Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Moving Fundraising Forward in the UK

Ann Hale
MA, CFRE
Chair, AFP
Special Guest Post 
Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP

I had the privilege of attending the Institute of Fundraising’s 2017 Fundraising Convention in London earlier this month. It was a wonderful conference, and you can read some of the highlights from the conference here.

There was an upbeat feel to the conference and attendees were very positive. However, it’s clear that a lot of fundraisers in the UK are still feeling the effects of the past two years and the relentless criticism of the profession and the sector (and a lot of it unfounded).  A popular theme was “it’s been a tough two years, but we’re moving forward and better for it in the end.”

I’d have to agree with them. If you’ve been following the work of the Commission on the Donor Experience, which was created in response to the controversies affecting the sector, you’ve probably seen some of the excellent work that’s come out of some very honest, sharp, insightful discussions about our profession and our responsibilities to our donors. Fundraising in the UK is going to be even more effective—and more responsive to donors—because of the Commission’s work, and there’s a lot that fundraisers around the world can learn from the tools and papers that have been developed. I encourage you to read the highlights of the Commission’s report, then look at the full resources on the SOFII website.

In several of the sessions, I was struck by how advanced charities in the UK are with regards to branding and marketing to the general public. One of the sessions mentioned a recent study in the UK which found that 80 percent of bequests left to charities were made by people the charity didn’t know! People in the UK seem to know and trust charity brands more than in North America, perhaps with the exception of the largest charities. I left the conference thinking that if my own organization could do more with our branding and marketing, merging it with our fundraising efforts, we would be more successful, especially with acquisition fundraising. One more item to put on my to-do list!

There was also a lot of focus on street fundraising, telemarketing and special events—raising many small gifts from many different people. It was interesting to see the differences in the types and numbers of sessions that were offered compared to the ones presented at a typical AFP conference, something which speaks to the unique experiences and strengths of fundraisers in different regions of the world.

On the other hand, there were a number of popular sessions that mirrored well-attended sessions at the AFP International Fundraising Conference. For example, sessions about ethics, building a culture of philanthropy, and storytelling were very popular. Another prevalent topic was change management—how we address and respond to changing donor attitudes and desires, and how we can better report the impact of our work and their contributions. Creating diversity in the profession and attracting a diverse workforce were also common themes.

The fundraising profession in the UK has experienced more than its fair share of turmoil lately, but is clearly on the way back up, thanks to the work of the Institute of Fundraising, the Commission and hundreds of committed fundraising and charity leaders. Their work over the last two years is a model for nonprofit sectors around the world, and I encourage everyone to see what the UK has done with the Commission and other projects.

Thanks to IoF’s president, Peter Lewis, its chair, Amanda Bringans, and everyone at the Institute for their great hospitality and an outstanding conference.

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