Fundraisers – Be Positive!

Blackbaud’s Rob Gethen Smith gives his thoughts following this year’s IoF Convention.


The headline message from this year’s IoF convention was, “Let’s be positive!” It’s been a tough year and significant challenges lie ahead, but the fundraising community remains strong and resolved to grow income through creativity, tenacity and by nurturing talent –  and of course by putting our donors first. Indeed these were the key themes of the opening plenary. In memory of Tony Elischer, the panel lead by Ken Burnett gave us 27 great things we could learn from Tony.  Ken summarised the future neatly:  “It’s been a tough year for fundraisers but it is Donors and Fundraisers together who will drive fundraising growth.



The challenges ahead and ongoing uncertainty were highlighted during a debate on the impact of Brexit. This session wasn’t quite so positive and of course no one really knows what is going to happen. Some interesting points were raised however:

  • Corporate partnerships will be at risk, eg. with supermarkets and financial services both under increased financial pressure.
  • International programmes will immediately be 20% more expensive to deliver
  • On a positive note: “We weathered the last depression: we will survive Brexit!”
  • Political change can bring opportunities as the sector will get a fresh chance to pitch its case to new politicians
  • As a sector we can take responsibility for bridging the gap between the Remain and Leave voters, through services on the community level. We can help bring the country back together. Having not been a voice for either side of the debate means we can be seen as independent to our beneficiaries.



In another session we heard from Richard Marbrow, Senior Policy Officer from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). He made it clear that the rules were tightening up on consent. Maximum fines are currently £500,000 and this rises to 20 million euros under the EU’s GDPR. However, it is clear that detailed guidance is still in development.  For example, to clarify how the rules that will apply to digital channels versus traditional, and surprisingly he was not able to explain what ‘explicit consent’ means compared to ‘unambiguous consent’, both terms appearing in the EU GDPR.

Also note, Richard made it clear that regardless of Brexit, the tighter rules will apply either through European GDPR or the UK DPA.

As a key message, he helpfully reminded us the key principle at the heart of the DPA: Would your handling of personal data meet the “Reasonable Expectation of the individual?” This should guide every decision we make. Richard gave us a top tip to use the ICOs DPA advice line which you can call on 0303 123 1113 and via twitter @ICONews.


Fundraising Regulator

We also met the new Fundraising Regulator, which launches this Thursday. The CEO, Stephen Dunmore, set out his stall adequately and committed to bring together all the various bits of guidance on best practice into one place where it will be looked after and developed by the Regulator. He described success as “fewer complaints and reduced negative press, and a more positive environment for fundraisers”. He is aiming to have public trust and confidence restored by 2018. Importantly, he explained that there will be no fundamental change to the Code of Practice when it transfers from the Institute of Fundraising this week and that there will be full public consultation on any proposed changes.


Email, Digital and Community Fundraising

Two really interesting strands throughout the convention were on Digital (of course) and Community Fundraising (naturally); and nowhere is this more obvious that the rise of crowdfunding. Mobile is changing giving behaviour to become more impulsive. Crowdfunding donations spike during the 9.00pm ad break and 75% are made on a mobile device. And those who share their donation through social media give, on average, £5 more than those who don’t. A concern is that 80% of crowdfunded donations are going direct to the cause and bypassing charities – though research in the US suggests that this is not impacting on traditional income streams… yet.


Email was discussed plenty. Email is far more effective at reaching your warmest supporters versus social media which may only reach 5% organically. However the impact of email is being overlooked. The ‘psychology of free tools’ mindset devalues email compared to other channels, and the weekly newsletter sent to all contacts is a lazy symptom of this. A key message is that targeted and personalised email can be very powerful, improving click-throughs by 14% and conversion by 30%. Personalisation can be achieved by ensuring content is relevant and linked to a supporter journey.



BHF gave one of the best sessions of the convention showing how, in two years, they created a new events programme from scratch. They aspired to be as successful as Macmillan and CRUK and launched two brand new mass participation events that were both profitable in their first year. On average, only 5% of new innovations are successful so this was an incredible achievement. The events also attracted a brand new 18-40 year old audience. A thorough innovation framework was at the heart of their approach that followed four stages: Focus – Create – Shape – Deliver. Alongside, they used video and social channels to keep costs low while maximising awareness and signups. Their MyMarathon virtual running event in May raised £750,000 vs £400,000 budget from 22,000 participants. At a cost of £9 per participant they achieved a 4:1 ROI which is an astonishing achievement for a new event in its first year. (Did we mention that BHF partnered with Blackbaud’s everydayhero online fundraising platform on the MyMarathon event? Well, now we have.)


Finally a special mention for the amazing Community Events team from Anthony Nolan, who presented their unique approach to relationship fundraising. Every new enquiry gets a follow up call with two hours, where the relationship begins by fully getting to know the supporter asking questions like, “Is there a special reason you chose to support us?” After all, this is when motivation to support is at its highest. Following this is a tailored plan for each supporter to ensure they can maximise their support and value to the organisation. What really came across loud-and-clear is how genuine and passionate the Anthony Nolan team are to build a long term relationship with their supporters and that this goes right across their organisation and right up to the CEO.

You may also like