Julie McDonald, CEO of The Funding Network, on how the giving landscape is changing and how to tap into new funding models.
What are some of the challenges many charities and social enterprises are facing today?
There are currently more than 50,000 registered charities in Australia and recent studies show almost 10 new charities are registered each day. We understand a key challenge for nonprofit organisations, both big and small, is accessing critical funding and engaging new audiences.
The latest Giving Australia report has found that fewer people are donating to charity, but those who are giving are increasing the amount they give. This means there are fewer donors contributing to philanthropy, while more and more charities are vying for a piece of the pie. So it
leads to nonprofits asking questions such as: “How can we stand out in a crowded marketplace? What can we do to diversify our revenue streams and become financially sustainable?”
Can you share some insights on the most recent giving trends and how this is changing the landscape for the social sector?
The giving landscape is changing. In a world where charity choice is increasingly global for donors and volunteers, there are greater
possibilities but also more competition for organisations trying to connect with potential supporters. This is reiterated in the Giving Australia report, which emphasises the need for charities to be “innovative, transparent and sensitive to donors’ personal preferences” in order to engage a new generation of donors.
Meanwhile, we’re also witnessing a growing moral hunger among donors for community connection. This is driving the emergence and growth of collective giving models, where groups of people pool their donations and decide how to distribute them. In Australia, there are roughly 36 collective giving groups that are flipping the old assumption that you have to be wealthy to actively participate in philanthropy.
These collective giving groups, such as The Funding Network, are open, participatory, peer-driven, and they’re gaining momentum because
they provide an opportunity for people to meaningfully engage with the causes they support and, importantly, multiply the impact of their giving. Charities need to embrace these new forms of fundraising in order to ride the new wave of direct citizen action.
How important is an elevator pitch?
A convincing pitch is a powerful tool to unlock opportunities, form key relationships with investors or volunteers, attract funding, and inspire new audiences. In essence, the future of your organisation could depend on the quality of your spiel. Our pitch coaching workshops teach leaders, boards and teams to clearly articulate their unique value proposition
and their impact on the community – vital to success in the sector. It’s so important for teams and boards to be able to clearly articulate their organisation’s ‘why’ and connect people to their story.
What are the three top tips for social entrepreneurs or nonprofit leaders to perfect their pitch?
1. Know your why As motivational speaker Simon Sinek famously said, “People do not buy what you do – they buy what you believe in”.
Knowing and clearly articulating the simple ‘why’ of your organisation can be challenging, but it’s incredibly important. Knowing your point of difference is crucial to getting to the crux of why you exist, and why people should get behind your organisation so they feel drawn in.
2. Share a story People don’t give to causes. They give to people.
The most compelling pitches are those by individuals who have a personal connection to the cause they’re promoting, or a story about someone who has directly benefited from their work. This injects passion, life and connection into the cause you are promoting as well as demonstrating a strong belief in your work.
3. Be authentic Authenticity is key. It’s the vulnerability and the genuine passion that draws people in and presents a stronger, more compelling and more memorable pitch.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for charities and social enterprises to engage donors year on year. And corporates with CSR initiatives and foundations are also facing similar challenges engaging their staff and highlighting purpose beyond profit. What can they do to shake things up?
Donors want new experiences, meaningful connections and exposure to the stories of the people who ultimately benefit from the causes they support – the beneficiaries. In a time-poor world, nonprofits, social enterprise and businesses are seeking new ways to re-energise their fundraising strategies and create deeper community engagement.
Excitingly, we’ve launched a new initiative that is helping do just that. Last year we thought, “Just imagine what innovative organisations could do
if they could tap the right resources. What can we do to help the sector engage with new and existing donors and enable them to achieve growth and impact?”
So, we decided to create a white-label version of our live crowdfunding events to empower charities, social enterprises, foundations and purpose-driven businesses to refresh their fundraising strategies, refine their elevator pitches, and deepen their community engagement. We’re putting the power of live crowdfunding in their hands and giving them the proven methodology, the tools and advice to run their own events that efficiently and effectively raise funds and engage donors, clients and staff alike. Think of it as an engaging and immersive way to run your next fundraising event that harnesses the power of collective giving.
How do the TFN white-label live crowdfunding events work and how do you ensure success for the charities or corporates running these events?
Over the past four years we have piloted, tested and refined both our pitch coaching workshops and live crowdfunding event experience. Thousands of people have already experienced the magic of our pitch- and-pledge events, with hundreds of grassroots nonprofits receiving millions of dollars in the process. This is having a profound impact on the way the social change sector engages donors and stakeholders.
We want to ensure the best possible outcome for our partners, so we provide toolkits, expert advice, insights, templates and consultancy services to ensure our partners succeed. The result so far? For each pilot white-label event we’ve run to date, each organisation has secured vastly more funding than it had anticipated, while deeply engaging donors and forging new funding relationships. When you compare this to the real cost of running big gala fundraising events, TFN’s white-label service is less demanding on staff and has a competitive price point, which has the potential for a far greater return on investment.
We’re excited about the power of these events to disrupt traditional fundraising strategies, meaningfully engage new audiences and secure critical funding. We hope this will ultimately lead to the financial sustainability of more organisations in the sector and move the needle on the mission we all share: creating a more empathetic society that pulls together to give everyone a fair go.
For more information, visit thefundingnetwork.com.au.
Julie is CEO of the Funding Network. After a career in public relations, Julie transitioned into the for- purpose sector as General Manager, Fundraising & Communications at St Vincent de Paul Society where she was the driving force behind the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.