Andrew O'Brien, former Head of Policy and Engagement for the Charity Finance Group
Fundraising isn’t just about fundraisers, it is about the whole organisation. One of the lessons that the sector has had to learn is that good fundraising requires the whole organisation to understand why it is raising funds and how it is going to raise them.
Finance teams have connections with all parts of an organisation, but the link between the finance and fundraising team has become increasingly important.
A fair complaint often made by fundraisers is that other parts of the organisation don’t understand the challenges they face in the marketplace. This can lead to unrealistic targets which drive short-term tactics and behaviour which can, in turn, have a negative impact on the relationship between fundraisers and donors. Often this is due to a lack of communication on both sides, and it is important that in all organisations, big and small, fundraisers and finance teams plan together to create realistic targets and goals.
Training and supporting fundraisers is not something that can be ignored. In this new climate, finance and fundraising teams need to agree the level of investment that is necessary to enable charities to remain on top of the latest developments.
On the flip side of income targets is the question of investment. You don’t need to be part of a finance team to know that money in charities is tight at the moment. However, fundraising doesn’t generate income without the proper resources, and not just in terms of materials. Another important lesson which charities have come to learn the hard way is that training and supporting fundraisers is not something that can be ignored. In this new climate, finance and fundraising teams need to agree the level of investment that is necessary to enable charities to remain on top of the latest developments and ensure that relationships with donors remain strong.
Another area of renewed focus is compliance and governance. On the compliance side finance teams are often responsible for ensuring that charities are meeting their legal and regulatory responsibilities, so it is important that they know how a charity is meeting its requirements from the Fundraising Regulator, the Charity Commission and the law. Finance teams can also share the skills they hold when ensuring that procedures and rules are being followed, given their experience with audit.
On the governance side, there have been a number of investigations highlighted by the Charity Commission around charities which have signed fundraising contracts and agreements which have not maximised the financial interests of the charity. Bringing in the expertise of the finance team before signing agreements with external agencies or corporates should not be seen as a sign of weakness, but essential to ensuring that the interests of the charity are being protected.
Communication and trust underpins all of this. Finance teams need to get out and share their expertise and experience with the whole organisation.
Communication and trust underpins all of this. Finance teams need to get out and share their expertise and experience with the whole organisation. Fundraisers need to recognise that finance teams, and other teams, have skills which they can use to make their efforts as effective as possible. Both sides need to trust the competence and motivations of the other.
To support this collaboration, Charity Finance Group has run a series of events called “Finance for Fundraisers” to help fundraising teams understand finance in charities and how it can help them. You can find out details about the next event on our website.
Andrew O’Brien is Head of Policy and Engagement at Charity Finance Group