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Re-thinking Fundraising in a Post-Lockdown World

3 min read

On the heels of COVID, Be Centre CEO Michelle Carlyle writes about the shift to more strategic fundraising – one that celebrates personal connections, digital transformation and reflects a growing desire to see more demonstrable impact in communities close to home.

As the CEO of a large self-funded charity, COVID hit us hard. Not only did our face-to-face fundraising initiatives come to screeching halt; they did so at the exact time that demand for our services soared. As a Play Therapy centre, families turned to us in record numbers, first seeking support for their children during the devastating bushfires and then as a result of COVID – on top of the everyday emotional and behavorial difficulties children face between the ages of three and 12. In fact, for the first time ever we had to close our waitlist.

While our waitlist may have now re-opened, our time during lockdown by no means meant we waited around to resume our traditional fundraising initiatives. Instead, it forced us to get creative; re-evaluate our relationships with potential donors and seize the moment of digital uptake and changing company cultures.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) no longer a tick-a-box exercise for most organisations (thank goodness). There needs to be value alignment, business alignment, and transparency. And the stakes are high because, as analysis has shown, 42% of how people feel about a company is based on their perceptions of the firm’s corporate social responsibility practices.

And while a September 2020 report from PWC found that “while some organisations are increasing their focus on CSR, many have a long way to go to meet maturing stakeholder expectations”. We’ve found a few ways how …

The gift of time

Thanks to Messenger, Meet and Zoom, meetings continued for many of us throughout COVID’s various lockdowns. Working remotely indeed propelled us to think through an innovative/digital lens, which led us to the Meet With Purpose initiative bringing sustainability to our fundraising efforts long into the future. Through a “curation” process on the Meet With Purpose designed platform, technology specialists and senior executives are matched up for a business meeting based on both their business needs and objectives. Not only is this a reportable initiative for the execs, but every meeting delivers $700 to a charity – meetings that most execs would already be having.

Moreover, while the reality is that large grants or contributions are ultimately what most charities and non-profits are after, non-monetary donations – in this case, the ‘gift’ of time pledged through every meeting – can develop a longer-term corporate partnerships that bring in significant value over time or turn into a sustainable income stream.

Show clear and demonstrable impact

With pressure is mounting on CSR departments to show demonstrable impact, now is the time to be clear about how their contributions – whether it be in the form of financial funding, gifts (in-kind) or even their time – will be used and/or how many beneficiaries will be impacted. As part of your value proposition, be as precise as possible. In our case, every meeting pledged is enough to provide one-to-one Play Therapy sessions for seven at-risk children; yours may be the number of books/meals/workshops that can be provided through donations or sponsorships.

Promote purpose-led partnerships

From climate change to COVID-19, the belief that businesses must contribute to the social good is stronger than ever before. But, as organisations scramble to position themselves with popular causes or issues of the day in the effort to stand out, they may simply fall flat without an authentic connection to the cause they’re purporting to support.

With increasingly discerning consumers who are in search of brands who ‘do good’, organisations need to be wary of ‘purpose washing’ – or the use of purpose simply as marketing tactic. By offering a clear and authentic purpose, one that aligns with a company’s brand values and goals, charities can tap into the genuine desire of a growing number of organisation’s to play a positive role in the communities around them.

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Michelle Carlyle is currently Chief Executive Officer of Be Centre Foundation, a charity that supports children aged between 3-12 years of age who are suffering from a range of emotional and behavioural issues, many caused by trauma. With a background in the ‘for profit’ sector, Michelle brings her business experience combined with her passion for physical/mental wellbeing into this ‘for purpose’ organisation.


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