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.

Laughter, tears, and a whole lot of celebration

Monday, April 27th, 2020

On Tuesday, a group of over 600 fundraisers joined together to celebrate fundraising and share in the love for the sector, for our first ever virtual I Wish I’d Thought Of That (IWITOT) with SOFII. There were some tears, a load of support, a ton of clapping emojis, and even the appearance of goats…

This year’s IWITOT felt even more special than the previous years, as it was held at a time when the charity sector feels very uncertain amidst a crisis that is forcing us all to be apart. That didn’t stop fundraisers from all over the globe getting involved to listen to speakers pitch their favourite fundraising campaigns in a bid to win the IWITOT 2020 title. And what a range of incredible campaigns they were… from Moses and the Tabernacle, to Queer Proms beating bigots; corporate partnerships bringing tears and changing lives; a Blue Peter totaliser childhood memory; goats as attendees at your company Zoom meetings; and a host of other inspiring and interesting fundraising examples. 

With every new speaker that took the virtual stage came an inspiring campaign and a unique take on why it deserved to be crowned the winner. The great talks kept coming, and in what seemed like only a few minutes, all 17 speakers had put on a great show. It was hard to know who was going to win, so we left everyone to cast their votes and waited to see the result. It was a close call, but the winner is:


Megan Townshend with her talk on the Choose Love Christmas pop up store!


We managed to raise over £15,000 for SOFII so they can keep doing great work for the sector, and are so grateful to everyone who came and joined us, and to all the incredible speakers who took part. A special thanks definitely goes to our 2 fabulous hosts Camille (last year’s IWITOT winner) and Joe (representing SOFII) – who kept things going and even managed outfit changes – it was just like the Oscars! 

As with every year, we’re so happy and proud of IWITOT and all it does, and that it brings everyone together to celebrate success. It is so uplifting, and we’re pretty sure that the virtual part is here to stay – hopefully alongside the live event returning soon! 


If you missed IWITOT, you can still catch up and watch the whole show here:

Please note, you will no longer be able to vote. 

When the dust settles

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

My spirits have been lifted as I’ve watched the outpouring of advice, information and support on how to fundraise during these unprecedented times. We are all going to learn a lot about how to adapt and continue to do good in these times. 

This isn’t a blog with more advice though, this is a blog about what happens when the dust settles on this crisis and we hopefully all emerge safe and well on the other side. So much that we did last week or the week before suddenly feels distant, unimportant or even irrelevant. 

This applies particularly to planning work I’ve been doing around Open’s partnership with Allan Freeman, Charity Benchmarks

We created Charity Benchmarks to give fundraisers the information they need to make better decisions and, in doing so, raise more money and maximise the impact of the cause they fundraise for. Only two years in and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and fascinating debate that it has caused. 

For the last few months we’ve been busy planning this year’s study, as well as welcoming new participants. However, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of conversations about how to move forward in these uncertain times. 

At times we wobbled, but we concluded that we must push on with Benchmarks. 

Given the inevitable and already reported hit to everyone’s fundraising, it strikes me that having an understanding of your fundraising programme in relation to those of other charities will be vitally important when planning, reporting on performance and making sense of what is happening. 

Charity Benchmarks is unique in that it combines detailed analysis of the hard data behind your fundraising, but also incorporates perspectives on current and future performance through surveys and qualitative interviews with fundraising leaders. This means that you can benchmark and plan against not only performance, but reflect levels of optimism and focus for the future.So whilst it doesn’t feel important today, it will certainly be relevant as we return to our offices and another ’new normal’ sets in and we have to make sense of it all. 

That all said, we have certainly seen a slow down in new charities signing up in the last couple of weeks. To be pragmatic, we are extending the deadline for joining Charity Benchmarks until the end of April. We do this as hope it means it will give teams time to adapt to all the change, but then begin to consider what the world looks like in a few months time. 

If you’d like more information about Charity Benchmarks then please drop me an email. I can share a sample report to give you a flavour of what your charity would receive for participating. 



Strategic Partnerships Director