Anxiety and Management in the New Normal

Although fundraisers in the UK are becoming less anxious than in previous years, we are still menaced by threatened government cuts post the elections in May; sadly causing us concern despite improvements on many fronts in our fundraising performance. These findings come from an annual Institute of Fundraising report Managing in the new normal from PWC, Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group.

The good news is that 74 percent of respondents plan to explore new fundraising ideas in the next twelve months. This in a rather conservative sector often happy to steadily cut its services and wait for a miracle, or the old normal to return. Forty-one percent will increase investment in current areas, but the key question will be is this just the usual ‘we want 10 percent more and you can have a little bit more to spend’ or is it game changing investment to double income in a few years? One rather suspects the latter. Forty-one percent do intend to start fundraising in new areas, but again is it a toe in the icy water stuff or a real plunge? And doesn’t it rather belie the 74 percent figure, which rather indicates a lot of research may only pay off in a few years time?

Interestingly, collaboration between charities may be on the increase both in service delivery (34 percent) and in fundraising (24 percent), which is good. But, is that an emergency measure, as 70 percent say they have experienced an increase in demand for services and 28 percent say they are under resourced, or is it the result of a fundamental look at their business model and an enterprising response?

Back on the anxiety front, fewer charities are reducing staff and 57 percent have increased staff levels, plus over 60 percent say their staff are either optimistic or energized, showing that mood and morale is up and anxiety is down.

The key challenges seem much as in previous years with public funding cuts, reduced grant funding and increased demand, ensuring the sustainability of the sector at the top of the list. In the next tier of concern is competition between charities and within this, fundraising competition looms large. Yes, if you are new to the game it is tough out there and you really need to be professional about it or your fundraising just won’t work. I am always amused by people who say they cannot afford to take professional advice and then blunder away their investment in fundraising through naivety. People are not going to give because your government grant has just been halved, they are only going to give because you are brilliant at meeting someone’s real urgent need and you can prove it.

By the way, there is still a huge reluctance to use repayable finance (social investment) to fund income generation and only 15 percent said that their appetite for this had increased. If trustees are to grow their organisations and meet steadily increasing demand, then with the reserves run down in the recession how else are they to invest in income generation? Are we back to crossing our fingers instead of having an entrepreneurial fundraising strategy and a real understanding of our charity’s business model?

The full report “Managing in the new normal 2015″ can be obtained from the Institute of Fundraising.