What is the future of fundraising?

Lynda Thomas, 18 November 2017

If civil society wants to remain relevant, we need to tackle several fundraising challenges head on.

Public sector cuts mean that the third sector needs to provide more support and services than ever. This means raising large amounts of money in a sustainable way in order to continue to deliver for the people who need us. Many potential donors are asking themselves why they should give to charities, instead of to crowdfunding sites, or direct to individuals. The public is coming forward in huge numbers to give money straight to people who need it, through sites like GoFundMe. I don’t want charities to become unnecessary middlemen.

We live in a 24/7 world where people expect to get immediate feedback from brands and businesses. Increasingly, donors want to know the impact of their gift in real time. A great example of this is when you donate blood in England: donors now receive a text message when their blood goes to a hospital to help a patient. People share those texts with their family and friends and feel proud of the tangible effect that their donation has had.

We need to innovate and offer new experiences to our supporters, donors and volunteers. Charities are still catching up in this area and there’s so much we can learn from businesses and social enterprises.

We live in a 24/7 world where people expect to get immediate feedback from brands and businesses.

This year I took part in a Corporate Strategy Programme at Harvard Business School. I didn’t take part in the not-for-profit programmes, because I wanted to have my thinking challenged. My colleagues were from big, global, commercial companies, and I realised that many fundamental principles apply to all sectors.

As a sector, we have a habit of looking at other charities to learn and yes, compete. But to really innovate, we need to look outside. We need to ask ourselves, how can we reach beyond our traditional partners, to learn and work together? Macmillan has been working with the banking sector on new services that support customers who have been affected by cancer. Not only does this give us huge reach to people when they need support the most, it also feels great to be working with businesses towards a shared goal.

By facing these challenges head on, by looking into ways to innovate our offer and by remaining relevant to the public, I think we will be well set to raise the money needed to keep supporting the increasing number of people who need our help, at their greatest times of need.

Lynda Thomas is chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2014 Fundraising Magazine named her the second most influential fundraiser in the UK.