Is fundraising helping people build their brand?

We’re a curious bunch and have been looking at some of the consumer trends currently shaping the charity sector.

One big question came into focus.

Is the future of fundraising about helping people build their personal brand rather than yours?

This question is the thread that connects three trends we’ve been exploring:

  • Hero me. Giving has become a performance. Social media has shifted norms. Obvious and public recognition of an individual’s altruism is a powerful reason to engage with charities. The old model of the isolated, off-line volunteer/fundraiser struggles to compete when their effort and impact can be broadcast to the world.
  • Instant gratification, visible outcomes. Instead of passively contributing to faceless organisations people want to be the agents of change. They want control, visibility and to see the immediate impact of their actions. They want to take part in things that create physical (e.g. fitness), emotional (e.g. enjoyment, personal attachment) or status (e.g. enhanced social capital) benefits. The old ways of fundraising are being challenged by new ones (e.g. gig-economy style or hyper-public fundraising models) – where they have more control over how it works.
  • Finding their position in the world: We give for ourselves. Most fundraising goes to them: their health, their children, their family and their pets. These causes are irrefutably ‘good’, easy to support and incredibly close to our day to day lives. Everything else is subject to more intense value judgement. This is a problem when we’re living in an increasingly binary world, where it’s easier than ever to find a herd that agrees with your position, where issues are inherently complex (i.e. “I think homeless people need support” vs “they’re responsible for what’s happened to them”).

To us, it feels like there are a number of implications for the future of fundraising:

  • We need to understand these new personal and social dynamics and how they relate to you as an organisation and the cause you work to support.
  • We need to better understand how these new fundraising preferences, and their supporting technologies, are developing and evolving, and
  • We need to better understand your core audience, and then understand from this how to engage your potential audience. Then, if you’re working with a controversial cause, you’ll be open to intense public criticism, so we’ll need to work out how to manage the reputational risk that comes with this.

We’d love to help you work through these challenges.

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