Funding experts Rogare have undertaken a study responding to objections that fundraising is ‘inappropriate’ during the coronavirus crisis
Charities should not be put off from fundraising during the Covid-19 pandemic, an international think tank has asserted.
Fundraising experts Rogare have undertaken a study responding to objections that fundraising is ‘inappropriate’ during the coronavirus crisis.
The body said it has received multiple reports of senior charity staff and board members telling fundraisers they should not ask donors for support during the pandemic.
Led by Canadian fundraisers Vivian Smith of Liberty Quest Enterprises (the project’s leader), Neil Gallaiford of Stephen Thomas Ltd, and Juniper Locilento of Community Food Centres Canada, the project team grouped objections to fundraising – collected from Canada, the UK and USA – into four overarching themes.
The objections are grouped into not fundraising because of concerns about the wider economy; because people are afraid, anxious, overwhelmed and dealing with too much right now; because an organisation isn’t involved in the frontline response to the crisis; and refraining from appealing for donations because needs are not as great as charities that are struggling, and doing so is in poor taste/seems greedy.
Some of the objections collected by the project team included:
“We don't want to come across as tone-deaf and uncaring by asking people to give what they don’t have. We'll just make people feel worse.”
“There's no point engaging in community fundraising because nobody can do anything anymore.”
“Our wealthy donors will also be struggling. We don't want to be seen to be 'capitalising' on the situation. We don't do front line work so we can't make a good case – people will give elsewhere.”
“Many of our members are suffering job and income losses, it would be callous to press them for donations, since we are not a first responder charity.”
However the project team constructed counter-arguments, which fundraisers can use or adapt to their own situations and contexts. For example, in response to objections focusing on peoples’ straitened finances, the project team recommends countering with something that might include:
“Some charities may feel that asking for support when people are struggling financially is inappropriate. Although many people’s incomes have been affected, there are others whose financial circumstances are unchanged. The lockdown has altered spending patterns, meaning that some people may have more money available to donate to charity than previously. Charities have always appealed to people at all levels of the socio-economic scale. Charities’ most loyal supporters are often those with modest incomes giving small regular or cash gifts.”
Project leader Vivian Smith said: “We know that fundraisers are encountering these types of objections, not just from board and senior management, but from colleagues and donors too. Some of the project team have had direct experience of it.
“So what we aim to give fundraisers are the types of things they could say to people to persuade them that sensitive and appropriate fundraising should continue. We’re not suggesting fundraisers copy and paste what we’ve crafted, but we do hope we’ll have saved them a lot of the brainpower and time.”
The report states charities are in a different position to companies. If there is no demand for the services or products a company sells (people don’t want them or cannot afford them), then it has no revenue and goes out of business; it’s the demand that drives the revenue.
But for a charitable organisation services are generally provided free of charge, and paid for from donations voluntarily given by others, who often do not consume those services. Simply put, the ones who benefit are not the ones who pay.
If people can no longer afford to make donations, that doesn’t make the demand for services go away. The need for services continues to exist and, in a global emergency such as the one we are currently facing, are likely to increase.
This means the need for charities to continue fundraising is more important than ever, the report states.
It adds that, traditionally, objections to fundraising are often ideological rather than fact-based, and that failing to challenge them during the pandemic will harm the sector in the long term.
Rogare’s director Ian MacQuillin said: “The need to fundraise is just as imperative during an emergency as it is during normal times, and may be even greater. Yet, if the objections to fundraising that fundraisers are currently encountering become the norm, charities will find themselves in an even more parlous state, with the effects of the pandemic exacerbated by a reluctance to ask for support.”
The report concludes that using reserves rather than fundraising is a short-term solution that will only exacerbate funding issues in the future. It says organisations must have trust in the people who support them to understand the issues the crisis has presented for charitable organisations. And it also highlights that giving to charity during lockdown can be a positive experience that makes people feel like they are helping to support society.