Insight holds the key to the future of fundraising

The quest for innovation in charity fundraising is ongoing. The prize is clear: the most successful engagement platforms can raise literally tens of millions of pounds, with the Macmillan Coffee Morning and Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life the standout examples. With the very nature of fundraising widely considered to be on the cusp of serious change, understanding the messages and channels that can raise money and create long-term engagement is mission critical for the sector right now. A direct debit or one-off donation request is no longer going to cut it; how can charities provide the connection and engagement that 21st century fundraisers are looking for?

Innovation in charity means many things – from changing the nature of messages or propositions, to creating fundraising ‘products’, be it event platforms or new ways to give. Through all of this through, we believe in using rich human insight as the foundation for innovation.

Why? Surely we know what’s hot, and data can tell us the sort of things people are interested in, the new events they are trying, suggestions of the trends to jump on.

Quantitative data can certainly be helpful, and paint a picture of trends – akin to the right direction on a compass. But we believe that really understanding the people who fundraise is critical to unlocking success, helping us create a much more precise roadmap.

Specifically, rich human insight can ensure fundraising engagement platforms are shaped, delivered and communicated to maximise money raised. Charity engagement has potential to speak to profound human needs like social interaction, the joy of giving and more. So we need to understand the (sometimes surprising) triggers, motivators and barriers for getting involved. And we need to ensure that any innovation is sufficiently connected to the charity’s cause and brand to inspire engagement beyond that event or touchpoint.

And because every person is different, insight has a vital role to play in ensuring charities are innovating with all key audience segments in mind – in a way that is coherent yet sufficiently nuanced. At recent proprietary discussion groups we ran, one woman told us that she’d got involved in a BHF bike ride because it was “fun, a way to feel part of something when a sense of community is eroding all around me”. She knew very little of the cause or charity at all. On the other hand, there’ll be many signing up for those events because them or their family have been affected by heart disease. The event, of course, needs to speak to all of them.

Cancer Research UK is a standout example for demonstrating the value of insight for fundraising, in particular around events. Insight flows through every element of Race for Life’s format, fundraising platforms and communications. The most recent ad campaign for Race of Life demonstrates both a clear acknowledgement of peoples’ motivations for signing up, as well as communicating the fun and connection to be found at the events themselves. And they never stand still on how to fundraise around the events, recently creating an app to fit around fundraisers’ lives for example.

Oxfam’s Dressed by the Kids Day is another fundraising platform, now into its second year, which used insight to create a really compelling proposition (indeed two of Humankind Research’s founding partners worked on this event in a former life). Key to the event is really putting kids front and centre – ultimately parents will do it because it’s fun with their kids. Communications emphasise that the day is fun and silly and as such differentiated from the major ‘dares’ and ‘challenges’ often at the heart of charity fundraising.

In a crowded market, the fundraising challenge for charities can appear daunting, but we are excited by the possibilities that a more donor-centric approach can open up. As the charity sector looks to the future, we firmly believe that rich human insight has a vital role to play in crafting the fundraising platforms and events that will convince people to part with their hard-earned cash and inspire long-term engagement.

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London, UK