When social investment isn't the answer: Top 10 tips for fundraising in a crisis

Social investment is one of the tools in your toolkit – but it might not always be the right tool for the job. Alongside the Government support available, grants will also play a crucial role in supporting charities and social enterprises navigating a changing world during and after the Covid-19 crisis.

We spoke to Jo Heywood (Relationships Director, Big Society Capital) who started her working life as a social entrepreneur and has worked in a number of charities in fundraising roles. In this post, Jo shared with us her top 10 tips.

Image of Jo Heywood

In these uncertain times for charities and social enterprises, effective fundraising has become more important than ever. The environment is challenging but, as we saw this week from the incredible Captain Tom Moore, there is no better time to galvanise support for the causes we all care about. Here are some top tips for fundraising in a crisis:

1. Work out and communicate how your cause stands out

More than ever,be clear in your messaging and make sure you keep it concrete, values led and jargon-free. For example “in this crisis, help our community based interventions” may sound distant to a donor, but “help us deliver food parcels to families on the poverty line” is clearer. 

2.Make your website work even harder

Inspire and reassure your supporters, make your fundraising asks clearer and make sure it is easy for people to give. Check all your “donate now” links work, be a website hawk! If you’re in need of some website support, have a look at the pro bono support available.

3. Don’t leave the fundraising to the fundraisers!

In a crisis, it’s all hands on deck – all staff and board members should be helping out and using their skills and contacts. Work as a team to pull together in the same direction.

4. Focus on your fundraising mix (trusts, individuals, corporate, digital)

Organisations who rely too heavily on one income stream (particularly if trading is currently impacted) are more likely to struggle.

5. Talk to your existing grant funders

Most have committed to being flexible and are offering top-up grants, relaxing reporting, switching restricted to unrestricted etc.

NB: If you are already in receipt of social investment then the same applies check out these three simple pieces of advice to ensure you know how and where to go for help.

6. Talk to your existing individual donors

This is a great time to work with your trustees and patrons. Get them to phone your donors personally to thank them for their support and tell them how your charity is working through the crisis. Phone is better than email - it’s much more personal and will have more impact. Asking for money might be your primary goal, but also asking for in kind support could be an alternative yet equally valuable option.

7. Go digital – where possible switch your fundraising events to online.

Major donor events in particular can be turned into webinars for small groups. Give your supporters and a chance to “travel” and hear directly from your beneficiaries and partners. Find more resources on how to do this.

8. Be creative

For example, ask your supporters to donate what they are not spending money on during the crisis, like their commute, coffees, haircuts! Crowdfunder’s Pay It Forward and Go Fund Me have lots of options and help if you want to take a similar approach.

9. Consider using some of your reserves, carefully and considerately.

That’s what they are there for! Have board meetings more regularly to keep monitoring this and balancing current needs with future sustainability.

10. Don’t panic!

Act carefully and considerately - ensure you are still meeting the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice so that any decisions are in line with regulatory standards.

Fundraising in a crisis can be a chance to pull your team, volunteers and board together and to make really focus your skills and creativity. As GT Smith said, “Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe”.

This crisis really is the time to focus on the joy of giving.

For more information and support, make sure you go to the Good Finance Covid-19 Resource Hub.