Charities encouraged to use 'storytelling' to boost donations

31 January 2019

The CEO of a fundraising consultancy has warned the UK charity scene that it must better engage with storytelling if it is to boost stagnant levels of donations. Caroline Underwood, who heads Philanthropy Company, said the third sector would do well to spend more time considering how to make information better accessible to its major donors.

With the continued dismantling of the social security net in the UK and across developed economies, charities have once more become integral to the provision of some of the most basic and essential services citizens rely upon to survive. While the importance of the third sector could be said to be more important than ever before, it has come under intense pressure as demand for its services rapidly rises amid declining funding to charities from the UK Government.

At the same time, a number of charities are encountering a crisis of confidence, and a major decline in public favourability, thanks to a raft of damaging scandals to have hit leading names such as Oxfam in the last few years. As a result, the sector is going through a period of significant change, dealing with varying levels of public trust, increased regulation and Brexit uncertainty, as well as the recent resignation of the Civil Society Minister.

Charities encouraged to use 'storytelling' to boost donations

Because of this harsh environment, many charities are now faced with a period of difficult restructuring to simply keep their doors open – while some have even sacrificed keystone services to the private sector in the pursuit of remaining solvent. Recently, a downturn in donations saw disability charity Scope sell its regulated and day services provision wing to private sector firm Salutem Healthcare, which will now run the services for profit. The transaction impacted services at 51 locations in England and Wales, but ultimately generated £23 million for Scope, safeguarding its other aspects.

In order to better address the current situation, the leader of a UK fundraising consultancy has claimed that charities need to change the way they share information to attract major donors. Earlier in January 2019, Caroline Underwood, Chief Executive of Philanthropy Company, told the Institute of Fundraising's Major Donor Fundraising Conference that the major trends in philanthropy and major giving suggested the information that charities share needs to be more easily “digestible” if they intend to boost the number of donors they can rely on.

As reported by, Underwood continued, “We are all incredibly sophisticated in the way we get information… [However] as a sector we have been absolutely rubbish at getting out information into a relevant form.”

She went on to add that the major question fundraisers need to ask is “how do I make this information digestible to major donors?” At present, the consulting chief contended that charities rely on graphs and other complex ways of packaging information, but would be better off with moving to platforms like YouTube to use as a less conventional storytelling method to court donors. By combining this with a reputation management strategy, charities could also boost trust in their organisations and make donors feel better connected with a cause.

Before founding Philanthropy Company in 2003, Underwood was a board level Executive Director as Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships at Save the Children. There she tripled high-value income and built a team of over 80 fundraisers in the UK, while playing a key role in income generation internationally with an effort to grow income to $2.4 billion.

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Travel firm hosts consultancy marathon to raise money for charity

19 March 2019

A communications consultancy has announced it will perform a ‘consulting marathon’ to raise money for a charity based in Africa. SEO Travel will offer a 12-hour consulting surgery to as many small travel businesses as possible, while raising money for the cause.

SEO Travel has been helping travel companies improve their online presence since 2011. The firm works with a wide range of global travel brands who it helps develop brand visibility online through SEO, social media, PR and other techniques. Based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, the firm works to create engaging campaigns that increase brand awareness and drive more business and sales in a sustainable way.

The professional services firm has announced that as of the 21st of March, it will be offering these services to small travel businesses as part of a charity fundraising drive. The session will last 12 hours straight, and offers the chance for a 30-minute session, which travel companies can sign up for at the SEO Travel website. The marathon session will help small travel businesses which wouldn’t usually be able to afford a respectable and trustworthy agency’s advice.

Travel firm hosts consultancy marathon to raise money for charity

As well as helping small businesses, the event is also being used as an opportunity to raise money for charity, with SEO Travel donating to Tanzanian safari charity ‘Care with a View’ for each person that signs up, as well as asking businesses taking part to make a small donation of £10 themselves. The event will run from 8am to 8pm UK and is open to anyone around the world.

It will run by SEO Travel founder Tom McLoughlin, bringing more than 10 years of experience to the table. He explained, “I’ve got the team here on standby to order pizzas and bring me Tangfastics on demand throughout the day!”

According to Mcloughlin, while there is a lot of marketing advice on the internet, the volume of information is so high that it's impossible for small firms to tell what will help and what will hurt their company. He concluded, “With the ‘Charity Travel Marketingathon Bonanza’ we want to take away the part of not knowing so these businesses can go away with clear, actionable tactics that will help grow their business.”

Related: Charity football cup sees Hays consultants raise £3,000 for Action for Children.