The competence center for charitable foundations Strategic fundraising. Two effective approaches.

Strategic fundraising. Two effective approaches.

Fundraising has considerable potential for charitable foundations as well. But taking a strategic approach is the only way to achieve your goals. Stéphanie Kebeiks from the Pro Juventute youth foundation and Carole Burri from the Schweizer Tafel hunger relief foundation know this all too well. The area heads provide information on strategies and approaches for collecting donations and take a look at the future of fundraising.

As the largest Swiss foundation for children and youth development, Pro Juventute has been committed to helping children, young people, and their parents for over 100 years. What is the vision behind it?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: Pro Juventute wants every child in Switzerland to have a fulfilled childhood and a self-determined, responsible upbringing. The diverse range of services we offer help young people to develop as confident and socially responsible individuals. This is vital in ensuring that they feel they are a valuable part of society. Switzerland should be a great place for them to be.

Schweizer Tafel, on the other hand, has made it its mission to bridge the gap between scarcity and abundance. Can you explain this in more detail, Ms. Burri?

Carole Burri: Nearly one in seven people in Switzerland are at risk of poverty and some are forced to live on a severely restricted diet. At the same time, around two million tons of perfectly edible food ends up in the garbage each year. These are two problems for which Schweizer Tafel has a joint solution. We collect surplus food and distribute it for free to charitable institutions, which not only helps people in need, but also reduces food waste.

How do you raise social awareness of your work?

Carole Burri: When the Schweizer Tafel bus distributed its first food parcels 20 years ago, poverty was still quite a taboo – with Switzerland having a reputation as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Social attitudes are different nowadays. Particularly since the coronavirus pandemic, the topic of poverty has received a lot of attention in the media. This benefits us as a charitable organization. To remain at the forefront of people's minds, we organize various events including a national fundraising campaign, the Annual Soup Day.

Pro Juventute also uses donations as a means of funding its activities. The same question goes to you, Ms. Kebeiks: What means do you use to persuade potential donors?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: Once a year, we analyze the conversations that have been had by our advisory service 147 anonymously and confidentially and create a Worry Barometer. This tells us where our programs are needed the most and allows us to launch relevant campaigns to raise awareness. We communicate very clearly what sort of an impact the donations have. For instance, a donation of CHF 15 can pay for a guidance session via the 147 service and help a child in need directly. From experience, we know that this approach is very valuable for donors because it tells them exactly what they are supporting.

Do you have different fundraising strategies for different submarkets or do you operate an overall strategy?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: We tailor our fundraising strategies to different submarkets. We target private individuals in particular with street campaigns, donor letters, or by going door to door, and we've also been using digital strategies since 2019. In addition to private individuals, we also support companies with programs and projects, and we submit applications to charitable endowment funds. We have service agreements with the public sector at the cantonal and federal levels.

What is the fundraising strategy like at Schweizer Tafel?

Carole Burri: We work with submarkets as well. For institutional fundraising, we work with our longstanding business partners and the patron's association of Schweizer Tafel. Like Pro Juventute, we submit applications to charitable endowment funds. On top of this, we work with the church, which is also very important to us. Our public fundraising activities mainly involve sending out digital and physical mailings. At the moment, we're focusing on expanding our online activities because we're seeing rapid development here and can achieve a lot with relatively few resources.

If you could go into a little more detail on the digital activities: What is the current potential and where do you both see the future of digital fundraising?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: Digital fundraising is best done strategically. Projects of a particularly emotional nature, where the target for our support can be clearly defined, do well online. Digital fundraising will undoubtedly play an ever-greater role in the future. However, I would discourage foundations from totally abandoning traditional fundraising measures like donor letters. After all, these contacts are – at least for the moment still – longer lasting and yield greater donation proceeds.

Carole Burri: In recent years, Schweizer Tafel has predominantly been involved in institutional fundraising. However, the donations market is beginning to develop in the digital sphere as well. We need to jump on this bandwagon. I believe that digital fundraising is the future, but like Ms. Kebeiks I think that analog activities will remain pivotal for the time being as they allow us to reach a large number of target groups.

Older and middle-aged people tend to donate more to charitable organizations than younger people. How do you intend to reach out to the next generation of donors?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: That is why it is important to have a strong social media presence. The only way to inspire young target groups is to spread the word about what you're doing. We are currently working on making our communications more visually appealing to strike a chord with users of these social networks.

Carole Burri: You need to address donors much more directly on social media. Communication needs to be rapid and fresh. It is also absolutely essential that the donation process is straightforward. New tools like Twint are great and are working extremely well for us.

How do you retain donors for longer periods of time?

Carole Burri: Generally speaking, it's becoming more and more difficult. Everything is more short-term, faster-paced, and people don't want to commit. But experience has shown that if we target donors strategically and offer them the right tool, they are still willing to make a longer-term donation commitment.

The donations market is competitive and there are lots of organizations out there – in fact, the number is growing. How are you dealing with this?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: It is certainly true that there has been a sharp rise in institutional fundraising in recent years. There are hardly any foundations these days that aren't doing it. It is important not to cannibalize one another, but to each focus on our specializations. The clearer a foundation's vision, strategy, mission, and impact, the greater its potential in the donations market.

In closing: What message about fundraising would you like foundations to take away from this?

Stéphanie Kebeiks: It is important to strategically consider in which submarkets you can generate the greatest proceeds with the least amount of personnel and financial outlay. I would advise new foundations with limited resources not to start with mailings and street campaigns. Instead, I would go in the direction of digital fundraising and grant-making foundations.

Carole Burri: Donors appreciate direct communication, clear projects, and authenticity. This generates trust for the foundation's mission.

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