type of giving, we need to improve the way we depict the bigger story and lift people’s gaze above the immediate building project.

Some institutions attempt this with the creation of an overarching campaign that may run for multi years or decades, encompassing both building projects and student or staff funds. There is merit in this, though my experience indicates that it is not an easy journey, but when major donors who are bought on this greater journey make a gift larger than anything they would for a singular project. However, most donors will still require a bricks and mortar project. You must also show restraint in choosing your moment to dial up the campaign message for inviting the whole community to support, as one needs to ensure all major donor prosects have been engaged prior to ensure unsolicited ‘smaller’ gifts are not made.

All that said, a campaign helps create continuity, provides a reason to promote and embed a compelling vision and, most importantly, in time will help establish a culture of giving towards the institution.