News & Insight
24th March 2022
Ukraine: raising questions around raising money
Philanthropy Company’s view
At the risk of stating the obvious, these are exceptional times for fundraisers. As awful as the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is, it’s encouraging that it has prompted such an immediate and positive public response. Here at the Philanthropy Company we have been reflecting on what the recent trends tell us about fundraising during a humanitarian crisis.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are clear signs of public and corporate generosity against today’s backdrop of financial uncertainty. The Disasters Emergency Committee alone has raised an incredible £200m in the space of just two weeks for Ukraine. Meanwhile, this year’s Red Nose Day appeal raised a figure approaching that of the previous year. Indeed, the Philanthropy Company’s own work with the National Emergencies Trust helped raise £99m for those affected by Covid-19.
The situation in Ukraine raises some crucial questions and very genuine and uncomfortable dilemmas for our sector. For example, whether we should be fundraising at all during the crisis if our cause isn’t related to helping Ukraine. Or given the huge financial cost-of-living pressures on families whether appealing for funds at all is pointless. These are serious issues, and potentially contentious ones too.
At the Philanthropy Company we have been considering how our sector might address these issues head on.
What should we be doing, to adapt our fundraising methods in the current climate?
Let’s start with that key dilemma around whether or not we should fundraise at all right now, especially given the urgency of Ukraine’s plight. The Philanthropy Company believes that the answer is a resounding yes. We’ve witnessed strong evidence that people will continue to give generously, and recent weeks have seen a direct reversal of last year’s trend towards fewer people giving larger sums. In fundraising terms, the war in Ukraine hasn’t ‘plundered’ funds from other issues, but added vital new funds for humanitarian aid. And smaller or lesser-known causes still need precious donations as well as champions to fight their corners.
It’s time to steward your donors, now more than ever
Now is the time to check in with your donor base, exercising real stewardship. This is a time when charities can benefit from nurturing their supporters more effectively. So, contact those supporters you already have, and reassure them that your work is still ongoing and essential, even if the spotlight has been temporarily rediverted.
Know exactly where your donations are really coming from
The Philanthropy Company can help you to review and update your Gift Acceptance Policy to make sure that you have clear decision making internally and that you know exactly where your donations are really coming from. Recent world events make this more important than ever. Do everything you can to protect your reputation by ensuring that your Gift Acceptance Policy is up to date and well understood at board level.
Fine-tune your messaging, and show you’re making a real difference
In terms of communications, your messaging needs to be better than ever, to cut through the competitive noise. What you can do is revisit your strategies around communications, and continually fine-tune your comms, using direct, powerful and impactful language, relevant for the platform and audience, and relevant to the current global situation.
Make sure every campaign you run delivers on these key things:
● Consider the terrible events in Ukraine and how this impacts on your
messaging and needs.
● Remind people of your charity or campaign’s goals as well as the fact
that they’re still relevant and ongoing.
● Set out clearly what you are asking for, whether that’s donations of
money, time or support.
● Be very clear about exactly how people can help, and use impact
reporting to show that you’re making a tangible difference.
● Provide all the necessary details, like deadlines, upcoming events and
● Always say thank you, for every single gift.
More than most, fundraisers understand that the world is messy and complex, and that many global issues are inextricably interconnected. We don’t have the luxury of dealing with issues one at a time, and the suffering in Ukraine hasn’t lessened the suffering of those being exploited by traffickers or those waiting for cancer treatment. This is why it’s crucial that we stay true to our original missions and maintain our fundraising momentum during this time of crisis.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and demoralised in the face of events like Ukraine, but there are definitely positives to hold onto. In a professional context, if we can use this moment to take stock of our own situation and the wider global context, then use our strengths, conviction and agility to good effect, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t retain the demonstrable generosity of our supporters. Our causes are counting on it.
This blog was written by Jan Hinde, a consultant at Philanthropy Company.