I would like to claim this as all my own work, but it isn't. However, my anonymous contributor makes what I think are some extremeIy good points for those in the fundraising world currently biting nails in anticpation of the collapse of global economies. Certainly, better than I could, so please read on.
"I believe this would be a good time for a beer”. So said Franklin D Roosevelt on ending prohibition in the USA, his first action on becoming President in 1933. And America cheered. For the country had endured four years of Depression that began with the great bank crash in 1929 and led to unprecedented levels of unemployment, insolvency, absolute poverty, homelessness and hopelessness.
Already there are signs that the financial turmoil of the last few weeks is hitting the real economy. And the Icelandic affair has shown just how badly charities might be affected by it all.
So what can fundraisers do to try and weather the storm? Well, a look back at the 1930s might spark a few ideas. Despite – or perhaps because – it was the worst of times, whenever people had a bit of money to spare, they sought hope, escapism, fun and inspiration. The game of bingo as we know it today was invented in the 1930s in the US with over 10,000 games being played weekly by 1934.
The 1930s also marked the beginning of the golden age of Hollywood – the most popular films of the decade were either escapist (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), screwball comedies (Bringing up Baby), stories of triumph over adversity (King Kong), of hope and aspiration (Mr Smith goes to Washington) or hugely overblown epics (Gone with the Wind). And here too in the UK people found their escape routes – football terraces were overflowing with nearly 150,000 cramming into Hampden stadium to watch Scotland v England, still the highest ever attendance in Europe. The football pools too flourished. Dance halls sprang up in every town with new dances like the Jitterburg and the mambo becoming fast favourites – dances that were exciting, exotic and energetic.
And while times have changed, there is no doubt in the dark months ahead, that people everywhere will be looking for similar escape routes from their daily doom and gloom. In the 1930s, people craved escapism, cheap and cheerful fun, and the chance to change their fortunes. And they will do so again.
Fundraisers looking for ways of maintaining income could do worse than emulate the entertainment industry of the 1930s and consider ways of encouraging people to keep on giving by offering them similar escape routes. Time to put the fun back into fundraising?