Brexit or other barriers? Why is the culture of philanthropy failing in the UK?

Headlines in May have painted a pretty dire picture for charities when it comes to fundraising, or lack of it. Last week’s report from our friends at the Charities Aid Foundation showed a decline in regular giving from the general public from 69% to 65%, followed by yesterday’s findings from The Sunday Times Giving List, that revealed that the number of donating more than 1% of their income has sunk by a quarter in just two years.

Whilst the challenges faced by charities is by no means news to us at Skating Panda, this double whammy did have us (skating) pondering even more than usual about the causes of this downturn and what can be done about it. One of our areas of expertise is helping charities to innovate when it comes to fundraising and navigating the difficult political climate coupled with mounting consumer distrust.

It is likely that Brexit uncertainty is contributing to the fall in philanthropic giving by affecting donor confidence and it is always good to reflect on elements that are in our control when it comes to appealing to donors. We can’t afford to sit and wait for the political impasse of Brexit to pass, so what we can be thinking about in the meantime?  

Should charities showcase charitable giving more?

In the world of major donors, competitive giving is a reality, as demonstrated by the vast sums of money donated to Notre Dame by the Arnault family, swiftly followed by an almost equal donation from Arnault’s arch rival Francois-Henri Pinault.

These donations caused controversy, but they also raised an important point about major donors’ inclination to follow suit for a high profile and honourable cause. This trait of human behaviour can be harnessed to get more people talking about their philanthropy, to trigger a chain reaction in giving from their fellow major donors. When building relationships, charities should think about enabling transparency where appropriate and finding ways to promote the generosity of major donors to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. 

How can we engage the rich and socially conscious next generation?  

It’s common knowledge that the next generation will see the biggest transfer of wealth ever and, fortuitously, they are also more active and engaged with the big issues we face as a society. However, this will not necessarily translate into serious charitable donations, with social media driving a need for virtue signalling to the world, even amongst the most socially conscious. There is now a culture of contributing to positive change by activism and involvement (that doubles up as personal content that can be shared audiences in real time) rather than by transactional charitable handovers. Innovation needs to happen and fast, to find ways of capturing the imaginations (and vast sums of money) held by the next generation and tapping into their social consciousness in a way that feels real and human rather than one step removed.

How can we tell better stories?  

Similarly, at Skating Panda we know first-hand that the need for charities to tell better stories is a constant one, with a large part of our work being helping them do just that. Charities so often rely on annual reports, data and complex ways of packaging information, which is all necessary when it comes to complying to the various rules and regs they have to adhere to. But the need to separate this and be human when it comes to fundraising communications is often overlooked. The cost of creative thinking and input will ultimately pay off. Charities need to invest time and imagination (working across communications and development teams where necessary) to figure out the best story to move donors to give and how to tell it in the most engaging way via a platform that lends itself to storytelling, like YouTube. One of our clients, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is adopting this shift in thinking, having recently  released their annual report in the style of a children’s storybook for the first time, a move into the more emotive side of fundraising which was well received by stakeholders and donors alike.

Skating Panda love helping charities innovate around their fundraising and income strategies. It’s becoming harder and harder for charities to find the income they need to make their desired impact. It’s also true that the non-profit sector is experiencing turmoil as a result of Brexit, with loss of income from the EU. However, this time of downturn should only inspire us to keep striving to understand donors better and innovate to raise the funds needed to keep making a positive change in the world.

By Sophie Burness, Head of Media and Communications at Skating Panda