NHS Charities – Raising your profile and the route to sustainable fundraising

NHS Charities – Raising your profile and the route to sustainable fundraising
Published: 24 July 2020

During recent months the NHS charities which are part of ' NHS Charities Together' have undoubtedly benefited from the fundraising initiatives around the country and the break-neck speed of the association’s rise in profile.

However, as the individual charities look to the future, their challenge, like all other fundraising led charities, will be to develop their own profiles in their local area to generate and maintain income. We had the pleasure of hosting an online forum with two highly experienced fundraising gurus, Leesa Harwood and Grahame Darnell, who gave their time to talk to NHS charity leaders and senior fundraisers on two vital points.

Establishing a sustainable funding strategy

Fundraising is fun and spontaneous which is why so many find their ‘career home’ in this area. However, that fun and spontaneity needs to be underpinned by the basics to enable creativity and innovation and avoid short-term, tactical fundraising that can leave individuals, and organisations, on a permanent hamster wheel. A solid fundraising strategy enables you to put in place evidence-based forecasting and therefore reducing financial risk and giving you the knowledge to mitigate any risks. So, take a step back and review your strategy whilst looking downstream. Not the ‘sexy’ part of the job yet essential to creating a sustainable environment and strong foundations for upstream fundraising.

Fundraising models - need to be integrated across the organisation and sit alongside the overall financial strategy. It should cover:

  • restricted/unrestricted ratios;
  • long tail/short tail ratios;
  • risk – matching the appropriate mission activities with the appropriate income streams so that you don’t fund mission critical activities with high-risk income sources;
  • ethics and compliance – who do you take money from and who do you not and do these criteria match the rest of the organisation (e.g. Investment, procurement);
  • diversification ratios – so that you get the right balance between product/market development and diversification. 

Evidence Based Income Pipelines – the first component of the Pipeline-Budget-Forecast triangle and it is always the one that gets forgotten. 

Risk Register – Linked to your pipelines, any low or medium confidence line on your pipeline should have a mitigating action and timeline to get it up to high confidence or off the pipeline.

End-to-end cash flow – Cash flow is a flow. Some disconnect and silo the raising and spending of money as if they are separate processes.  Join them up – link the people raising the money with the people spending it.  Design mission critical activities with optimal funding potential.

Balanced Bank of Measures – if you ask the wrong question, you’ll get the wrong answer.  If you set the wrong targets, you’ll get the wrong results and won’t drive the right behaviours.  Do not set fundraisers purely financial targets. Get the right blend of leading, lagging, financial and non-financial targets.

Creating your USP

Recent research by digital marketing agency Blue Frog highlighted that future giving from the public will be driven by the question ‘What are you doing?’ as a charity. Recent support for emergency response and in particular the NHS is not guaranteed. Indeed, there has been a tidal wave of research showing that people may turn away from supporting the NHS on a macro level as people question why they should fund the NHS. Therefore, the need to use this time and opportunity to create a local message for your cause is more important than ever; to stand alone and become a unique own charity brand. Competition for public donations is intense and people want charities to be more leading edge and driving better services, better care and better outcomes. Not only are NHS charities competing with ‘traditional’ charities such as hospices but also other causes due to the recent financial challenges such as the hospitality sector crowdfunding for support.

How do you emerge as noticeable, relevant and deserving? The messaging needs to be clear. What do you do that makes life bearable? What extra value do you add? You cannot do this in isolation as a fundraising organisation, you need to work in collaboration with your NHS Trust to get them on board. Work with the communications and marketing team to find appropriate stories that are authentic to convey your brand in-action and make people relate to you. Work with medical colleagues to encourage them to open up their networks and book of grateful patients.

Developing a ‘workshop approach’ is one way of creating a unified brand, aligning and integrating your activity and strategy with your NHS partners, ensuring buy-in and co-ownership. It creates a shared message and agreed touch-points of supporter engagement and a consistent approach. This enables you to create solid relationships with supporters to get to the right point to make the ask, which in turn keeps people loyal to your charity and away from seeing you as a crisis or emergency cause.

Berwick Partners host regular online forums across the sectors and functional areas we serve. If you would like to hear more about this event, or future events, please contact Hannah Wade.

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