UK charities are facing uniquely unsettling changes at the moment, and renewed calls for investment in US-style fundraising aren’t helping.
Fundamental changes in the charity environment are leading to increased pressure to earn more in any way possible. Dramatic cuts in government funding, declines in lottery funding, decreasing EU grant funding, and slashes in funding for local councils are combining to challenge many charities’ ability to sustainably carry out their missions. And loudly repeated accusations of abusive practices and data mismanagement have reduced public trust in charities to its lowest level ever.
Although we are different in our regulatory frameworks, organizational cultures, tax codes, business systems, attitudes and more, the key to successful charitable fundraising is the same on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here at Powering Nonprofits, we’ll be featuring an occasional series of articles that highlight opportunities for UK charities. We don’t assume that because we’re American we have something to teach our overseas colleagues. But having worked in both countries, we have a unique perspective on what will, and won’t, work in both environments.
In 2011 I wrote an article for Arts Professional magazine that examined 2011 US vs UK fundraising for charities (Kara Larson sorts the myths from the truths about “US-style” philanthropy). Much of what it says still applies:
The only way to fundraise effectively at the individual level is to matter to people. People rarely give to ‘charity’. They give to specific organisations that do work that matters to them. Your potential donors are everyone whose life you touch, every patron who buys a ticket to see what you do, every parent whose children benefit from your work. They need to be made to believe that you are vital, and that you matter enough to support.
A charity’s relationships with people are the best and only hedge against external changes. So, in upcoming articles, we’ll cover:
Kara has a lifetime of success in patron engagement and fundraising in North America, and spent two years recently at Birmingham Royal Ballet building systems for engagement and working with touring dance companies and presenters across the UK to make the most of their audiences' interest.