On Tuesday I attended two very different events with widely different perspectives on the economy. The first was a session for 90 fundraisers from four of the Institute of Fundraising's
special interest groups. It was all about the credit crunch and pending recession. The four groups had worked hard to put on a good showing of speakers with insight from across the sector, although, perhaps inevitably there was an over-emphasis of agencies over charity practitioners. The level of input was strong. It was insightful, at times controversial (such as the view that by 2010 our fundraising departments my shrink by 1/3rd), and above all about engagement and collaboration.
Jan Chisholm, of Pareto Fundraising, spoke of 25 Australian charities that share their data, warts and all, in order to benchmark their activity and have real data about trends rather than opinion, which can often be far from reality. There was an implicit challenge, too much for at least one delegate, to be able to share information for the greater good.
The take home message though was not to panic, but to hold your nerve and make sure your fundraising is as good as it could be. Over the past six years of plenty fundraising departments have perhaps become bloated, we don't always know our ROIs from our elbows, and we haven't always spent the time to hone our communications in order to present the most compelling cases that our donors will respond to.
As the event closed, I dashed from the imperial surrounds of Lincoln's Inns to the opening of the GSK Contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London's West End. The venue was splendid, the reception hall packed with guests, champagne flowed, the canapés were exquisite and the art very contemporary. GSK have made a bold statement in sponsoring this new exhibition, which their Chief Financial Officer confessed to being a little outside his normal accountancy-influence comfort zone.
How did this event match up with the previous 2 hours worrying about recession? Not much really. One guest from KPMG did comment that they noticed that the canapés and drink did not flow quite as much in the gallery area, but that may have just been to avoid too many unwanted spillages. It was striking that GSK had invited a good 40% of guests from the voluntary sector, most if not all, being recipients of their CSR budget, including my own charity, The King's Fund. At least for the time being, CSR's impact on the triple bottom line would appear to hold in the pharmaceutical industry.
Let's hope that other corporate sectors manage to hold to their convictions as the crunch bites.