We look at how community fundraising is transforming the charity sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
Community fundraising represents a marked shift in how charities attract donations.
Instead of focusing on attracting new donors, charities are looking to mobilise their existing supporters.
This means that long-term supporters, corporate donors and beneficiaries, get involved from the start. They contribute to decisions about fundraising and spending.
For some charities, community fundraising represents a cultural and organisational rethink. It constitutes an overhaul of traditional models.
Traditional donor-based fundraising focuses on making new supporters feel good about their giving. But, this can sometimes leave beneficiaries feeling disenfranchised with the decision-making process.
Community fundraising taps into the experience of a community of supporters and beneficiaries. They are already invested emotionally and financially in a cause, so are ideally placed to take a stronger lead in raising funds.
COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of the community model in the UK charity sector.
We examine whether community fundraising is the future of fundraising - as well as how this shift in strategy is likely to impact the charity sector long term.
It makes sense for community fundraising to drive charities’ search for donations. Who can add value and expertise to raising funds? Who can engage with communities and help forge long-term relationships? The answer to both questions is charities’ army of community fundraisers. They should be more involved with the work of the charity and the people they support on a daily basis.
“Who has regular, direct contact with lifelong supporters of your charity; people who give their time, skills and money to help you succeed? People who would be perfect for engaging in legacy conversations. Community fundraisers.”
This year’s accelerated shift from in-person fundraising to online campaigns also bodes well for the future of community fundraising.
This trend had already begun before the current health crisis. This is due to the proliferation of social media tools and online fundraising platforms. These are easy to use for communities, with often only the basic digital skills needed.
A New Local Government Network (NLGN) report called Community Versus Coronavirus: The Rise of Mutual Aid examined the increasing links between digital and community fundraising.
The report examines how charity supporters and volunteers are already helping mutual aid groups. This is especially the case amid COVID-19.
“Digital infrastructure and wide usage of web-based social media have been a central component of many groups’ ability to function during the lockdown, according to the NLGN.
The report gives the example of one group who used digital to raise £9,000 “to help support individuals and households who had fallen on hard times with basic support for things like bills, nappies and formula milk.”
The report identifies WhatsApp and Facebook messaging as useful tools for mobilising communities.
Community fundraising can improve diversity, inclusion and equity in charity operations. Communities of supporters becoming more involved in fundraising, as well as in decisions around how money is spent.
This is examined further in a report this year by the think tank Rogare, which details the potential conflict between donor centred fundraising and community-centric fundraising.
The think tank argues that community fundraising has an inherent focus on interdependence and equity.
One criticism of donor-centred fundraising is that it “perpetuates white saviourism and fuels systematic injustice” by marginalising beneficiaries.
Commenting on the report, fundraising consultant Craig Linton added: “We all have a duty to raise money in a way that recognises the needs of all stakeholders.”
One way to offer practical support is for charities to teach their community fundraisers basic digital skills. These should include setting up fundraising pages and mobilising key supporters through social media.
This is particularly relevant with mass participation events, such as the London Marathon, becoming virtual events.
“Give community fundraisers the support and space, and teach them the skills, to build strong, long-lasting relationships within their communities; to find the influencers aligned with your cause to increase your reach and impact.”
- Nikki Bell
There are several tools that can help. Amongst them is a range of products offered by Enthuse, which help organise fundraising, donations and supporters. This includes organising virtual events and products to organise fundraising pages.
Engaging with corporate partners in fundraising is also key to mobilising existing supporters. These relationships are most effective when they bring benefits to both sides, including raising the profile of brands and enhancing fundraising power.