Marketing and fundraising challenges for charities

In conjunction with fundraising consultancy Activate Fundraising, I conducted a short online survey about the key fundraising and marketing challenges facing charities. A range of charities, including arts, heritage, community, voluntary sector and social enterprises, participated in the research.

Key Marketing Challenges

The top three marketing challenges were:

1. Finding enough budget for marketing.
2. Finding enough time for marketing.
3. Understanding how customers behave.

Finding time and budget for marketing are common challenges for any organisation, whether in the charity, private or public sector. Often organisations are so preoccupied with day-to-day operations that there rarely seems to be enough time for marketing. However, in my experience how much time they set aside for marketing is less important than how smart they are about using that time. Those that develop a structured, targeted and integrated strategic marketing plan tend to focus and use their time, money and energy much more efficiently and effectively. No surprise that I’d think that!

Not having enough budget should not hold charities back from getting on with their marketing either. There have never been so many free or low cost channels available, which may well be able to help achieve some of the organisation’s aims.

Key Fundraising Challenges

The top three fundraising challenges were:

1. Raising sponsorship.
2. Presenting the organisation effectively to encourage donors to support / making a case.
3. Having time available to effectively fundraise.

Heather Stewart of Activate Fundraising says that many smaller charities struggle to raise sponsorship, often due to a combination of factors, such as lack of access to networks or difficulty in competing with larger charities. Often, charities should look less at the ‘usual suspects’ and start by focusing on their neighbours – who are often far more supportive as they can have some awareness of a charity’s impact on its local community. And speak to all of their contacts – board, staff and other stakeholders to find out who they know that they would be willing to introduce to the organisation.

Presenting the organisation effectively is a question of ensuring that projects that are being fundraised for fit with the mission and aims – after all, if they don’t, why is the charity doing them? By focusing on the central message and making sure that any fundraising projects ‘fit’ with the purpose and objectives, it becomes easier to make a clear, succinct and strong case for support.

Time is the ongoing problem for all charities, particularly smaller charities which don’t have many resources available for fundraising. As with marketing, the most important aspect to consider is how to best use your time and that all comes down to planning. It’s necessary to invest time to plan in the first place but, by mapping out what it is the organisation wants to achieve and when, where it needs to look for funding starts to become more obvious.