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Articles > Fundraising Ideas > How can schools learn from charity fundraising tactics?

How can schools learn from charity fundraising tactics?

Successful marketing campaigns & fundraising tactics from nonprofits and charities, for schools to take inspiration from

Recent statistics suggest that fundraising income has slowed; but at a slower pace than the level at which giving has slowed in the school development sector. During the first half of 2020, UK charity income increased by £800m, suggesting that charities who adapted their campaigns to focus on digital fundraising were still primed to meet their goals, irrespective of the pandemic. As the ToucanTech Schools Report shared that school fundraising dipped by 20% in 2020, now is a good opportunity to take a look at the tactics and creative ideas that enabled charity fundraisers to continue meeting their fundraising targets.

Much school development activity is fuelled by special events and giving days, feeling unable to step off long enough to think critically about strategy. 

It’s far better to create your fundraising strategy around the idea of ensuring a better school in a decade or three from now. The schools with the strongest and most enduring philanthropic cultures invite their communities to fund dreams rather than fix a problem. 

But surely the Covid pandemic has whacked charitable giving of all types out of kilter? 

Not as much as we might think.

The pandemic initially hit the charity sector very hard because many vital activities such as training, fundraising and service delivery were shut down overnight. And of course, the need for their services did not go away; in fact, it increased.

And while the education sector is a highly competitive giving environment, spare a thought for the charity sector as a whole. There are more than 185,000 registered charities in England and Wales. The number is estimated to be rising by 5,000 a year. The Charity Commission, the sector’s regulatory body, lists 620 cancer charities alone and more than 200 charities working with homeless people just in London.

But irrespective of Covid, the Charities Aid Foundation reported an increase of £800 million in UK public donations in the first six months of 2020 compared to 2019. And globally, more than three in ten adults around the world donated money to charity in 2020.

One of the main effects of the pandemic is to accelerate changes already taking place in the philanthropy landscape, which schools would do well to heed: 

The UK Giving Report 2020 showed that as opportunities to fundraise through face-to-face interactions have declined, there has been a major increase in cashless giving

And the evidence also suggests that giving during the pandemic has become more digital than ever before. This builds on the existing growth of online giving, reflected in the proliferation of platforms and apps that enable people to support good causes. Those charities that laid the groundwork for digital transformation before the crisis and were already agile have put themselves at an advantage.

Charities have reacted to this changing environment and have started to adjust their operating models, increasing their ability to ask for and receive donations online. It is estimated that one in five charities have accelerated their plans to raise funds online, and what’s called ‘inbound marketing’ is increasingly a major factor in successful fundraising. This is all about creating inspiring, informative and educational content for your target audience to share on your website and social media channels, plus via email

Crowdfunding is becoming increasingly important, too. Online crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide charity and non-profit organisations a platform to introduce themselves and their initiatives, post descriptions, pictures of their achievements to attract donations from potential donors. 

New digitally-enabled networks, which had already been prominent in recent years, also seemed to gain further momentum during the pandemic, Black Lives being the most prominent example. We can only speculate on what this will mean for patterns of participation post-pandemic, and how traditionally organised fundraising charities should respond?

And finally, get back to basics and never forget the power of a brilliant idea. Here are some of the most successful from recent years:

Movember encourages men (and women) to grow out their tash for the month of November. The £600 million it has raised over the past 17 years goes to tackling male health issues. 

Cancer Research UK placed Smart Benches around London. They enticed people with the inclusion of free wifi, charging points, and a screen that showed real-time data on air quality in the area (a contributing factor to some forms of cancer). A contactless payment pad enabled people to donate £2.

GreenPeace’s Save Rang-tan had as its centrepiece a short animation about an orangutan that finds itself in a child’s bedroom after being displaced by deforestation. Accompanied by a nursery rhyme, it drew attention to the issue of palm oil production.

There’s one thing we can be sure of: whatever the post-pandemic world brings us, there’s no substitute for creativity.

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