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Fundraisers will get through by staying calm and thinking strategically


1 April 2020 at 7:05 pm
Katherine Raskob
Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Katherine Raskob shares some of the key findings from a recent survey on the impact to the fundraising sector of COVID-19, along with some key advice for fundraisers on how to get through this period.


Katherine Raskob | 1 April 2020 at 7:05 pm


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Fundraisers will get through by staying calm and thinking strategically
1 April 2020 at 7:05 pm

Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Katherine Raskob shares some of the key findings from a recent survey on the impact to the fundraising sector of COVID-19, along with some key advice for fundraisers on how to get through this period.

Though worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their fundraising efforts for the rest of 2020, fundraisers are trying not to panic, according to a survey by Fundraising Institute Australia, More Strategic and Donor Republic. 

Just over half of respondents believe fundraising income will be down by more than 20 per cent in the next nine months, most likely from the cancellation of events and job losses impacting their donors. But there’s a belief that fundraisers will get through the crisis by thinking strategically and creatively and most importantly, by being calm.

Some 423 CEOs and fundraising managers across 196 organisations responded to the online survey, with the results revealed in a recent FIA webinar, which attracted more than 1,000 people. 

The incredible response to the webinar signalled there is a massive demand for information and advice on managing fundraising during this time, especially coming after the stress of this summer’s bushfire crisis. 

The survey found that fundraisers are worried about: 

  • reduced donor confidence and capacity to give with people losing their jobs due to business shutdowns 
  • diminished funding from philanthropic sources due to the stock market crash
  • not being able to fund services to people who need their charities’ support 
  • having to cancel community/major donor/bequest events 
  • not being able to meet with their major donors 
  • not being able to use face-to-face fundraising as a channel (PFRA ordered its members to stop F2F fundraising until further notice) and
  • not being able to connect with volunteers and suppliers in the same way. 

 When asked how they were feeling, a quarter ticked five out of five in terms of their emotional intensity. The majority ticked six or seven out of 10. A minority (15 out of 371 people who answered the question) were optimistic that things will be okay.  

Staff at charities with a turnover of $10 million-plus were less likely to say COVID-19 will impact their existence. The researchers believe that this is likely because many of these charities have greater reserves and more diverse revenue streams.

But 16 per cent of charities with turnover under $5 million think the pandemic will threaten the very existence of their organisation. 

 Eighty per cent of respondents have already cancelled fundraising or donor relationship events.  

While 74 per cent have implemented work-from-home policies, many are worried about staying connected to their colleagues. 

More encouragingly, many charities still have reserves to keep them going for a few months, and only one in 10 believe fundraising staff will be cut. But three quarters say they will have to cut back on some of their service delivery. There’s a concern, but people are not panicking yet. (Note: the survey was conducted before the recent federal government announcement of financial support for workers to stay in their jobs.) 

Importantly, 61 per cent of respondents said they would increase communications with their supporters. 

Some advice for fundraisers: 

 Connect regularly with your fundraising peers and colleagues. It’s important you feel supported by others when working remotely.  

 Don’t cancel your events just yet if you haven’t. Consider postponing until spring if possible. Also, think creatively and see if you can switch physical functions to virtual ones where possible. Put extra effort into coaching event participants so they will feel confident about making asks. 

Reach out to your corporate partners to encourage their continued support.  

Don’t panic and make sweeping cuts right now. This is not the time to cut back on staff or communicating with loyal and generous supporters. Keep your communications, stewarding and engagement up.  

History shows us that those organisations that cut staff and resources early on in a crisis always end up worse off at the end of it. It can take years to recover. 

The webinar contains excellent advice on the various fundraising channels and what to consider doing on the fundraising front in the months ahead. 

On behalf of our members and our sector, I’m reaching out to all levels of government to advocate for the sector’s interests. I’ve been speaking with Assistant Minister for Charities Zed Seselja to discuss the immediate, short and long-term needs of the fundraising sector as well as communicating with the Treasurer and other government representatives about the needs of our sector to continue the critical work we do in raising funds for our beneficiaries.   

It was great to see that fundraising staff employed by charities will be able to participate in a $130 billion federal plan to keep Australians in jobs. The $1,500 fortnightly JobKeeper payment will be available to all employers, including charities and suppliers to the charitable fundraising sector, who meet the eligibility requirements.  

With that support, fundraisers can continue their work in the difficult months ahead. Information for employers on this measure can be found here

My advice is to plan and use this time to build long-term fundraising programs and strengthen your relationships with donors so that you’re equipped when the recovery comes along. FIA is facilitating ongoing discussion, virtual events, sharing and collaboration to get us through this challenging time as well as providing templates, tools and resources to help its members and the broader fundraising community get through it. 

Everyone in fundraising is there for each other. Our collaboration and willingness to share makes our sector so different from other industries. And these traits will help us to get through this crisis. 


Katherine Raskob  |  @ProBonoNews

Katherine Raskob is the chief executive officer of Fundraising Institute Australia.

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