It’s a tough world out there! So, what are the biggest issues facing fundraisers today?

The need to be seen as professional, technology troubles and increased competition. These were a few of the issues that have come up in conversations with our FIA Conference 2020 speakers and program committee members over the past couple of months. So, we asked them to let us know – what are the biggest challenges they see emerging over the next three years?

Standing out from the (charity) crowd

There are now 57,500 charities in Australia, according to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Standing out from the crowd is going to be a significant challenge for fundraisers in the next few years, according to Alice Anwar, chair, 2020 FIA Conference Program Committee and head of individual giving at CARE Australia.

“I think each charity will need to find their point of difference and figure out how to present that engagingly so that potential donors can match their specific vision for the world with the organisation’s,” she says.

Entrenched attitudes and professionalism

PA Research Foundation chief executive Damian Topp believes that charity staff need to stop thinking that fundraising is a “necessary evil” and focus on the impact and good work it makes possible. But he thinks this attitude will persist for some time, unfortunately.

“The biggest challenge continues to be not-for-profits and charities not embracing philanthropy as a profession. The more we acknowledge that we are here to talk about our cause and link with people connected to that cause, the better,” he says.

“We need to stop hiding behind events and being embarrassed to ask for support. Fundraising is a noble profession. We ask humans to support humanity and sometimes animals!”

For Andy Grant, Sacred Mission’s fundraising manager, one of the most pressing challenges will be ensuring everyone working in the sector focuses on best practice, professionalism and quality in the external environment.

“With fierce competition, tighter privacy regulations and a media landscape ready to pounce on any opportunity to condemn our activities, we have to be squeaky clean, transparent and professional,” he warns.

Getting to grips with technology

Data, used appropriately, can arm fundraisers with vital knowledge about donors and help create a better donor experience. And technology can offer fantastic new opportunities for fundraising and for extending giving into the digital realm. But lots of charities aren’t there yet.

“I think the biggest challenge and also the opportunity for fundraising will be the more effective use of data and technology to advance our causes and fundraising activity. Technology is rapidly changing and the way we collect, use and leverage data and insights will be more important than ever,” says Alex Struthers, general manager-supporters, Leukaemia Foundation.

“Not-for-profits should be looking already at how advanced analytics and new technology is advancing our knowledge in a wide range of fields and how we might apply that to our practice. Alongside that, of course, is then ensuring you have the right skills and capabilities in your staff to meet this challenge, so training and resource planning is needed,” she adds.

Alice Anwar thinks finding sustainable and scale-able new recruitment channels will also be difficult, and charities will struggle in adjusting to people’s changing perceptions about charities.

“We’re understanding so much more about people’s motivations for giving, and there is a real need to become more tailored and sophisticated in the way we speak to different audiences,” she says.

Getting the experience right

We recently came across a quote from Mark Phillips, founder of the UK company, Bluefrog Fundraising. He says: “the only thing that matters a damn is the donor experience.” More Australian charities are getting on board with this idea (as we uncovered in our last blog post).

But Jennifer Shailer, who works as customer experience manager for Australian Red Cross, thinks that some charities will struggle with getting it right because they don’t understand their donors’ motivations and wants.

“Our customers/supporters have the same experience-related expectations from a charity as they do for a corporate brand. We need to know our supporters deeply, understand their needs and consider how we can create an experience that makes them feel connected to the cause and eventually the organisation,” says Jennifer.

“In line with this corporate mindset, I also see a shift from being transparent about where the money goes to talking about and demonstrating how a charity is being efficient and effective. Australians will start to demand to know how are we working together to solve big problems, how are we being innovative together and removing duplication,” she adds.

Retaining staff

Andy Grant sees staff retention as a headache for some charities, as fundraisers look for better pay packets at other charities or in other sectors.

“My biggest challenge over the next three years will be to keep my team together! It’s a high performing, energetic team which delivers big on a small budget. As I imagine are most fundraising teams out there. Salaries are a constant challenge at Sacred Mission, as is the competitive nature of the fundraising landscape.”

But at least there was a silver lining for Andy.

“Working for a strong, values-based organisation and brand, along with excellent community support behind us, I see a lot of growth… Phew!” he adds.

Want to hear more from our FIA Conference 2020 speakers? Join us in Brisbane this February. Find out more here.

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