From fundraising to resource-raising

This guest blog comes from Caroline Beaumont, a 2010 Clore Social Fellow and Director of Services and Business Development at Reach Volunteering. She writes about her new report From Fundraising to Resource-Raising, which you can read here.

I spent the first seven years of my charity career raising money from the private sector and, over that time, I saw my and most of my peers’ job titles rebrand from corporate fundraising to corporate partnerships manager. Everyone talked about the need to create integrated, long-term partnerships and understood that high value donors often want to give more than money. But no-one was talking publicly about the struggles they often faced to get the value and potential of donated resources recognised in their charity. The skills, services or access and influence that modern donors wanted to bring to the party were usually seen as a bonus, rather than being valued in their own right, and accepting them was often viewed primarily as a supporter cultivation tactic.

But chequebook philanthropy is long gone and, in the face of falling funding, there is a renewed need for resourcefulness. So what could charities do differently to unlock untapped resources?

That’s the question I wanted to answer in my report From Fundraising to Resource-Raising, written as part of my Clore Social Leadership Programme Fellowship.

I set out to do this through a survey of 75 charity professionals, 17 interviews with experience of resource-raising and seven case studies of charities that do resource-raising well: Crisis, Christian Aid, Transaid, Save the Children UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Macmillan and FareShare. Some clear lessons emerged for those that want to become resource-raising organisations, but I want to focus here on how these can be interpreted for the donor to produce more and more meaningful ways to give that are low cost to them, but high value to the charity. Here are six roughly corresponding lessons for donors:

Learn about the charity’s strategic goals and look for mission enhancing opportunities to contribute to them. Charities often complain that donors expect them to develop new projects or programmes around their gift without regard to their existing priorities. Ask what they are trying to achieve and what programmes and projects are already planned, then jointly identify the assets you have that can help to generate income, support management or operations or help to deliver the mission.

Build relationships with the right people. I have heard two major grantmaking trusts say recently that they no longer talk to fundraisers, presumably because they don’t think they can engage on a peer level and are only after their money. But remember that fundraisers are some of the best connected people in a charity with a good view across the breadth of activity going on. So do see them as a key contact, but look for evidence that they are bringing together and introducing you to the right people in the charity to make a decision about the value and potential of what you are offering, whether they be in programmes, campaigns, procurement or operations.

Beware of funder flattery and allow the charity to negotiate. Charities are less confident about negotiating donated resources than cash donations and can end up taking things they don’t really want or, at worst, are mission diverting. Expect and invite negotiation for what is really needed.

Propose a figure that you can both agree as the value of the donated resource and insist that this is agreed with the charity’s FD and, where the gift is significant, their auditors. 66% of survey respondents weren’t able to easily find out the value of donated resources to their organisation and 72% said their charity never counts the income towards the fundraising target. This acts as a barrier to seeking and accepting donated resources. Apply some pressure to get the value recognised and reported.

Cover the ‘hidden costs’. This is the number one objection to accepting donated resources. The costs are actually well understood, but they often go unasked for because the perception is that the donor won’t pay. Understand the time and financial costs associated with managing and mobilising your gift and, wherever possible, fund them. If you can’t or won’t, then do ask how they will be budgeted for and paid for. If the charity doesn’t plan these costs in, then your gift is unlikely to be deployed effectively.

Be a good supplier – charities’ other main concerns are around quality, reliability and sustainability. If you are giving services then treat the charity as you would a paying client for your services, develop the relationship and be willing to discuss issues and problems. Some charities, like NSPCC, are employing reverse pitches for pro bono suppliers – expect this approach to get more common as charities get wiser to the value they can bring to the table.

Ultimately it is a leadership issue for charities to move from a fundraising to a resource-raising approach. Charities need money and there is an understandable reluctance to take focus away from cash giving but modern donors can offer a rich mix of resources including money, goods, services, facilities, knowledge, skills, profile, access and influence. Charities and donors that understand and take full advantage of the mix may find they can achieve more with less money, but not less resource.