Community fundraisers are no longer “poor relations”

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​Revealed: the value community fundraising adds to charities

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8th February 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A pioneering study shows the benefits community fundraising teams bring to charities in Scotland.

As previously reported by TFN, there has been disquiet in the sector about a lack of specific research into fundraising in Scotland, as almost all research has been carried out at a UK level.

It is thought that this failure to map out the Scottish terrain and to take account of national differences has been holding back fundraisers in Scotland.

On that basis, the Think consultancy, working with the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), conducted research in which 39 charities took part – 29 of which operate solely in Scotland, with the others being the Scottish arm of a UK-wide or international charity.

It looked at local, community fundraising – that conducted by dedicated staff stewarding fundraising groups and volunteers at a grassroots level, as opposed to chasing grants and large funding streams.

It showed that this form of fundraising – which can help bond a charity and its supporters more intimately than large scale income generation - has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years.

The last published IoF figures, in 2014, showed a return on investment of £1.57 for local fundraising. In Scotland this is now £2.99 – a significant increase.

On average a community fundraiser each year will support 101 people to undertake their activity, manage 16 volunteers and steward three fundraising groups.

Fundraising groups raise on average £14,000 each year and are an important source of sustainable income for many organisations.

However, this study has shown that half of charities in Scotland indicated that they had no such groups.

Most community fundraisers (80%), are employed full-time by their charity and for 61% it is their sole focus. Some charities employ just one sole-fundraiser and while some large UK-charities do have bigger teams in Scotland it is more common for the Scottish-arm to consist of 2/3 community fundraisers.

Average salaries across the board were relatively stagnant but in some cases, especially in smaller charities, were not competitive when compared against the market.

Meanwhile, three quarters of charities indicated that they had key performance indicators in place and most of these focused directly on income generation. In 10% of Scottish charities thanking of donors is undertaken centrally compared to 77% in UK-wide charities.

The study found over all that previously community fundraising was treated as a poor relation in many charities but that is now changing, with 93% of charities budgeting for growth in this area. However, teams are generally small and recruitment and retention will likely continue to be challenging.

Think consultant Gary Kernahan said: “There is undoubtable potential for charities to grow community fundraising in Scotland and to benefit from the long-lasting relationships that community fundraisers create. We can see that some charities have grown their community income in recent years but to achieve that they first required the capacity, both staff and volunteers, and the supporting infrastructure.

Charities which took part said they found it worthwhile to help map the shape of the fundraising sector.

Gemma Cowan, community fundraising manager at the MS Society, said: “Often fundraisers in Scotland are held against and compared to UK-wide statistics which can at times offer little reflection on the fundraising landscape here in Scotland.”