Contributed by Lisa Wells, Director of Communication and Fundraising, Presbyterian Support Otago.
It has been an extremely difficult year for fundraising in New Zealand with many not-for-profit organizations reporting a decline in giving. A wiser fundraiser than me had this to say about today’s fundraising climate: “In tough economic times, the advice is simple: stay the course. There’s no better way to ensure that your organization will emerge healthy and poised for renewed growth when the tough economic times are over.”
And that is just what we try to do.
As a fundraising department we need to strategise to increase our income each year. Because most of the donations come from individuals we do most of our work in this area. In addition to Direct Mail Appeals to our donors and two public appeals each year, we make a point of visiting as many donors as possible, aiming to visit all at least once a year. As we cover all of Otago this requires a real commitment from staff.
Grant applications have been particularly challenging in recent years because the capital bases of some trusts have been depleted by declining interest income. However we also have a solid strategy in these solicitations and this results in donations which have maintained an upward trajectory.
As a social service organisation we face some difficulties in creating a compelling case for corporate support. In a quid pro quo environment it is difficult for us to offer the marketing opportunities that businesses seek in return for their support. We don’t lend ourselves well to the sponsorship approach that companies desire as we can’t exactly put a corporate logo on one of our clients!
On the other side of the ledger, the demand for our Family Works services has continued to escalate as the recession maintains its hold on the lives of many Otago families. In the last quarter alone we responded to 39% more requests for immediate help than at the corresponding time last year (and last year included significant work related to people relocating from Christchurch). Immediate help is exactly what it says – food, clothing, bedding, housing, electricity … Basic human needs for survival.
Most of our fundraising effort is directed towards our Family Works services and programmes, but the majority of Presbyterian Support activity is in our residential and community-based services for older people. We often receive bequests from people who wish to acknowledge the level of care they have received in the latter part of their life and so the majority of bequests in our favour are “tagged” for use in specific Homes or services. Where possible we use these bequests for projects which enhance the life of residents – the “nice to haves” which are not by government care contracts.
I would describe our fundraising strategy as a fully diversified programme – seeking philanthropic support from many gift markets, through a range of giving opportunities at various times over each year. We have a zero-based budget, so each year we start from scratch to raise the funds needed that year. Some might see this as risky, but it keeps us accountable to our constituency – the people of Otago.