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Fundraising in a cold climate

Raising the funds you need is never easy. Understanding how the economic downturn is having an impact on voluntary and community sector income streams and how you can respond to these challenges could help your organisation to weather the storm.

What might this mean for your fundraising?

Three over-riding messages are clear:

1. We are experiencing a period of major uncertainty
That doesn’t mean because it’s unclear what will happen that organisations should do nothing. On the contrary, we need to manage uncertainty actively prepare for the risks and opportunities that may arise.

Relying on a handful of grant funders is high risk - consider spreading your risk through approaching a wider range of funders and exploring other income options such as contracting, finance and trading. A good place to start is our income spectrum tool

2. Grant funding is likely to become increasingly scarce
In the next few years, we can expect income sources to decline and competition to increase. Ensuring you are aware of other income options, and make best use of grant options, will be critical for many organisations.

3. All organisations will experience the recession differently
Each of us needs to consider how the effects of the recession might present themselves in your specific context, and what might be the right steps for your organisation to take.

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What can you do?

‘’There are no fundamentally different things to do in a recession that were not good things to do outside recession.” Anthony Clay, Institute of Fundraising website.

The principles of effective, sustainable fundraising apply as much in good times as they do in a recession.

In an increasingly competitive market place, having an effective case for support which clearly shows the need for, and impact of, your organisation is critical. Measuring your impact has other benefits – not least in helping to ensure your organisation is making best use of its resources. Any efficiencies you can make to improve services or reduce costs will help improve your resilience.

Having good working relationships and timely conversations with your existing funders is important. Funders expect that some voluntary and community organisations may experience difficulties because of the recession and they may be able to help – but don’t leave it too late before you speak to them:

‘If something is going wrong tell us at the earliest opportunity – the earlier to contact us the better. We’re open to talking to organizations we’re supporting although we couldn’t cope with requests from organizations we are not already supporting.’ Grant Manager, Grant-making trust

Avoiding reliance on a limited range of income sources is important, not least when cuts can be expected in some areas. While a recession may not be a wise time to set up major new ventures, there are many different ways in which you could increase your income from trading that could diversify your funding base.

Think about what your organisation “does well” and how you might be able expand this to new audiences or into new markets – use our toolkit to brainstorm your ideas.

There are no easy answers, and perhaps the hardest challenge is also the most essential one in a period of uncertainty – to increase your reserves so that you are better able to weather any cash-flow problems or external changes to your income streams. Finance may be one option to help your organisation develop its assets.

Finally – we are here to help. Funding Central has a range of resources designed to help you improve at applying for and managing grants. Why not take a look at our Making better applications checklist to get a quick idea of where your organisation could improve. And don’t forget to register and create a profile to receive our weekly tailored newsletter with updates about opportunities and reminders about forthcoming deadlines.

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