Helping an established charity to rethink fundraising
“David produced a piece of work that demonstrated his desire to get to know us, understand our strengths and the challenges that faced us, and to produce a report that was hopeful and optimistic with some practical recommendations. I was really pleased that he not only identified the right stakeholders to speak to but my feedback from those meetings was very positive. They came away assured of his expertise and that he’s asked the right questions.”
Ross Hendry, CEO, CARE
CARE was established in 1983 out of the Nationwide Festival of Light, a broad church movement begun in 1971 as a response to progressive social reforms passed in Parliament during the 1960s. Today it is known as one of the leading voices and respected organisations working in UK politics, with its main presence in Westminster, but also working with the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.
The charity has an income of around £2m per year, which has remained largely resilient in recent years thanks to a generous, albeit ageing donor base. However, a steady income means a real terms decline over time. With a new draft strategy on track to be ready in late September, CARE wanted a consultancy to carry out further analysis as to whether this decline is a sector trend, or particular to CARE and the demographics of its supporter base.
“We chose Action Planning primarily for their expertise and experience, both in terms of fundraising as a sector and knowledge of that sector, but also because they have a sympathy and understanding that we are a Christian organisation,” said CEO Ross Hendry. “We wanted Action Planning to help us understand the baseline that we’re starting from.”
CARE required a report on its current and future fundraising activity, to include a critique of current fundraising activity and an assessment on what may happen to future income if nothing changes; a review of the best opportunities for sustaining and ideally increasing voluntary income; and recommendations as to what actions are required to realise CARE’s full fundraising potential, including potential return on any investment in fundraising expertise or capacity.
To inform our findings we carried out interviews with the CEO, Chairman, Chair of Trustees, COO, Director of Communications and Engagement, Head of Supporter Relations, Director of CARE Scotland and a consulting management accountant. We reviewed a draft version of the strategic plan, financial data, database analysis, other relevant documentation, and the website and fundraising collateral.
Our analysis found that CARE had never really had a fundraising strategy as such, and that if things stayed as they were the charity would see a decline in individual and major donors, masked temporarily by a possible increase in legacy donations. However, these would also decline in a few years’ time, leaving the charity short of funding for its ambitious plans. So doing nothing now was not an option.
We identified a number of elements within the strategic plan that could appeal strongly to funders. We also noticed some significant cost implications that the fundraising strategy would need to provide for.
Our report specified the best opportunities for fundraising to meet CARE’s ambitions and recommendations as to the actions required, with a forecast timeline. These included recruitment of a Fundraising Director with significant experience of fundraising in a Christian context, particularly through individual giving, and major donors.
The report was well received and CARE moved quickly to engage a recruitment agency to find a Director of Fundraising. Having used the report to present a business case for this recruitment, they found it useful as a foundational piece of work to inform the new Director. CARE found it particularly useful in highlighting the need to work on supporter journey, clarity of fundraising ask for different audiences, and the quality of their data.
In their early years, many charities run with a somewhat ad hoc approach to fundraising – CARE has managed to make that work much longer than most! The combination of a highly energetic and engaging Chairman and some generous and very committed supporters underpinned this approach. But as financial needs grew and existing sources of income seemed somewhat stuck on a plateau, the time came when a more structured and robust approach was required.
As usual, we started with our key questions of “How much money is needed and what it is for?” As a new strategy was being developed under the leadership of a new CEO, this was very timely. As a result we were able to develop a strategy that built on considerable historic strengths, but that also took inspiration from future ambitions. We are delighted that this was well received and is already being acted upon.