Helplines and Fundraising: the future is innovative?

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Our fabulous fundraising panel at the Helplines Partnership Conference 2015 were bursting with good ideas and positivity.

Charity fundraising can be a challenge. With the squeeze on public funds, and grant programmes heavily oversubscribed, it can be hard for helplines to find the essential funding which they need in order to provide vital services to vulnerable people.

It’s also been a challenging year for fundraising, with the Etherington Review lead by NCVO exploring where reform to charity fundraising might need to occur in future. But International comparisons suggest that Britain is one of the more generous nations in the world, and it was great to hear from three expert speakers, all with different ideas for addressing the challenging topic of helpline funding.

Andy Harris, Director of Fundraising & Marketing at Breast Cancer Care gave a humorous insightful account of fundraising achievements within Breast Cancer Care who have been successful in developing effective relationships with individual and corporate donors. Within this three key components were highlighted as being vital when considering campaigns: mutually beneficial, strong relationships and amazing experience. The intersection between these three is, as Andy expressed “where the magic happens!”.

Rose Stone, Head of Advice & Information at Gingerbread took a different approach, providing a very comprehensive overview of their Social Return on Investment model. Exploring Gingerbread’s approach and methodology helped demystify the benefits of having a clear framework to measure, manage and account the social value of an organisation. This helps them have better conversations with potential supporters and funders about the impact of their work.

Karl Wilding, Director of Public Policy for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) provided an overview of the challenges facing fundraisers in the third sector, especially in light of recent media coverage. He offered examples from a variety of community based charities which not only created inventive campaigns utilising technological advances but also deployed those which harked back to a more grassroots approach which have stood the test of time. Karl’s key message was that there is great innovation taking place in building support through crowdfunding and social interaction models.

What all of the speakers brought to the panel was the sense that there is a shift happening in how charities, and particularly helplines will be funded in future, probably with less availability to grants than there has been in the past, and that it pays to be innovative and try new approaches.

There was a lot of interest from the floor, particularly on Social Return of Investment. A ‘social investment’ is an investment that provides a social as well as a financial return. However social return on investment is a complex method of working out the effectiveness of a charity or programme of activities, to attribute a monetary figure on the amount of ‘good’ provided to society. The charity may need specialist expertise to help them develop such an approach.

Gingerbread’s experience was that the positive outcomes of employing this approach were significant, offering advantages for fundraisers and providing an opportunity for benchmarking and as a management tool. However there are potential impacts such as cost and time implications, meaning that the use of such a model needs to be fully considered before committing to it.

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