The Fundraising Futures Report looks at the state of fundraising in a COVID-19 world and the path forward.

future of fundraisingThere is no doubt that this year has been our most challenging yet. We daily feel the impact of the pandemic following significant natural disasters in our fundraising, and while projections of doom and gloom are rife, we also know that there are some positive outcomes. Now, more than ever, as the peak body for fundraising in Australia, it’s so critical that we understand how our members and the broader fundraising and charitable sector are managing as well as how they feel in facing the challenges. Thanks to our research partner More Strategic, we now have valuable insights.

What the research tells us

Surprisingly, the year has not been as bad as we had all expected, with 61% of fundraisers reporting better than expected income performance. We’ve adapted quickly and feel more positive in July than we did in March, with 60% of fundraising organisations creating emergency-style appeals. And 73% of organisations report increased communication and connection to their supporters – a trend that, no doubt, will reap benefits.

future of fundraising

Anticipation of the financial impact on fundraising programs has been significantly much better than expected. As has the impact of working from home and the ability to connect and interact with others.

It is clear from the findings of this survey that things will get worse before they begin to improve. However, it is also apparent from the responses received that we are an incredibly strong sector, composed of ‘resilient optimists’. One of the keys to fundraisers’ success in the future will be the ability to adapt and innovate, particularly around digital innovation.

The impact of social distancing on a sector that heavily relies on events for fundraising is enormous – an overall decline of 72% in events income since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Driven by that decline and the softening of other fundraising channels, the expected decrease in revenue in the next year is 15%. There will be tough times ahead, indeed. And there will be a long tail – no matter how long the economic fallout, the impact of diminished acquisition and cancelled events for the past six months will decrease income for the next two years.

future of fundraising

The coronavirus has, in many ways, amplified trends that were already in existence in fundraising: reduced acquisition reliability, shift to digital channels, development of virtual events and increased focus on supporter experience management.

What we are sure about is that success (however defined) during this period requires talented fundraisers. But with job security under threat, training budgets being reduced, and external support expected to decrease, we have a conundrum. Our organisations want fundraisers to deliver in new areas of supporter experience, digital fundraising and innovation, which require greater risk and new skills. So, this brings a note of caution: now is not the time to pull back on continued professional development; in fact, increasingly more will likely be required to meet the challenges ahead.

This report was undertaken by More Strategic and FIA. A full copy can be found at https://fia.org.au/fia-research-hub/

Katherine Raskob is the Chief Executive Officer of Fundraising Institute Australia – the peak body for professional fundraising in Australia. See www.fia.org.au

Key Findings from the Fundraising Futures Report

It wasn’t as bad as we expected – 61% of fundraisers reported better than expected income performance.

It will get worse – plan for a decrease in income of at least 15%. If you are a smaller organisation, prepare for a greater decrease.

The downturn will be longer than we thought – back in March, 43% of respondents expected the recovery to take two years or more. This is now 64%.

There will be a long tail – no matter how long the economic fallout, even the impact of diminished acquisition and cancelled events for the past six months will decrease income for the next two years.

Be cautious – continue to budget conservatively and regularly update forecasts. There is far too much uncertainty to be setting higher targets.

Fundraisers are resilient optimists – we have adapted quickly and feel more positive in July than we did in March. 60% have created emergency-style appeals.

Support-centricity is on the rise – 73% of organisations report increased communication and connection to their supporters. At last!

Acceleration of the digital revolution – most organisations have been forced into a rapid shift towards digital fundraising and communications. We need to enhance skills and expertise in these areas.

Keep the JobKeeper – 75% of respondents are using JobKeeper. Although now extended, most organisations have limited reserves to survive a sustained economic downturn.

The talent-led recovery conundrum – success (however defined) during this period requires talented fundraisers. However, job security is under threat. Training has been reduced and external support is expected to decrease. Yet, we also want fundraisers to deliver in new areas of digital fundraising and innovation, which require greater risk and new skills.

Necessity is the mother of invention – a crisis forces innovation upon us. Our culture surveys frequently show a gap between innovation aspirations (it is important) and the practicalities (time, resources and budget). Innovation thrives where there is an acceptance of failure and appetite for risk.

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