Few people would deny the enormous effect which the coronavirus crisis has had on all our lives up to now, heightened by the uncertainty of what will happen next – new variants, new vaccines, relaxation or reinforcement of restrictions, to name but a few.
We experience this overall uncertainty in our day-to-day fundraising. During the early months of the crisis in 2020, much emergency funding was available from trusts and foundations, corporate and statutory sources, and the National Lottery. This funding has been largely, if not completely, used up to the extent that some corporate funders have closed their corporate responsibility budgets entirely, whilst many trusts and foundations have temporarily “paused” their funding programmes or imposed restrictions – for example, making grants only to those charities they have funded regularly in the past.
Small charities, lacking the clout of their larger contemporaries, have been particularly hard hit, especially in cases where they have been reliant on a small number of funding sources. So how should they be planning for the future ?
First and foremost is diversification of fundraising areas. The coronavirus crisis and its aftermath is a time to research new sources of grants, not to adopt a corral mentality. The old analogy of a chair is worth remembering; if your chair only has 3 legs, it will become useless if one is cut off. But if it has 6 legs (!), cutting 2 off will still enable it to function satisfactorily.
Secondly, look after your existing funders. We all thank our funders for their support – but how often do we update them with details of how their grants are helping our work and enabling our beneficiaries?
Thirdly, plan for the longer term. Some charities seem to feel that planning for 6 or 12 months ahead is planning long-term. But times change and funders’ priorities change; and whilst it is seldom sensible to develop projects simply to chase grants, we all need to be aware of issues that are important to our funders and not just those which concern us.
Small charities can thrive, even in a coronavirus and post-coronavirus environment. But success will be the result of diversification and relationship building; and of strategic planning rather than reactive responses.