Disrupting traditional fundraising models

It has been almost half a century since American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler made business and governments sit up and think with his bestseller Future Shock. Described variously as illuminating, provoking and frightening, his take on economics, technology and social change discussed the rise of new business, the emerging global civilisation and overwhelming, rapid change.

Toffler also made some startling predictions. In 1970, his suggestion that in the future, fewer jobs would require employees to be physically present in an office, was outrageous. When he wrote that homes would one day resemble electronic cottages and allow a better work-life balance, it strained the imagination of the corporate world.

Toffler also predicted that instead of thinking in terms of a career, the “citizen of the superindustrial society will think in terms of serial careers”. “Not infrequently the new job involves not merely a new employer, a new location and a new set of work associates, but whole new way of life,” he wrote. The past half-century has proven Toffler right on many of his predictions that were so shocking in the 1970s, yet the workplace of the 21st century shares similar fears for the future – the rapid pace of change, technology and work-life balance.

Today though, change is accepted as inevitable, and there is little room for future shock as recruitment companies are armed with information to track trends in the future workplace for the benefit of both individuals and organisations.

It is with this in mind, The Brief has spoken to three leaders, outside the sector, who are not only facing disruption, but revelling in it.

Professor Sarah Hosking (pictured left) is working with some of the biggest names in the charity sector on a collaborative project which is almost single-handedly changing the way Australian charities contemplate the fundraising model.

Shifting the paradigm from one of competitiveness to collaboration, Sarah who is the CEO with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, has shown an appetite for disruption and rather than run from it, she embraces it and encourages those she is working with her to do the same.

“We have two main things we do as an organisation: we fundraise and we invest in research,” Sarah explained. “The pace of research is accelerating because of advancements in digital and technology including big data and enhanced analysis techniques.

“In 1994 when NBCF started, we couldn’t fully map the human genome. Yet today, we can map it in just a few hours. Research is taking less time to make breakthroughs, because of this technology.

“We are also able to better share outcomes and knowledge in real-time between research teams, institutes and clinical which benefits cancer research and patients.”

When it comes to digital disruption in fundraising however, the problem Sarah has is that it isn’t happening quickly enough in her sector to help make them be more efficient and effective at achieving their goal - for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) that is simple: “stop deaths from breast cancer”.

“In terms of what digital and technology can do to help us fundraise, it is absolutely a fast-growing area with a lot of potential, however it doesn’t have anywhere near the scale that other fundraising channels have in the short term” Sarah said speaking with The Brief.

“At the moment it remains something that not many charities globally have been able to crack, so I look forward to seeing how we get there and the framework it takes.”

Sarah has decided not to wait for digital-led fundraising to catch up to her aspirations of disrupting the norm and is in the process of building the number and scale of collaborative partnerships NBCF has with other organisations, both in terms of fundraising and research.

In the four years Sarah has held the role of CEO with NBCF, the organisation has increased the number of collaborative partnerships it has from three to 40 with scope from fundraising, shared research models, operations support, training and education.

Towards achieving their zero deaths from breast cancer mission, NBCF has developed new cancer-linkage research projects with Movember, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

NBCF even provides granting services to other charities such as Love Your Sister, which is a natural competitor in the space, having the view that funding more high-caliber research is a win for all.

“We have taken the view that we are all trying to improve outcomes in an area of one commonality or another, in this case in the cancer research space, and my view is that there are commonalities and learnings between cancers which can be shared to increase impact for patients” Sarah continued.

In the fundraising space, Sarah said it was common for organisations to believe they should be competing against each other for charitable donations but this was often counter-productive to what they each are trying to achieve.

She explained that with 56,000 registered charities in Australia, and “new ones arising every day”, it is critical for NBCF to be able to attract attention to achieve the donations it needs.

“People in fundraising can be afraid of other charities and worry that another’s success becomes their loss,” Sarah said. “So I decided to test that theory and started setting up Rippling, a joint fundraising venture between us, Unicef Australia, the Starlight Foundation and CanTeen.

“These are all great charities and great brands who we have real values alignment with. Reaching out to their CEOs I soon realised that others shared my views and the sector was ready for change.

“Of course people are very curious about what we are doing and why we are working together, but what we have is a company with a common purpose to raise funds to support our respective missions.

“Any commonality we can find around great ways to connect with the community through sustainable donor acquisition - people who donate small amounts of money over the long-term - will benefit all of us and the causes we are raising money for.

“The view of the NBCF Board has been as long as the mission of those we are looking to partner with is in alignment with ours, then we are open to possibilities.”

Why social media is not yet effective at soliciting scalable direct donations

While Sarah and NBCF wait for digital disruption to improve the ways they fundraise, she said social media has been incredibly useful in terms of helping to spread awareness and education and acquire community fundraisers.

“While we may be reaching more people with our message, that is not translating into more direct fundraising dollars, and we still need to do a lot of work once they are registered in order to get them to actually fundraise” she continued.

“For NBCF, at the end of the day, a conversation with someone still proves more powerful in securing regular and scalable donations.

“It is fantastic that we are reaching people to bring awareness and educate them to hopefully reduce the incidence of cancer. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is increasing at an alarming rate, with 19,500 new diagnoses of breast cancer every year, that’s 53 patients diagnosed every day. It is the most diagnosed cancer in Australia and eight women die every day from the disease.

“We also know that research works. Five-year survival rates for people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer has increased in from 76 per cent to 91 per cent in the last 25 years.”

Sarah explained that while breast cancer research and charities are generally well known and supported in Australia, the statistics demonstrate the need for immediate and collaborative action to increase their fundraising returns to increase the research.

“It has been surprising to me how much I have enjoyed challenging the norm in what I am doing with disrupting traditional ways of fundraising and funding research, particularly though our approach to collaborative partnerships,” she said.

“I think when you can put aside your fears about the competition, the increasing sector challenges and testing new disruptive technology and systems, it can be incredibly rewarding. That has been our experience.”

Read Damian Hackett’s story here Reader Tony Nash’s story here

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