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Top tips for fundraising beyond lockdown – from the experts

Melanie May | 19 May 2021 | News

A group of red to do lists post-its by Ann H from Pexels

With the rules once again changing this week, and lockdown continuing to ease, in some ways life is getting back to normal. As things open up, for fundraisers the pressure will be on to find ways of bringing in much needed income. We asked people from across the sector to share their top tips for getting it right.

Covering everything from legacy fundraising, to digital, phone, F2F, and events, common threads include embracing contactless ways of giving, remaining agile and adaptable, finding ways to show impact and deepen engagement, but also, and perhaps the most reiterated tip of them all, taking the time to talk and listen to find out how supporters feel, and what they need.


Recruiting and managing millennials, a course by Bruce Tait.

Now’s the time to reach out

Rob Cope, Director, Remember A Charity

“Leaving a legacy isn’t something people do every day. When people write a gift into their Will, it’s a testimony of what really matters to them; an affirmation of their life values. A chance to say ‘thank you’. And, as we come out of lockdown – a time when people have re-evaluated their priorities and are considering end-of-life planning – legacy giving is all the more fitting.


“So, for charities looking to build their legacy income – particularly those who have hesitated during the pandemic – now’s the time to re-connect and to deepen engagement, to reach out to new supporters, to share stories that show the impact of legacy giving and to demonstrate the organisation’s continued relevance in this new world.”

Keep talking and testing

Zoe Amar FCIM, Founder and Director, Zoe Amar Digital

“As we emerge from lockdown fundraisers are going to be under huge pressure to deliver, especially for face to face events. Boards will want to take advantage of pent up demand and the potential growth of the economy. Yet fundraising teams need to take a moment to reflect on what they have learned about their donors over the last year. How might these learnings inform your fundraising plans?


“This year should be easier than last, thanks to the vaccine rollout, but it will still be volatile and uncertain. Expect donors’ behaviour to change rapidly, as they acclimatise to new ways of living and working. Make sure you are speaking to them continuously, staying on top of how their needs are evolving. You’ll need to invest time in testing and learning, and creating a diverse range of fundraising products so you’ve got irons in the fire for however things play out.”

Think creatively about how you engage

Thea Partridge, Charity Marketing Consultant, Crowdfunder

“With the drastic shift in fundraising landscape, charities must continue to adapt their fundraising strategies to survive. There’s never been a better time to try out new approaches and platforms. And with potential UK based donors eager to get back out into the world to socialise, there are increasing demands on their budget, so our top tip is to think creatively about offering donors really appealing incentives to encourage them to part with their money and to part with more of it than they might if making a straight up donation.


“Does your charity have some celebrity ambassadors who could offer up some ‘money can’t buy experiences’ that could be used as prizes in a charity prize draw? Or, perhaps you have a corporate partner who can offer your charity a service, product or event, which you could use as a reward to incentivise higher donations for a specific campaign. A great way to obtain new supporters is to asking your corporate partner to share your campaign page with their (opted in) database who will already have an interest in their incentive, then you can retarget your expanded audience (those who purchase the reward) in a secondary campaign.”

A man and a woman on their mobile phones by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Include contactless giving options

Elliot Green, Head of Communications,

“Include at least one contactless giving option as part of your next campaign.


“If there was ever a time to embrace digital fundraising tools, it’s now. Long-term restrictions have forced people to become more familiar with their smartphones and new payment technologies. Before the pandemic, many of us had never heard of a ‘QR code’ or realised we could add our debit card to our phone to make it even easier to ‘tap and go’. Yes, there will always be those who prefer to give cash or (dare we say) whip out the chequebook, but on the whole, Coronavirus has only accelerated the adoption of digital donation technology. It’s never been more important to offer a safe, secure, contactless donation option as part of your fundraising campaigns.”

Consider value exchange as a way of attracting support

Dan Martin, Digital Strategy Director, WPNC

“Building pools of potential donors is one of fundraising’s trickiest tasks. The pandemic has decimated face-to-face recruitment, making it even harder to find new supporters. That’s why the technique of value exchange is coming into its own.


“Value exchange may have been around for years but the use of digital channels for campaigns, such as social media, is growing. It’s a great way to engage and attract potential donors who are spending more time online. It’s also a win-win approach for both charities and supporters where each side gives – and gets – something out of the bargain.


“In return for a coveted promotional item or exclusive content, prospective donors are willing to provide their personal details. Charities can then follow up to secure a one-off or regular donation.


“Often overlooked and undervalued, digital value exchange campaigns are set to become a key element of ‘always-on’ fundraising in future.”

A QR code on a mobile phone Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Take advantage of the rise of QR codes

Vicky Reeves, Managing Director, goDonate

“As footfall increases again charities can reach large numbers of potential donors. We’ll witness QR codes as a mainstream way of donating on the go. If some restrictions on face-to-face fundraising activity remain, or people are simply unwilling to engage this way, fundraising methods that offer an element of remote donation will be welcomed.


“Speed of donation is one big benefit of QR codes: donors can quickly scan the code on their smartphone, and be taken directly to a digital donation platform such as goDonate to give quickly using digital wallets. The other clear advantage is the data capture opportunity the technique affords charities.


“We’re already using QR codes on out of home and other fundraising material for a growing number of clients, including the latest ‘Brew with the Crew’ campaign for the The Fire Fighters Charity. Expect the quiet rise of QR to reach a crescendo.”

Start event planning now to be ready for demand

John Tasker, Partner, massive

“Start planning now, to get ready for increased demand.


“Consumer studies and recent test events all demonstrate that the appetite to get back to shared experiences and live events is there.


“Add in those who’ve taken up new activities during lockdown and new supporters recruited through virtual campaigns who’ll be looking for their next challenge once restrictions lift, and the potential audience for fundraising events has grown significantly.


“If you can overcome the challenge of planning at short notice (whilst staying safe) and can adapt to take account of all we’ve learnt from virtual, like using tech to connect with those who can’t be physically present, to reinforce the sense of community around the event and open fundraising up to a wider audience, then there’s potential to take events fundraising far beyond where we left off way back in the good old days of 2019.”

A colour run event with women running covered in paint stains by Picography on Pexels

Listen to your supporters when planning events

Chester Mojay-Sinclare, Founder and CEO, Enthuse

“Take time to listen to your supporters and understand while some may be fun seeking, raring to get back to normal, others will be experiencing FOGO (fear of going out) and want to play it safe. Data from Enthuse’s Donor Pulse study of 1,000 UK citizens showed that appetite towards physical events can vary by demographic. There is much less concern about virtual and hybrid events, but a key takeaway here is that even with restrictions being loosened in the months ahead charities will need to reassure participants about being able to take part safely.


“Of those who want to take part in physical events, the majority want events to be fun – 41% chose this as their preferred type of event, with just 9% choosing a race. As we come out of lockdown, it’s not a case of choosing physical or virtual events, instead it’s about running them in tandem to ensure the preferences of all potential fundraisers are met. Whatever your event plan, the digital experience needs to feel seamless and part of your overarching brand and fundraising strategy.”

Don’t forget the power of conversation

Helen McKenzie, CEO, Purity Fundraising

“Possibly the most insightful learning from last year to take forward is just how important non-financial conversations have been to supporters. Many of our clients turned to non-financial donor care campaigns designed to check in, to say ‘thank you’ and ask ‘how are you?’. These enabled the charities to get a sense of how supporters were feeling, to show them they were valued and re-energise their commitment, while sharing the impact of Covid on the charity and how it was responding. The conversations helped to strengthen the connection and loyalty felt, and we saw an appreciation coming through from supporters with heart-warming messages to the charities to ‘keep on doing what you’re doing’, along with a desire to help.


“As we move into recovery it’s essential we don’t let this go. It’s a time to focus on integration, of channels, as well as messaging. Blending a non-financial ‘how are you’ and ‘thank you’ with a ‘can you support’ ask in the same conversation makes for a more human and more genuine exchange. Whether it’s donor care or acquisition, people are interested in how your charity is doing, how it’s been affected, while they need to know they are valued and how they can make a difference. This means integrating across all your channels – digital, telephone, email – and ensuring the relevant teams are on the same page for a consistent and genuine supporter experience across all campaigns.”

Adaptability will be critical for success

Joe Geary, Marketing Manager, GoodBox

“Adaptability has been the common trait in charities who have successfully navigated the pandemic. With that in mind, now is not the time to settle back into old habits. Adaptability will be more vital to your success than ever before as restrictions ease and the UK moves towards a new, post-Coronavirus, norm.


“It is important to understand that the landscape has changed, as have the habits and preferences of donors and visitors across the UK. With that in mind, charities face a steep learning curve over the coming months in figuring out how to ensure safe interactions with donors while still building a connection. It is almost certain that the old way of doing things won’t work with the public’s new awareness so your fundraising must be flexible to figure out what works and what doesn’t.


“It’s no secret that cash usage has been declining for years, a trend which has hugely accelerated in response to the pandemic. If you have been hesitant to explore methods of accepting cashless donations in the past, now is the time to do your homework. Would your donors prefer to support you by a tap of a contactless card or smart phone, an NFC tag, a QR code or by donating online? Giving your donors multiple ways connect with your cause ensures you are reaching the widest audience possible.”

Two message balloons on a bright pink background by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

It’s a privilege to talk to people – so make it count

Dominic Will, Managing Director, PFS (Personal Fundraising Services)

“The world as we know it has transformed and people really are approaching life with a fresh perspective, giving charities a fantastic opportunity to reach out and engage with potential new supporters. When it comes to face-to-face fundraising, people’s responses are changing. Those we speak with often want to talk for longer, there’s greater understanding of how much charities need support, and they feel a real sense of compassion and a drive to help, which is evidenced by an unprecedented amount of positive feedback.


“It’s crucial – particularly now – that the sector seizes this opportunity not only to get out there and talk with supporters, but to listen, honing the narrative for future campaigns and broader charity messaging. We should be offering a range of ways for the public – many of whom may be in different circumstances than before – to show their support. By engaging the public passionately about causes that matter, in this personal, immediate way, we can build new connections and generate lasting supporter relationships for the future.”

Listen. Don’t return to normal as if nothing happened.

Richard Sved, 3rd Sector Mission Control

“My main piece of advice for fundraisers as we come out of lockdown is to keep actively listening to your supporters, and ask them how they feel – and react accordingly. Don’t assume that they’ll be emerging into a world that they’re happier with, or that everything will return to what it was before the pandemic. I’m worried that once this is ‘over’ charity leaders will effectively wipe out the previous 18 months or however long it will have been, and say “let’s just go back to that strategy we were following in February 2020”. Please don’t allow this to happen! There is so much that we can learn from what has gone well, and from listening to our supporters. Nothing is binary. There are shades of grey. Please do not just flick the reset switch.”

Use data to inform your approach

Jon Kelly, Managing Director, Wood for Trees

“Undoubtedly the last 12 months has had a profound impact on fundraising, but it has also changed the way we see and use data as the pandemic has indirectly made more people aware of line charts and statistical rates.


“From a fundraising perspective we have seen the changes in the way supporters engage with charities, Close contact activities have taken a hit due to restrictions put in place, digital has seen a long overdue boost, and traditional channels such as mail and TV have boomed. What we must consider is whether this has changed human behaviour forever. With all the changes and disruption of 2020, it is vital to understand whether you are now engaging with new supporters or existing supporters who have switched their way of giving. If so, will this switch be temporary? Or will they revert to old methods once available? And if they do revert, will they also continue to give in these new ways?


“If you can use data on your supporters’ behaviour, and the wider context, to understand the full picture, you will be in the ideal place to build these new and changing relationships in the most appropriate way in 2021, and beyond. Our InsightHub data is still showing these trends continuing but it is important to continue to monitor. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but take what you know has worked in the past, apply learning from Covid activity, and test and monitor. This way, when we hit a ‘new normal’ once more, in whatever shape that takes, we will have gathered enough insight to respond appropriately.”