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New Year Resolutions: For Charities

My work brings me into contact with many charities and so I began to wonder how my ramblings on new year resolutions apply to charities.  So, after a bit of thought and reading of what others have suggested, here are some ideas:

1. Numbers count

Accountants like numbers – sometimes too much, as I often read coronary reports citing ‘death by spreadsheet’.  But for all organisations there will be some really important numbers that you need to keep a very close eye on as part of a monthly, or even weekly routine.  For example:

– The total bank balance: plot the balance every month on a graph and see if you can see a trend
– Donors signing up v. donors who stop giving

So, maybe resolve to get your team together, and come up with no more than half a dozen key numbers for your organisation.  Then agree to measure those numbers and report them every month, and try to understand the trend.

2. Look after your donors

Often charities need to do a better job getting a second gift from an existing supporter, instead of putting so much time and energy into winning new donors.

So, put yourself in the shoes of a donor (hopefully they’re not too tight).  How easy is it for them to give?  Last week my wife was trying to pass some money onto a charity that a group had raised for them – she tried to donate via their website, but it didn’t work.  She then emailed to ask why – and got no response.  She then phoned, having eventually found a phone number, and the one person who could help was away and encouraged her to phone back another week.  If this was a personal donation, rather than passing on someone else’s money, they are likely to have lost that donation.

But don’t stop there – assuming someone is successful in actually making a donation, what messages do they get back.  Note I use the plural ‘messages’ – consider not just a personal ‘thank you’ but contact them again later to describe the impact of the gift made.

3. Use specific projects

Many donors will respond to appeals to raise money for specific projects rather than to a general call to raise money for the charity.  So, for example, instead of asking for general donations for a childrens charity, of which you will spend £10,000 on upgrading play equipment, consider having a special appeal for the play equipment.

As part of your ‘looking after’ the donors, you will of course send stories and pictures of children enjoying the new equipment, which might include a more general request about continuing to support the charity in order that we can continue helping to bring smiles on the faces of the children.

4. Demonstrating impact

Resolve to take one step to help improve the way information is collected and reported about the impact you have on your beneficiaries.

This may be as simple as ensuring that every month you ask someone to write a story about the impact you have had on their life.  Maybe you need to select one trustee with a specific role to make sure this gets done.

It may be a more sophisticated measuring tool and there are some really useful resources, for example those produced by New Philanthropy Capital which look at charities working in a variety of specific sectors.

5. Don’t forget the next generation

Research suggests that there are a growing number of donors who want to involve their children and grandchildren in their philanthropy.   So maybe charities need to consider developing opportunities where people of different ages can volunteer, learn and experience their work.

Do you ever have open days to see your work?  If so, make sure they are inviting to those both young and old.

6. Remember people die

Having seen some charities in recent years, where a legacy has had a huge impact on the charity’s impact, maybe charities should be doing more to encourage people to include you in their will.  Again, make it easy for them to do it – be ready with the paperwork or details of a local friendly will-writer.

Just remember that legacies are a huge area of fraud suffered by charities, for example where the executors, who may also be the main beneficiaries under the will, do not pass money on to where the will states it should go.   Some of our clients sign up to will monitoring services, which search all probate and report to you if your charity is mentioned – and it doesn’t cost too much.

So, as I think about the year ahead, which one of the above ideas will you adapt for your charity – in fact which one will I try to deal with in the charity I’m a trustee of?

Happy New Year