Who can resist the prospect of the great British cuppa and a slice of scrumptious cake?
Not many judging by the attendance at the latest Association of Fundraising Consultants’ remote session. The session was originally planned to be held in London where we could all meet at a lovely location in Pall Mall. However, as with so many other meetings around the world, we had to adapt due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Tea & Cake took on a whole new dimension as it was held via Zoom. The downside was obvious – everyone had to supply their own tea and cake! However, the upside was that everyone got to reconnect for a great interactive discussion. Munching upon cookies, healthy brownies and slices of Victoria sponge, the conversation began around how consultancies were coping, the changes they had made and clients’ perception of the situation and attitudes to continuing and/or starting new fundraising initiatives.
One consultant got the conversation started by sharing how their clients are still very active. Their consultancy looked at Covid contingency plans for each client including funding plans, emergency funders, using the Covid Response Facebook group and LinkedIn as helpful resource tools. It became clear that clients all had differing opinions on whether they thought it was ethical to seek emergency funding particularly with the NHS requiring so much financial support.
Members had also been looking at ideas for virtual fundraising including the 2 Point 6 Challenge. This will potentially be most useful for those that have nothing set up as yet.
Some fundraising appeals have shown a significant rise in income with one charity for the homeless doing much better than normal since the pandemic. Another charity for green spaces has also gained tremendous lot of support which may be due to everyone using and appreciating these spaces since lockdown.
The general consensus among everyone attending was that the public has been very responsive to charities especially Cpt Tom Moore who has raised over £30 million and has now got to No.1 in the UK charts.
However, one member asked if the efforts of Cpt `Moore has had a detrimental impact on the fundraising efforts of other charities? Other consultants mentioned that the NHS is not a charity as it is funded by the Government. Were the monies raised going where the public expected them to go?
Some members mentioned that donation via direct debits have been cancelled since the pandemic took a grip, given threats to jobs and uncertainty within the workplace.
For some consultancies and charities, people have been furloughed making it difficult for charities to continue. Some charities will not have donor stewardship operating and so that all-important relationship-building and communication will be missed.
One consultancy reported a projected decline of 30% short term. Another consultancy predicted not seeing a return to any kind of normality until October at the earliest. Where consultants are dealing with schools and universities, they are predicting that things will not get back to normal until all students return on site and get back to something of a normal routine. Members did not think this will happen until the start of the next academic year at the very earliest and those appeals that are already in progress will get played out in September with feasibility studies also being done then. Organisations will need to adapt their plans accordingly, including the spec of their building and the timing of completion.
Covid is driving businesses to operate online. Some tasks can be carried out perfectly well online but for others such as capital fundraising consultants have preferred to delay campaign activities until face-to-face meetings are possible again. Consultants are working hard on the behind-the-scenes activities for appeals.
Consultants agreed that online meetings will probably become more common in future. Some countries, such as USA. seem to be very open to digital meetings.
Some consultants have seen an influx of trust and donations, and others have been overloaded with companies offering to help which in turn can hamper sticking to the strategies of charities.
Those charities that rely heavily on large events that they have planned throughout the year will now be struggling to replace the earnings from these with online events. One charity given as an example is Macmillan.
There have been some real positives that have arisen from the current situation for consultants including the increase in personal contact via the use of the telephone. This, in turn, is great for developing relationships and finding common ground. Existing major donors seem, on the whole, to have been receptive to a chat on the phone.
The important issue for all the consultants was to listen to their clients and do what the client requires and be prepared to readjust plans, schemes and timelines.
There will always be advantages arising from a crisis so it is essential not to miss them. Marketing within the current climate is vital according to many consultants although it may be that different strategies are used such as people at home telemarketing could be a good investment whilst ensuring GDPR is followed. Consultants need to continue to be authentic and their messages need to convey this, abiding by the AFC’s codes of practice.
Hospice consultants have seen the public and companies alike be very generous with PPE being donated and many new first-time fundraisers each doing their small part for their chosen charities, which is always great news for the fundraising sector.
Sharing information seems to have increased within the fundraising world as everyone tries to help everyone else. The online world has become somewhat crowded with invitation after invitation to webinars and seminars although the attendance of some is not great. If anyone is considering offering a session online, make sure the content is unique and purposeful. Training for this online environment was noted as an area that would be helpful for many people around the world. People have been thrown into operating virtually with often little understanding and limited experience. There can be bonuses to this as nobody has had time to spend worrying about how to operate this way. How to train trustees to operate online is also an issue that was raised. The best advice given for all online activities is to always involve everyone and to keep asking questions as this ensures that people stay engaged and alert. Practice online is virtually a certainty given the current climate, so don’t be scared of it as most people are in the same boat as you. It could become a forum that will be increasingly used in the future as discussed earlier.
A lot of consultancies experienced knee jerk reactions from clients at the start of lockdown but many have since realised that they operated with a panic reaction and have since been in talks about how they can proceed now and no one reported having clients cancel, they may have deferred, but none cancelled which is great news.
With all of the above discussed and everyone safe and well it was time to swig down the last sip of tea and to hide the empty plate before ending the meeting on Zoom. Now for an hour’s exercise to burn off all those wonderful additional calories!