Almost two years on from the moment Covid came on the scene, it’s still a time of uncertainty.
How many of us, in March 2020, would have envisaged still being in stasis now? How many of us just assumed, after a change of direction in our fundraising efforts during the first lockdown, that we would simply return to where we were before the pandemic started?
Many charities were forced to cancel planned events in the first few months of the crisis. Some of these events were simply rescheduled for the late summer of that year, when we were allowed out again—however, we know now that this was just a temporary reprieve, and that plans, restrictions and the third sector landscape continued to change.
People may never return to large-scale charitable events. Fundraising may predominantly be digital from now on. Grant-makers may remain closed or be even more restrictive with their criteria going further forward.
Any charity still holding its breath needs to exhale and make long-term plans based on how their organisation fits in the world right now, because I don’t see it changing very much in the future, even if Covid disappears. Feeling stuck or in stasis is damaging for any organisation. It’s entirely possible to make one-, three- and five-year plans at this stage of the pandemic—I can even help you create them.
The reason successful charities keep four to six months in reserves is to cope with life’s uncertainties, but what then? If you had simply relied on your reserves to steer you through the first lockdown, with no other plan in place, it’s likely your charity didn’t survive. If you have come through the last two years, you’ve shown that you can adapt, reframe and refocus. But, again, you can’t do this forever. Even if things are changing around you, you need a constant plan. Donors need to see that you’re confident about the path you’re travelling. Volunteers will want to know where they stand as they plan their lives. And, most importantly, beneficiaries need to be confident you’re going to hang around long enough to deliver your specific brand of support.
Plan ahead. Stop being reactive and put that energy into being proactive.
We have to live with Covid, which means living with its effects and outcomes. We know how bad the virus can be, how it can impact countries, and what we can do to reduce the risk of succumbing to its effects. We know that digital has become entrenched in the culture of fundraising. We know that very few people carry cash nowadays. We know that events held little and often (whether online or offline) can almost attract the same revenue as one standalone annual event. We know that the general public are switched on to the importance of charities and the work they do.
However, we also know that many households will see their income squeezed more than ever before in the coming months. We also know that grant-makers have seen record amounts of applications for very limited funds. We know that venues will be hesitant to have crowds of people through their doors for a while to come.
Don’t feel disheartened. Because we know these things, we can make long-term plans to accentuate the positive and combat the negative.
One thing I know is that the following words/terms will become more and more familiar as the pandemic progresses:
Hybrid charity shops
AI, automation and data analytics
Resilience and transparency
Gaming to raise funds
The impact of inflation
Remote working, fully flexible
Backwards is not the direction you want to look. Opportunities only exist in the future. Being afraid of changing your charity’s direction and doing what you’ve always done will, at some point, fail to cut it.
Sometimes, it takes an outsider to see the tricks you may be missing, the ways in which your organisation could save money/streamline, the funders you should be approaching, and the core services you should be focusing on (and what you should let go). When working within a charity, it’s difficult to see it through donors’, beneficiaries’ and the general public’s eyes. And if your organisation is struggling with its identity, it’s bound to be hard to plan for the years ahead.
The pandemic has exponentially changed a lot of good causes…it’s also paved the way for even more charitable bodies to deal with problems that have arisen because of the crisis. If a problem exists and the government doesn’t look like it’s going to do anything, typically, someone will launch a charity to provide the solution. This is all well and good, but that’s one more charity competing against you as you apply for funds, one more charity taking away the change in the pockets of the general public, one more charity that could steal the attention of your significant donors.
There’s no denying that these are hard times we’re living in, but it is what it is. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ There are opportunities out there, there’s money to be raised and growth to be had. If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you and your organisation, give me a call on 0114 350 3354, or email me via firstname.lastname@example.org