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4 Things We Can Learn From Small Charity Fundraisers

Smaller charities are the heart of communities across the UK that keep tummies full, families connected, and kids playing.

And during the pandemic and continuous lockdowns, it was smaller charities that used their networks and reach to support people in their communities that were cut off, isolated, or at risk.

They keep the country moving and should be applauded for everything they do.

When we’re putting together webinars or virtual events on Fundraising Everywhere we see small charities as an excellent source of insight for the wider sector. Sure, they might not have the big teams or big budgets to do all of the flashy digital things but there are plenty of ways they’re amazing at the fundraising fundamentals.

They are small yet mighty.

Here are just four reasons that small teams and budgets help small charities play big when it comes to fundraising – and what we can all learn from them.

1. They move and pivot fast

Thanks to smaller teams and increased trust in colleagues from closer working relationships, small charity fundraisers are the best at making decisions fast and getting the most out of an opportunity.

In 2018, Tiny Tickers spotted a PR opportunity on LinkedIn with an ad agency wanting to work with a heart charity. Within an hour the decision had been made to partner up and twelve days later their campaign went live with a Christmas light switch on in their local town. It raised an extra £3,000, reached new audiences including international, and won awards – all before the bigger charities had received all of the input they needed internally for sign-off.

I’m not saying you should keep your staff numbers low, but there is a lot to learn here about the internal processes we have and whether they’re the right ones for fundraising. Review your processes with quick, informed decisions being your top priority.

2. They are connected to the community around them

Smaller charities have the benefit of working in the community and meeting with the people they exist for every day. Everyone from the receptionist to the CEO is able to talk to people impacted by the cause and share what they’ve learned with the wider team.

During my time at St Oswald’s Hospice this connection was key and many fundraising opportunities came from the visibility we had in the local community and the familiarity that came with it. Whether it was invite to feature at a fair or an opportunity to pitch to a local corporate, having a face for the brand meant we were front of mind for DIY fundraisers looking to work more closely with the charity.

If you want to improve your connection to your local community, join local Facebook, networking and corporate groups to hear first hand about what matters most to the people who live where you work.

3. They have powerful stories to share

It’s also because of this more direct connection with the community that small charity fundraisers are some of the best storytellers you can ever meet.

Through their increased interaction with beneficiaries and front-line staff, collecting and understanding stories is an every day occurrence that means they’re equipped for those, ‘tell me what you do?’ moments.

A few ways you can improve your storytelling is to create more opportunities to talk to front-line staff, start a diary of stories you hear in the news or updates to share with supporters, or seek out your own using these interview questions created by copywriter, Jen Love.

  1. What was your life like before being involved with our charity?
  2. Think about someone who has helped you, how did it make you feel?
  3. Tell me about your life now.

Three storytelling interview Qs by Jen Love: 1. What was your life like before being involved with our charity? 2. Think about someone who has helped you, how did it make you feel? 3. Tell me about your life now.

4.They are brilliant at stewardship

And finally, small charity fundraisers are great at stewardship.

Because of their direct contact with supporters and beneficiaries, their empathy and connection to the people who make it happen means they will do almost anything to remind them that they’re appreciated.

Viki Hayden-Ward regularly hand-writes her appeals, thank you letters and Christmas cards as a way to connect with supporters and humanise the organisation – and with great results. Her 2020 hand-written campaign resulted in an 86% response rate from donors and an increase on 2020’s fundraising.

If you want to connect more with donors, implement small and interactive ways to stay connected that go beyond digital comms. Pick up the phone, write a postcard, or make the most of our increased virtual world and arrange a video call with key supporters you’ve not checked in with for a while.

You’re invited! Join us at Small Charity Legends

We’ll be celebrating, upskilling, and platforming small charities at the Small Charity Legends virtual summit on 7th July 2021. The first 35 JustGiving blog readers to sign up using discount code FIRST35 will get a free ticket, and after that you can use it to claim a 50% discount!

Join us for two-hours of jam-packed sessions designed specifically to what small charities have told us they need, including maximising resource, coping as a solo fundraiser, and growing digital fundraising from scratch. 

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Candid launches ‘U.S. social sector’ dashboard | Philanthropy news

Candid has launched a U.S. Social Sector Dashboard, a free resource designed to “demystify” the sector by providing data on its scope, constraints, and potential.

Developed with funding from Amazon Web Services and Vanguard Charitable, the dashboard offers key data and insights about the makeup and impact of civil society, including previously unreleased statistics on the racial composition of leaders and funding flows to charities. According to the dashboard, the social sector, which employs 12.5 million people, comprises more than 1.81 million nonprofit organizations: 501(c)(3) charitable organizations (80 percent), which include public charities (73 percent) and private or community foundations (7 percent); 501(c)(4) advocacy and social welfare groups (4 percent); 501(c)(6) business associations (4 percent); 501(c)(7) social and recreation clubs (3 percent); labor unions and other 501(c)(5) groups (3 percent); and fraternal societies categorized as 501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) organizations (2 percent).

According to the dashboard, religious organizations currently make up 18 percent of public charities, followed by those focused on human services (17 percent), community and economic development (15 percent), education (14 percent), sports and recreation (8 percent), arts and culture (7 percent), philanthropy and nonprofit management (7 percent), health (7 percent), and the environment and animal welfare (4 percent). In terms of funding flow, in 2018 public charities received $292 billion in contributions from individuals, $76 billion from foundations, $40 billion from bequests, and $20 billion from corporations; $174 billion in government support; and $1.6 trillion in earned income.

And among reporting nonprofits, 60 percent of CEOs identified as white, 10 percent as Black, 5 percent as Latinx, 3 percent as Asian/AAPI, 1 percent as Native American/Indigenous, 3 percent as multiracial/multiethnic, and 1 percent as additional ethnicities, while 17 percent did not disclose. Among board members, 66 percent were white, 15 percent Black, 7 percent Latinx, 5 percent Asian/AAPI, 1 percent Native American/Indigenous, 2 percent multiracial/multiethnic, and 0.4 percent additional ethnicities, while 4 percent did not disclose.

“Candid exists to get people the information they need about the social sector to do good. Many of our tools focus on one organization, one grant, or one issue at a time; that kind of focus can be critical for decision makers,” said Candid executive vice president Jacob Harold. “This new dashboard builds on that focus by offering a fuller picture of the social sector as a whole. We hope that this tool will help people build a better understanding of the nonprofit and philanthropic ecosystem and its central role in our society.”

(Photo credit: GettyImages/Prostock Studio)

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UW–Madison receives $20 million for Letters & Science building | Philanthropy news

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has announced a $20 million lead gift from brothers and alumni Jeff Levy (’72) and Marv Levy (’68, JD ’71) in support of a new academic building in the College of Letters & Science.

Construction on Irving and Dorothy Levy Hall, named for the parents of Jeff and Marv, is expected to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025. Once complete, the building will establish a unified home for the Department of History and nine other L&S academic departments, programs, and centers that currently are spread across eight facilities on campus. The five-story building will feature nineteen classrooms as well as a space where students can gather and interact informally with each other and their instructors to maximize collaboration.

The Levy brothers own and operate Phillips Distributing Corporation in Madison. Their commitment was contingent upon the Wisconsin state legislature and governor including the project in the 2021-23 state budget with $60 million in state support, which occurred earlier this year.

“We envision this vital new facility as a highly collaborative and state-of-the-art learning environment for all,” said College of Letters & Science dean Eric Wilcots. “We are immensely grateful to the Levy family for their support of this vision. Our students deserve classroom space that enhances interactive learning and engagement through cutting-edge technology. They also deserve a building that inspires, rather than intimidates. The Levy family’s gift will reverberate through future generations, touching many lives.”

“We are proud to help make this building a reality. We hope it will be a central educational location for the undergraduate experience at UW-Madison,” said Marv Levy. “Our hope is that by honoring our family legacy of charitable giving with this gift, we can offer to future generations some of the opportunity that the UW has provided us.”

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U.S. nonprofit sector uneven in impact and recovery, report finds | Philanthropy news

While nonprofits have contributed significantly to U.S. society and economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of the sector is uneven in both impact and recovery, a new report from Independent Sector finds.

Based on aggregated survey and research data from multiple sources in four categories — financial resources, human capital, governance and trust, and public policy and advocacy — the second edition of the Health of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector (43 pages, PDF) found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic varied by subsector and organization size, with arts organizations and those that rely on fees for service hit especially hard. Yet, even as 40 percent of nonprofits saw declines in total revenue and all subsectors except social services saw drops in gross output, the sector contributed 5.9 percent of GDP in 2020 — up 0.4 percentage points from 2019. And while 57 percent of nonprofits cut overall expenses, 64 percent suspended services, 44 percent reduced the number of programs or services, and 47 percent reported serving fewer people in 2020, Independent Sector’s Trust in Civil Society survey found that, as of early 2021, 57 percent of surveyed Americans had received nonprofit services and 84 percent expressed confidence in the ability of nonprofits to strengthen American society, up 3 percentage points from 2020.

According to the report, the sector’s advocacy efforts in 2020 helped secure notable federal resources that served as financial lifelines to nonprofits, particularly through the Paycheck Protection Program, payroll tax credits, and temporary universal charitable deduction. In addition, a study by Nonprofit VOTE found that voter engagement efforts helped reach underrepresented communities and narrow participation gaps.

The report outlines recommendations in each category to strengthen the sector, including prioritizing flexible funding, developing a shared understanding of equitable financing, promoting evidence-based practices to close workforce diversity and equity gaps, building capacity of virtual volunteering, improving the quality and depth of metrics for equity and “healthy” governance, improving digital access and literacy, and establishing public policy advocacy as a core competency of nonprofit management and governance.

“We have much to do to build the nation we, as changemakers, dream of becoming,” wrote Independent Sector president and CEO Dan Cardinali in the report’s foreword. “What can galvanize us to greater positive action? It’s that the everlasting human qualities of resilience, kindness, and collaborating for collective progress do not fade easily. They are within our grasp every day, giving all of us hope and confidence. The health of our nation is the sum of the richness and diversity of our members and sectors working together, elevating dignity, honoring our differences, and building for the common good.”

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Regional Food Bank)

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