COVID or Climate Emergency: what really impacted your fundraising in 2020 and how to plan for success

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

It’s not news to tell you coronavirus has dominated fundraising conversations in 2020.

From March this year, the sector faced bleak uncertainty with the threat of declining income, restructures, and impending recession. Some charities took action while others waited it out with varying results.

As predicted, some larger organisations like Macmillan are expecting a multi-million-pound drop in income for flagship fundraising events, but others, like UNICEF, have experienced record-breaking fundraising success.

But are these results purely driven by coronavirus, and what does success really look like in the new sector into which we’re emerging?

How can we ensure other important drivers in charity success like anti-racism, climate emergency, and discrimination are still highlighted when considering covid’s impact?

And with another lockdown on its way, mixed messages from the Government, and uncertainty once again rising, how can we be sure the decisions we are making for the future of our fundraising are the right ones?



How do we know what success looks like in 2020?

Benchmarking is crucial for fundraisers to make the right decisions on what to do next.

By looking at another charity’s performance against your own you can break down what makes such superior performance possible, and then comparing those processes to how your own charity operates, you can implement changes that you know will bring significant improvements.

What worked before as a reliable income stream, face to face for example, now needs to be innovated to continue. Because of the changes in delivery, the outcomes too will change; affecting what success will look like.

How will you know if your fundraising activity is a success if you don’t know what success now looks like?

Nor can we assume that every activity’s outcome in 2020 is because of covid.

For example, Shelter raised £3m from this video in March this year. Was this because of timing and need, or because of their ongoing work to center the beneficiary as the voice of their charity?


What benchmarking can do for you

You’re being asked to re-forecast or even restructure, huge decisions that will have a lasting impact on your organisation, without knowing the bigger picture. That is a huge responsibility to undertake without proper insight or support.

You can either take your best guess or compare your performance and plans with other leading charities – that’s where benchmarking comes in.

By comparing your own performance and activities against that of the UK’s leading charities you can find confidence and clarity that the important decisions you make today will have a positive, lasting impact on what’s to come.

The benefits to benchmarking include identifying performance gaps that need improvement, gain clarity on what actions to take based on what’s working in the wider sector, and improve efficiencies in the activities you’re already doing well.

In the current situation, the benefit to benchmarking is a solid understanding of what success now looks like and how you measure against that; and if not, what you need to do about it.


How to benchmark

Benchmarking is data-driven insight that requires good relationships within the sector, an eye for detail and crunching the numbers, and time to properly analyse and deliver the results.

The components are as follows:

  • Select a product, service or process to benchmark
  • Identify the key performance metrics
  • Choose companies or internal areas to benchmark
  • Collect data on performance and practices
  • Analyse the data and identify opportunities for improvement
  • Adapt and implement the best practices, setting reasonable goals and ensuring charity-wide acceptance

Top tip: to ensure an adequate comparison of data you must compare your charity against more than just a few charities.


We’re here to help

Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing more resources from our Planning team to help you make a solid plan for how to respond to 2020’s challenges in a way that won’t create further problems for you in future.

We’ll be sharing these on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts – make sure you hit that ‘follow’ button if you haven’t already.


And if you don’t want to go it alone

In previous years we’ve delivered our Charity Benchmarks service to provide UK fundraisers with the information they need to make better decisions, to help raise more money and maximise the impact of their causes.

“A great, insightful report that really does add to our sector knowledge. I’m so pleased we got involved.”

– Joe Jenkins: Executive Director of Engagement & Income Generation, The Children’s Society

In 2020, an annual report won’t cut it.

We too have reflected and adapted, and in partnership with Allan Freeman of Freestyle Marketing have launched the Impact Monitor; a quarterly, fully detailed report to provide fundraising Heads, Directors or their CEO’s with a relevant and timely view of their programme’s performance against other charities.

We’ll prepare a tailored report just for your charity that shows how you perform against the rest of the data set in a few useful areas:

  • Revenues by fundraising area
  • Costs by fundraising area
  • Supporter volumes (new and retained)
  • Recruitment performances and CPAs
  • Retention rates
  • Staffing levels and resource

Through a survey and interviews, we’re also collating more qualitative data about the future:

  • Fundraising plans and priorities
  • Targets and confidence levels
  • Fears for the future
  • Innovation and diversification
  • Team function, culture and morale

In a matter of weeks you will be comparing your performance with the rest of our participants. 


We’ve listened to our sector colleagues and are able to offer all of this at a discount to organisational members of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. Just £3,450 (exc. VAT).

We’re closing applications to the first round of benchmarking on September 30th with the final few places available for new charities to take part.

To join the other organisations already preparing to be benchmarked or get more information, email Mark Foster (Open) or Allan Freeman (Freestyle Marketing) today.

Together for a Hunger Free Future

Monday, August 10th, 2020

We’re a competitive bunch at Open and we love winning pitches. But we were especially happy last week when the team at the Trussell Trust told us that they’d chosen us to be part of their mission to end the need for food banks.

That’s partly because the Trussell Trust is a bit of a favourite cause at Open’s annual giveathon – we love what they do and we’ve been proud to support them financially over the years. And, of course, it’s an organisation that has responded magnificently to the current crisis.

But we’re mostly pleased – and excited – because the Trussell Trust has asked us to think and work differently. To move beyond simple ‘itch and scratch’ fundraising and develop a programme that will bring together millions of people to create a future where nobody needs to use a food bank.

They know that the easy path to revenue – especially at Christmas – would be to tell a sad story and present a box of food as a simple, affordable solution. But they’re not going to. Because distributing boxes of food isn’t the solution. It’s a tragic but necessary response to the fact that many thousands of families in the UK are going hungry.

Our task, therefore, is to build support for a better Britain. Where the safety net is more robust and where the route out of poverty is easier and more clearly marked. And where handouts are a thing of the past.

It won’t happen quickly. But we’re looking forward to seeing hundreds of local food banks close because everyone can afford their own food – and putting our new client out of business as soon as possible.

Watch this space…

Saving a generation

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

How do we get a nation in lockdown, focused on their families and their futures to think about what coronavirus means for a child in Bangladesh? Or Yemen? That was the challenge Open and Unicef were faced with a few weeks ago. And we knew that if we didn’t meet it, it would be devastating for millions. No pressure then.

Working closely with Unicef’s teams, we developed a creative approach that took what we were all learning about coronavirus from the daily briefings, and flipped it to make our message urgent and relevant.

We all know that coronavirus is more deadly for those with pre-existing conditions. In some parts of the world, poverty is a pre-existing condition. So are hunger and conflict. In a community where there’s already not enough food, medicine, or basics like soap and water makes, everyone is more at risk from a deadly pandemic.

Another thing we all learned about coronavirus is that there’s one generation that’s disproportionately affected. In the UK and many western countries, that’s older people. But in the poorest communities, it’s children. Millions of children. Research from Unicef and Johns Hopkins estimated that if we didn’t act, 6,000 children could die every day. That’s one child every 15 seconds.

Armed with that knowledge, there was only one way to frame our campaign:

Save Generation Covid

Save Generation Covid Billboard

We helped Unicef spread the word that a generation of children is under threat from the impact of coronavirus. We developed a bold visual style that can currently be seen on key outdoor sites across the UK as well as the usual online and offline channels. And, with the help of a track donated by Fatboy Slim, as well as a voiceover from Unicef ambassador David Harewood, we created a DRTV ad that’s as big and ambitious as it should be if we are to save a generation of children.

The ad has just launched and we couldn’t be more proud of doing our bit to save a generation.