Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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Working in the voluntary sector

1 What is fundraising?

Collecting boxes at an Oxjam festival
Figure 1 Fundraising at a music festival

Fundraising is the act of raising money by asking donors (individuals or other organisations) for it. The money raised pays for an organisation or a group’s work, services and the costs of delivering services (buildings, staff, and so on).

The following examples show the variety of methods used to raise money and how they can be small to large scale, and short to long term:

  • selling tickets for an Easter egg trail in a museum
  • writing an application to the Big Lottery Fund for £2 million to refurbish an old building and turn it into a community centre
  • organising a craft fair with the proceeds going to a play group
  • stopping people in the street and asking them to sign up to become regular donors to an animal charity
  • asking people to leave money in their wills to a charity
  • organising a social media campaign to raise money for a particular project.

Generally, organisations aim to use different methods and different sources of income in order to be sustainable and resilient, so that if one source of money dries up, they have other funds potentially available. Gaining long-term funding is obviously crucial, as it helps with planning as well as the stability of the organisation.

In larger organisations, fundraising is generally done by professional fundraising staff. However, other staff, trustees and volunteers may also be involved, through building relationships, gaining trust from supporters, the public and other stakeholders, and promoting the work that the organisation does.

Activity 1 Starting out in fundraising

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Listen to Anna Page talk about the process of fundraising for an organ restoration project in her church. What did she learn from the process?

Download this video clip.Video player: volb2_week5_anna_video2-640x360.mp4
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Well, right back at the beginning, when we first knew that we needed to raise a lot of money for the organ, the vicar called for volunteers, and I was the silly person who actually stuck my finger in the air first and said, yes, I’ll volunteer. So he said, you can chair the group. I then had to get together a group of people who were all very keen and eager and some of whom had some great abilities but hadn’t a clue what we could do to actually fundraise for the organ, so lots of ideas were thrown about.
And gradually, we got ideas that really worked. We tried some things that didn’t work so well. We tried other things that worked absolutely brilliantly. And the wonderful thing was actually nurturing the team to discover that each of them had a special something that they could offer, and they were all volunteering, and they all had something that they could give, even if it was just ideas but not the actual physical ability to carry them out. It meant that the rest of us then said, OK, so how can we do this?
And I’ve had so many wonderful volunteers in the last eight years who’ve been helping with this, and they’ve done some really brilliant things, and we’ve had all sorts of exciting things happening to help fundraise, which have got more and more people involved. And it’s had a sort of snowball effect, which I think none of us really imagined would happen at the beginning. But it’s been the most gratifying part of the whole process is to actually get the community involvement.
End transcript
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Anna talks positively about the experience, even though she and her team of volunteers were all new to it. She explains how everyone contributed something, whether skills or ideas. She talks about a ‘snowball effect’ and how one idea or initiative led to another and how they kept going, even when some things didn’t work. She explains that the team, and nurturing it, was important to the process. You will learn more about teams in Week 7.

Income streams

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) (undated) classifies income into four main streams:

  • Gifts from donors (donations of money; legacies in wills) involve asking.
  • Grants from funders (money for a particular project) involve asking.
  • Contracts with purchasers (to deliver a product or service for a fee) involve earning.
  • Trading with customers (selling products on the open market, e.g. Fairtrade products in Oxfam) involves earning.

NCVO describes these sources as a ‘spectrum’ that moves from ‘asking’ for money to ‘earning’ money. Each type of funding relies on building a good relationship with an individual or organisation. You will apply this model in the next activity.

Activity 2 Thinking about fundraising

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Listen to Matthew Slocombe, Director of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), talking about fundraising in his organisation. Then answer the questions that follow.

Download this video clip.Video player: volb2_matthew_video1-640x360.mp4
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The SPAB is a charity, which means we’re constantly in need of sources of funding to maintain our existing operations, or even to survive. So fundraising is really vital to the society’s activities. We rely on our members primarily, who pay a subscription, but beyond that, very generously sometimes leave donations or legacies and legacies can be particularly vital to our long-term sustainability.
In addition to that, we’re fortunate in receiving a limited amount still from public sources. So organisations like Historic England, Historic Scotland and Cadw, the national agencies for building conservation, are assisting with some of our special programmes and we also have assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a number of projects.
But even these things require some match funding, and for that, commonly we’re going to Trusts and funding bodies from the charitable sector who assist us with the additional funds that are needed to make these things happen.
Seeking funding from public sources or charities is increasingly hard. There’s enormous competition out there, but also, as we all know, the public sector is contracting, which means the funds available to assist other bodies, like ours, are diminishing. So all the time we feel we have to fight ever more strongly for the justification to assist our work. And luckily, we’re able to do this at the moment, although for the longer-term we will have to look to other sources, we anticipate, in order to make up for the loss of public funds that is likely to occur.
The society’s biggest project of recent times has been maintenance cooperatives. And for that, we’ve been extremely fortunate in getting a high percentage of support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which we now know well and has assisted us on other occasions. The great thing about the HLF is that it enables us to take on a really big project that wouldn’t be possible under other terms so that maintenance cooperatives is there to support those looking voluntarily after historic places of worship of all kinds. We provide the basic training which allows these groups to help themselves and to remain in existence and to do good work for the long term.
End transcript
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  1. Write down the sources of funding Matthew mentions and where they fit on the NCVO income spectrum.
  2. What challenges to fundraising does Matthew mention?
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  1. Matthew mentions membership as the main source of income for the SPAB. This is a relationship similar to a gift (as described on the NCVO income spectrum): members give money (subscription) and in return they receive some benefit, such as a magazine or a reduction in fees for attending an event. Members are more likely to give other donations and support fundraising events too. Matthew also mentions donations and legacies (gifts), which he highlights as useful for long-term activities.

    In terms of grants, Matthew mentions Historic England, Historic Scotland, Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales), and the Heritage Lottery Fund for specific and bigger projects. He also says they often need to find match-funding for bigger projects, which involves approaching trusts and other funding bodies. Matthew mentions the Maintenance Cooperatives (which involves volunteers caring for buildings of worship): this project involved substantial Heritage Lottery funding as well as donations and support from many other organisations. Thinking about the other elements of the NCVO income spectrum – contracts and trading – Matthew does not specifically mention these.

  2. In terms of challenges, Matthew says it is becoming increasingly competitive and difficult to find funding, as there is less money available in the public sector. His organisation (in common with many others) has to work harder and look for other sources.

You will now move on to look at methods of fundraising based on asking individuals for gifts (money).


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