CDE project 11d com­mu­ni­ty sec­tion 2

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 27, 2017

Putting the principles and actions into practice

The principles and actions set out here are organised into the 2 areas of interest - Donor engagement and Organisational readiness.

Donor Engagement

On boarding and welcoming a community donor is an important stage in the relationship and many potential relationships break down at this earliest stage. Many charities such as Shelter are using ex-service users to do this either by telephone, welcome messaging on short films or by welcome cards. This not only provides an engaging beginning to the relationship but also connects community donors to the cause. A quick, timely and relevant welcome sets the tone for the relationship going forward.

Once welcomed, getting to understand donor motivation can be done in a variety of ways:

Any organisation lucky enough to have a content management system (CMS) will be able to automate communication and assess interest through click through, distilling content according to interest and tailoring rich content according to donor interest.

Donor surveys as part of regular communication are important to better understand motivation. Many charities undertake donor surveys on a regular basis. Some charities, NSPCC, Shelter and Action for Children have asked corporate partners to support in thanking donors through calling. Both Wateraid and Send a Cow UK have held ‘a day of thanking’ where staff are asked to call a number of donors each to thank them for their support of the charity. This is a great way to engage the wider organisation in understanding the importance of community support.

Of course, personal face to face interaction and tracking donor activity is by far the most effective method of relationship building.

Maintaining the relationship through effective communication is key:

Ensure donor preferences are understood and acted on: type, channel, frequency

Remember the organisation is the conduit. Connect the donor with the cause, the beneficiary. Storytelling, impact can now be done in a large variety of ways through email, film, GIF, telephone, text and written card or letter. Child sponsorship has worked for a reason. It is direct, emotional, personal and tangible. Heart and mind. 

Across the sector, the key activities within community fundraising are:

  • do it yourself / in aid of
  • group / committee
  • collections
  • mass participation e.g. the Macmillan Coffee Morning, Dryathlon
  • regional corporate / employee led fundraising
  • third party challenge and sporting events

From the 2015 benchmarking survey, the average community fundraising department could expect to have 3,401 volunteers, including an average of 70 speakers. Other key volunteer roles will be filled but in lower volumes, such as ambassadors, in memoriam and collectors.

The survey also demonstrated that community fundraising was no longer confined to local communities and that there were four key areas of opportunity, all of which could be physical or remote:

  • Geography: the long-standing way of targeting, mobilising and developing communities of support.
  • Concern: the core of most movements, identifying a group of people who share an interest, motivation, desire or concern.
  • Interest: the Internet means that no matter what your hobby or interest you can connect and share with other people. These communities are potentially well placed to build on-going charitable support.
  • Culture: recognising the multi-cultural make up of our society this gives charities the chance to connect and respond to different cultures in our societies and their needs and interests.

These opportunities for charities have been facilitated by the growth in the use of on line giving platforms such as Just Giving and Virgin Smart Money, which have transformed community event fundraising (17% of people gave to charity in the last year by sponsoring someone, according the CAF UK Giving Report 2015).

Social media has created the opportunity to create "virtual" fundraising groups. For example, Maggie’s Cancer Care has local Facebook pages for each of its 15 Cancer Caring Centres, to celebrate their local news. Macmillan have regional and local Facebook pages e.g. Macmillan West of Scotland.

The rise of social media and the possibility of virtual communities mean that the division between community events and national mass participation events is no longer as clear as it once was. In particular, ice bucket challenges (organised by a range of charities, most notably MNDA and Macmillan Cancer Support) combined local fundraising events in a national framework. Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Mornings also combine local events in a national framework.

Online based fundraising events such as No Makeup Selfie defy categorisation by geographic location, but are perhaps best considered to be national since there is no element of local organisation

DIY fundraising continues to grow in popularity, with many supporters setting up their own challenge events, for example skydiving or a Land's End to John O’Groats bike ride. Support for these is increasingly leveraged via social media and online sponsorship platforms. A strong causal link with the charity was thought to be essential for the success of these events, but there is increasing evidence this is no longer the case e.g. NSPCC’s 60 Minute Challenge.

Many charities have developed fundraising campaigns to provide a communications focus for their supporters’ activities including downloadable packs, guidelines and other assistance to help with such fundraising. DIY fundraising is also aided by the existence of online donation platforms such as JustGiving. DIY fundraising tends to deliver an excellent ROI for the charity, partly because it has a lower investment of staff time as it is not staff led, and partly because the individual is energised and empowered to the event and maximise income. The THINK Community Forum benchmark revealed that the average amount raised for DIY fundraising was £400 compared to £100 for involvement in a mass community event. The increasing range of products offered by charities provides the “hook” for people to become involved. 


According to the CAF UK Giving Report 2015, in the previous year 13% of people volunteered for a charity. The Cabinet Office’s Community Life gives a higher figure of 42% for people engaged in formal volunteering in the last year, and 27% for people having done so in the previous year (2014), this higher figure reflecting a broader definition of formal volunteering to include a broader section of voluntary bodies including clubs, trade unions, political parties etc.

The Cabinet Office data shows that the level of volunteering has been relatively stable over the last decade (with a slight peak in 2012-2013, probably because of volunteering around the Olympics). This data also shows that there is an increasing level of employer supported volunteering. In 2014-15, 6% of people had volunteered via employer supported schemes in the last year and 3% within the last month.

There is undoubtedly a growing demand for volunteering opportunities to be flexible and time limited, to fit into people’s lives. This demand, together with the development of new technology such as smart phones, has given rise to the concept of ‘micro volunteering’ defined in a report by NCVO as: ‘bite -size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short specific actions that are quick to start and complete’.

Charities are looking increasingly to volunteers to deliver local events rather than staff, using the net income generated from a local event to determine the level of staff involvement and encouraging NVQ or other development opportunities as a means to engage support. WaterAid have a network of 600 volunteer speakers across the country, who can speak at a local level to engage and inspire potential supporters and SCUK has a number of volunteer media coordinators as a part of their volunteer branch structure.

Marie Curie is seeking to create more than two hundred local fundraising groups which are at the centre of its fundraising, organising all voluntary fundraising other than direct marketing and legacies. Rather than staging national events, Marie Curie nationally develops off the shelf fundraising products that the local groups can use.

Organisational readiness

In order for a community fundraising programme to thrive, Trustee and SMT leadership is critical in supporting an understanding across the organisation of the importance of community donors and volunteers to the beneficiary and therefore to the organisation. The following actions will add value to a successful environment:

  • an organisational supporter charter
  • engagement in community activities by being present at events or through written communication
  • promoting good practice across the charity
  • Integrating donor principles in all HR programmes: recruitment, training, induction, appraisals

A structured stewardship programme is key to developing the relationship with community donors. For example, DIY/”in aid of” fundraising has become increasingly popular in recent years and many charities now have developed specific products such as the NSPCC’s “Sign up for the 60 minute Challenge” which challenges donors as to how far they can run, cycle or swim in 1 hour. A case study on the website explains how a supporter donated £2 a month but wanted to do more, and began running in the park when he took his son to gymnastics. There were key touch points to developing this relationship between the donor and the NSPCC, moving him from the £2/month donor to a more engaged supporter who did several actions for the charity.

All significant number of charities are investing in community fundraising, indicating the once again increasing popularity of this form of fundraising. A donor is therefore likely to have expectations about the service provided by a charity and the products available when they engage with community fundraising

Underpinning both of these areas is an effective database, with all actions and contact points recorded in a timely and efficient process to manage the relationship as productively as possible. Increasingly this is becoming automated to respond to donor preferences. Digital readiness will become an increasingly important factor in the success of any community fundraising programme where distance support is required.

The measurement of all fundraising activity is critical in terms of ROI and other KPIs to ensure profitability is maximised for the charity in addition to the more nebulous “awareness”.

The Institute of Fundraising changed the Fundraising Code of Practice in August 2015 stating no donor who was registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) should be telephoned without the explicit consent of the donor. This was clarified by the ICO: a donor has to give their explicit consent, either in writing or in a recorded phone call, for a charity to ring them. This consent would “over-ride” the TPS; implicit consent – e.g. a phone call between donor and charity in which the donor doesn’t object to the phone call – is not sufficient to “over-ride” the TPS. The process for recording and maintaining consent to contact a donor is critical for the relationship development between charity and supporters through community fundraising. It is essential that Community Fundraising staff are trained to have a good understanding of the new regulations, and implement these, adapting working practices where necessary and ensuring the contact strategy is not adversely affected


To identify the core practices of effective donor engagement in the community set out in this paper the following research was undertaken:

  • THINK consulting research on community fundraising
  • CAF UK Giving Report 2015 (published May 2016)
  • Fundratios 2014 report
  • CAF’s Britain’s Civic Care Report 2013
  • Halifax Giving Monitor 2015
  • Desk Research
  • Qualitative survey of Directors of Fundraising, Head of community fundraising and staff contributors
  • Qualitative survey of community volunteers
  • Small focus groups

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

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