Cat Palmer was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Wiltshire Music Centre until September 2016, and has remained with the organisation as Development Assistant.
Risk-taking is a phrase that scares a lot of people. It’s also a crucial part of fundraising, and perhaps one of the most common ways that risk-taking can manifest itself in a fundraising context is through the diversification of income streams. In recent years, this has often occurred through charities’ investment into digital fundraising which has been a source of increasing revenue for some time. As you can see from the graphic below, there’s been a 20% increase in the size of the average online gift from 2010-2014. (Note that the £6.01 decrease from 2013 to 2014 has been attributed to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which gave 2013’s online fundraising an additional boost).
Although there is also a view as to whether digital fundraising is actually another method of fundraising or if it is simply another tool with which to fundraise – discuss!
Whatever the view I have become interested in the potential of online campaigns, and Giving Tuesday in particular. Designed to maximize the fundraising capacity of non-profit organisations with a focus on using digital fundraising, Giving Tuesday is a global movement. Originating from the US, it reached the UK in 2014, but non-profits based in countries from Kenya to Singapore are participating. The premise behind Giving Tuesday is simple: a day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas season, to encourage people to support charities by donating money, time or expertise following the Christmas shopping sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It’s a growing phenomenon, with donations on Giving Tuesday in 2014 being 270% higher than they had been the previous year, and research by Blackbaud, a fundraising software firm, found that online donations during November and December in 2014 were 15% higher than in the same time period in 2010. This year, Giving Tuesday is on 1st December and my host organisation, the Wiltshire Music Centre, has partnered with Giving Tuesday to launch our Bath Half Marathon fundraising campaign.
Clearly, there’s a lot of positive talk around Giving Tuesday, but in an era where fundraising is increasingly important for arts organisations to balance their books, as fundraisers we cannot simply assume that because Rosie’s Rainbow was very successful in their first Giving Tuesday in 2014, that our participation in Giving Tuesday this year will provide us with similar results.
Whilst we have a strategy to run our Giving Tuesday campaign, the income from online campaigns can be wildly variable, and so budgeting for online income can be very difficult. Additionally, accounting for the return on investment regarding the staff time required to implement and run the campaign is difficult. Putting aside practical difficulties, there is also some research that suggests that the positives of Giving Tuesday are not as great as the media around it would like us to believe. Tim Ogden puts forward a convincing case that it does increase activity on social media, but doesn’t have a significant effect on giving. This is a good thing purely in terms of raising awareness, but not in terms of fundraising if increased social media activity does not translate into donations. Equally, when another piece of research by Blackbaud suggests that Christmas is an important time of year for non-profits in any sector, but one-off campaigns can produce significant income at any time of the year, it is easy to question the hype around Giving Tuesday – should you focus on it, when you could run a separate campaign at another time which might be better for your non-profit?
I’m intrigued to see the impact of Giving Tuesday this year, both at my host organisation and elsewhere. At the time of writing, it’s too early to say what the effect of participating in Giving Tuesday has had for us, but I do believe that engaging with potential supporters through digital technologies is a crucial part of fundraising and that online campaigns may be a way to help us achieve this.
How important have you found online fundraising campaigns to be for your organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts.