Charities working together - instead of organisations working in separate fields, and perhaps even vying for resources, we can combine forces - working together rather than in competition
“In the UK, we know that competition has increased, because the core sources of funding that we’ve relied on over the last 30 or 40 years are either contracting or declining"
Joe Jenkins, Director of Supporter Impact and Income at the Children’s Society, speaking at the International Fundraising Congress last year.
Despite the increased competition in the sector, charities are using digital to cooperate to focus policy attention, increase visibility and funding opportunities. Delivering impact against the harsh reality of limited funding has left charities squeezed financially. Last year, 666 charities closed, up 27% from the year before.
The reasons for closure were clear – falling donor income, coupled with lack of trust pushed groups to wind down operations. However, some types of closures represented positive outcomes. Charities voluntarily closing, or transferring their organising to other like-minded groups indicated that the charitable mission had been accomplished.
Charities might also be challenged from a marketing perspective. Charity Digital guest writer John Onion notes that: “In paid search, the cost of an ad is effectively calculated in an auction. Charities need to bid against each other for each click.” The effect of the advertising expense diminishes the amount of money going directly to the charity, as organisations are pitted against one another in a way that could be avoided by charities working together. Competition has also come from outside the voluntary sector. A report by the Lloyds Bank Foundation found that there is “little evidence of a distinctive ‘offer’ from the voluntary sector as a whole, or from small charities in particular,” mentioning that other types of organisations offer similar impact or services.
Voluntary organisations can work together to innovate and achieve common goals.
"Instead of charities working in separate fields, I wonder if we could do more to find ways to combine forces, working and innovating together. Competition between the funds of an ever-growing number of charities and the confusion it can cause among donors, can lead to the siloing of expertise and at worst, territorial behaviour.”
Cooperation between charities can foster innovation and ideas exchange. The NPC’s Inspiring Impact is a digital and physical space designed to grow charity collaborations and learnings. The digital online tools include Measuring Up! and the Data Diagnostic, help support the voluntary sector to assess its impact. Inspiring Impact also runs peer-to-peer learning networks across the country to help make connections in the sector.
Charities working together can improve awareness of the cause and increase digital fundraising. Plastic Oceans UK has just joined the roster of 23 other charities appearing in the Advent of Change calendar. One of many charity-backed products sold online and in stores, the calendar donates £1 for every calendar sold in John Lewis concessions. Innovative match funding campaigns have also worked. The digital campaign #SummerGive by The Childhood Trust doubled funding from other charities, and raised over £850,000 this year, more than a single charity could alone.
Working together can give the cause a stronger voice and can motivate like-minded charities to band together. The Richmond Group of Charities, is a network of multiple charities working in the health and social care sector. With the support of members, the Richard Group has identified 5 key strategic areas to influence, including how digital can serve health data. The joint initiative engages with industry giants – the NHS, Health and Wellbeing Boards, and Clinical Commissioning Groups. Some of the most prominent members include AgeUK, MacMillian Cancer Support, and the British Red Cross.