Status of UK Fundraising 2021: moving forward digitally

The Status of UK Fundraising 2021 report by Blackbaud

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Done is better than perfect. My mantra for the last 18 months. And one, I think, that probably resonates with most of us in the charity sector during this period. The COVID-19 pandemic, almost overnight, completely shifted how we think about work, including the way we fundraise. It fast-tracked the implementation of technology and virtual tools that enabled us to work and connect from anywhere! 

From day one of lockdown, at Blackbaud Europe and JustGiving, we asked ourselves ‘what do charities need, right now, to help them meet this challenge’? We moved into action right away, with the sole aim of providing as much support as possible, as quickly as possible. Small project groups were spun up overnight, with a new-found confidence to ‘just get stuff done’ with leaders making themselves available for quick sign-off when it was needed.

This led to faster decision-making and more team-led, agile-based projects with improved collaboration and delivery. Product roadmaps were changed in a matter of days so we could fast-track the release of Strava fitness tracking and livestreaming on JustGiving Fundraising Pages – which proved to be vital in helping people carry on supporting the causes they care about as in-person fundraising events got cancelled up and down the country. We saw livestream headshaves, marathon runs in back gardens, and flights of stairs climbed to match trekking up a mountain! 

Between April and September 2020 alone, over 50,000 fundraisers on JustGiving connected to Strava with nearly 1 million activities logged, and in our latest round of research, the Status of UK Fundraising 2021 60% of respondents have reported they are now using virtual events and challenges to acquire new supporters. 

But in the early months of lockdown, in Spring 2020, that same report revealed that over a third of organisations were reluctant to appeal to supporters, with 61% concerned about the impact the pandemic would have on their supporter’s economic situation. However, what we’ve seen on JustGiving over the last 18 months, through the enthusiastic uptake of virtual events by charities and individual fundraising efforts, is that, with the right ask, people remain ready and willing to give, despite the circumstances.  

At Blackbaud, we’ve supported hundreds of social good organisations adapt to cloud-based working with their fundraising database and CRM, enabling their fundraising teams to carry on working wherever they need to work. Back in May 2020, just two months after the first set of UK lockdown measures were put into action, 67% of people in the non-profit sector reported in our Future of Work research that they would like to continue working from home more often on a long-term basis post COVID-19. 

Fast forward to January 2021, when we asked the same question again, and that number had increased to 80%. Yet, our research shows that remote working is not necessarily appealing, effective or healthy for everyone at all times. Leaders at charities must be mindful of this as they continue to adapt their workforce strategy and culture – doing so with empathy and sensitivity of the different lived experiences of their employees over the last 18 months.

Balance is key and for many organisations the future of work is not 100% working from home, or 100% office based. There’s a hybrid model in between. As more working locations and options start to open up to us all again, the sector is at a pivotal moment to keep iterating on what the future of work looks like at our organisations and ensure the sector remains attractive – 43% will never again apply for a job that is entirely office based and that does not offer flexible working practices. 

That’s why, earlier this year, I was pleased that our research revealed that 42% of charity leaders were beginning digital transformation projects, suggesting many were preparing themselves for long-term remote working and using the lessons of the pandemic to drive change within their organisations. 

In the Status of UK Fundraising 2021, 8 out of 10 of people in the sector say they have effective systems in place for home working, with the majority also reporting that the pandemic has encouraged innovation at their organisation. And most (79%) believe it’s important for the sector to develop digital maturity, with 40% reporting their income has grown because they have invested in digital.  

This kind of change management and digital transformation would have likely taken years were it not for COVID-19 forcing us to all rapidly adapt, and I know I will definitely be drawing upon these last 18 months as a source of inspiration for the rest of my career. 

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By Sally Falvey, Head of Retention Marketing at Blackbaud Europe