50 days of fundraising in lockdown – what has changed?

Howard Lake | 11 May 2020 | Blogs

On 23 March the UK government locked down households in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Fundraising professionals, like so many others have had to adapt rapidly and find new ways to work.
Fifty days on what does fundraising look like and what does the future hold? Is this a sunrise or a sunset for fundraisers?
As ever, the answer is more nuanced depending on the donation type, so let’s look in a bit more detail.

See my tips for working in lockdown here. 

1. Individual giving

Speaking to some fellow fundraisers there are two trends emerging here. As one would expect there is an increase in cancellation of regular gifts where supporters own income has dropped so they need to reduce or discontinue regular gifts to charities. There have also been a number of exceptional gifts by new and existing supporters because of the crisis, some solicited others not.
Online giving has been growing in recent years and with people in lockdown spending more time online, online giving is growing faster, see Howard Lake’s observations on this.
For some charities I’ve spoken to, in this period it has been more difficult to bank cheques with limited branch opening times.
What is clear, due to the unique stresses supporters have also been under is that this is a time to thank them for remaining alongside the charity, see my tips for creating a culture of thanking in your charity here.

Sheila Bailey

Sheila Bailey

Veteran fundraiser Sheila Bailey is monitoring trends by setting up a monthly report comparing month on month with the previous two years, removing all deceased. This is helping her charity to plan for any decline in individual donations.
One major gift fundraiser told me she’s doing well because of the inability to work through the engagement stage through numerous cups of tea and meetings, this means she‘s moving to the donation conversation faster and finding major donors are ready and willing to give at this unique time. The key message is it’s OK to keep asking!

2. Trusts

With many charities taking a hit elsewhere in income there are higher demands on Trusts so there are some unexpected refusals because some Trusts can stretch to more support. Many Trusts have added a focus on addressing COVID related effects so if your charity is affected there can be some new opportunities for new Trust income.
Sheila Bailey again noted that on the upside some trusts have voluntarily made good donations. They said they realised we would be hard hit having lost all of our events and wanted to help us get through this stage so we could how we would handle the rest of the year. This may be because we have always had a very good stewardship programme with our trust donors.
The Association of Charitable Foundations has some good trust fundraising resources related to COVID.

3. Legacy

There is an expectation that legacy income this year for most charities will significantly decline because of the collapse in house sales, though it will grow in coming years. Legacy Foresight gives further details.

4. Church collections

For many charities church collections are hugely important, both for the income but also as a way of engaging with supporters. Churches themselves are charities and having been hugely impacted by their closure and the big drop in income. Generally, churches are behind the curve in online giving and have remained reliant on cash collections. This crisis is prompting many parishes and dioceses to appeal for support online. The archdiocese of Birmingham is a good example of how this is done
clearly and sensitively.
So is this a sunrise or a sunset for fundraisers? Certainly watching trends will be vital for future planning. What is clear is that fundraising remains a long game, building solid relationships with individuals and organisational funders across a diverse portfolio will not only help us weather this storm but ensure the good reputation of fundraisers as stewards of some greatly needed generosity.

5 ways to succeed in the new ‘COVID’ normal

1. Look after your fundraising team. The first 50 days will have been hugely disruptive for them. Keep in touch with them and let them know appreciate their commitment
2. Thank your supporters, whether you are making an ask or not. They have been with you for years and at this time of economic depression their gifts show greater generosity than ever.
3. Consider re orientating your teams time allocation. If there are new opportunities with major donors or COVID19 Trusts are you maximising your teams time to develop these
4. Monitor income to adjust future plans. Can you see trends emerging that mean you need to inform trustees and others.
5. The impact of COVID19 on charities and fundraising will be long lasting, finding ways to switch off will help you sustain your mental energy for the long term. An excellent way to switch off is Fundraising Tune of the Day, the guest tune matching this is ‘Sunrise, Sunset’! ‘
John Green - black and white photo
John Green (@johngreenn) has worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 20 years. After 17 years he recently left seafarers’ charity Stella Maris as their Director of Development. He is currently fundraising manager at The Jesuits and has a Masters in Voluntary Administration from South Bank University. In 2012 he founded the networking forum ‘Catholics in Fundraising’ and has been a trustee at various charities including Field Lane, Aberdeen Seafarers’ Centre and has served on the grant making body of The Plater Trust. He also plays the trombone.

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