The charity challenge of change

The recommendation of the 2015 Cross-Party Review of Fundraising Regulation was to set up a service for members of the public to control the nature and frequency of charity communications that they receive...

The Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) has now been launched. How do these developments impact on our ability to fundraise now and in the future?

There are more than 165,000 charities in the UK of which 90% have an annual income below £500k – but the combined gross income of charities is reaching £73bn (Charity Commission: Charity register statistics).

The number of registered charities in 2000 was 159,854 rising to 167,109 by 2016 an increase of 10%. By contrast the number of those charities with an annual income of more than £10m increased by 28% from just 336 in 2000 to 1,191 in 2016.

We can say with certainty that HEROS Charity is within the 90% with an annual income below £500k.
But it illustrates the competitive environment we have found ourselves operating within. Understandably, this comes with a high level of regulation – there are more than 10 regulators for the charity sector. Given the declining trust in charities, and recent intense public scrutiny that resulted in the Cross-Party Review, we welcome regulation. HEROS Charity will always aim to strike the balance between the fundamental need to fundraise and respecting the wishes of those we approach for financial support.

Anyone who works in racing, and with horses in general, knows without a doubt that the only way to make a small fortune in this industry is to start with a large one. Equestrian pursuits are a passion, rarely are they easy to quantify.

Real value

The retraining and rehoming of ex-racehorses is the result of just such a passion and a necessary response to a disposable attitude towards Thoroughbreds. In an ideal world Thoroughbreds coming off the racecourse would hold a real value, either commercially or privately, that would negate the need for funds to be raised to ensure a secure future for them following their racing careers. This is not the case in reality. There is also the challenge that anything in the equestrian world (or indeed animal related) is a 24/7 year-round commitment.

We have to recognise our differences from organisations such as the Red Cross for example. We do not operate in an environment where international crisis brings our brand to widespread attention. Our area is far more low key, but of no less value. As a charity we are competing for space in a crowded marketplace, and we recognise that supporters have high expectations of a personalised experience across a widening number of communication channels.

Alongside the everyday work of meeting the main objectives of the charity, to maintain on-going support we need to understand our audiences like never before – recognising that we must build a brand that is seen as relevant and trusted in every area.

HEROS Charity has developed several avenues by which funds can be raised – some have been more successful in the past than they are now, fundraising events are currently less attractive. Our recent golf day for example (see right) was highly enjoyable, but sponsor commitment was hard to get. We did achieve a profit of just under £6k, which looks good on the face of it but take in to account the man-hours for administration and the fact that, sadly, those pennies don’t go very far when it comes to horses, we have to question the viability of events and seek to spread our net to a wider and more varied audience.

Grants have always been a valued source of income for large and vital projects that enable our development. But with an increase in the number of charities, so there is an increased pressure on the money available for such plans.

The current view is that there will be a growth in charitable activities that combine fundraising with volunteering or fundraising with campaigning. This is based on the so-called baby boomer generation (children of the 60s) being wealthier and more interested in ‘changing the world’, and with better pensions, than almost any generation in history. This group is more likely to enjoy longer retirement periods in financial comfort and may have more time to commit to volunteering as well as financially supporting charities that interest them through pledges and leaving legacies.

We take changes in public perception of charities extremely seriously. All of our communications are genuinely well intended to inform of our progress and encourage, but not expect, financial support. Ultimately we want our followers to enjoy with us the satisfaction of watching newly retrained racehorses going on to lead fulfilling futures. However, if times are changing then ideally we need to change too. Our hope is to maintain the wonderful support we already enjoy while also growing additional support to maintain our future – and a New Life After Racing for our HEROS horses.

Feedback

We always welcome advice, feedback and ideas from our followers and supporters – please do get in touch via info@heroscharity.org or call the office on 01488 638820.

If, however, you do wish to raise a concern over the way we communicate and you do not wish to contact us directly you can use the online service at fundraisingpreference.org.uk or by calling the telephone helpline on 0300 303 3517.