Innovation in Fundraising – sharing lessons and tales of small charities’ experiences

Innovation in Fundraising – sharing lessons and tales of small charities’ experiences

By Kathryn Welch, Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling


Gain inspiration and ideas from this collection of small charities' fundraising stories. Created with support from Creative Scotland and Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Innovation in Fundraising shares experiences from the arts and beyond.

This report is intended to be a live and growing collection of stories of fundraising in small charities. Small charities are encouraged to add their own fundraising stories (of success, failure, learning or experiments) by emailing


In the autumn of 2015 I attended an events fundraising seminar at a major conference. The speaker leading the session was excellent, their event had clearly been a huge success, and they shared the learning from their activity generously and freely. Yet I left that session feeling rather less inspired than I might have expected. The speaker that day represented a major, internationally-known organisation, with access to a significant pool of contacts and resources that had contributed to their event's success. As such, the success they achieved was scarcely conceivable - let alone replicable - for the type of organisation I'd chosen to fundraise for.

That's not to say, of course, that there aren't significant challenges in fundraising for brand-name organisations, nor to suggest that particular seminar wasn't of interest and relevance to many. Rather, it's important to recognise that the challenges facing small charities are different to those faced by national or brand-name organisations, and that fundraising for the former is not simply a 'scaled down' version of the latter. Furthermore, my experience is that the fundraising stories of small organisations are less well-told, their experience shared less frequently, and their successes celebrated less widely across the sector.

A recent study by TSB found that half of adults (52%) say they feel local charities play an important role in their community, yet only one in ten (13%) people can name at least two local charities in their area, and only one in ten (14%) help their local community by fundraising for local causes.

The most common reason people gave for not donating to a local charity is not knowing enough about them (50%). In the same research, half (51%) of small local charities said that the high number of large national and international charities presents a challenge to their fundraising.

From my own time fundraising within small and medium-sized organisations, I knew there was a wealth of thoughtful, clever and inspiring activity being championed by my colleagues across the sector. I knew too, that sharing the lessons we've learned from our fundraising practice had significant potential - in helping us all to progress further, faster and more effectively than we might individually, and in conserving and prioritising our resources for greatest impact. As such, the rationale for this report emerged: to find, collate and share experiences of innovation in fundraising, with the aim of sharing learning across the sector.

In developing the fundraising strategy for my own organisation, I want to know what's going on in the sector - who's tried new things, what they've learnt, what's working and - vitally - what's not. I want the nuts and bolts of brave fundraising practice to give me the best opportunity of working out whether something new is going to work in the context of my own organisation. They must be relatively easy to manage within a fundraising team of not-quite-two people, have limited set up costs, and not rely on access to an enormous database of donors who will give at the drop of a hat. Most importantly, of course, there must be a pretty good likelihood of success: more money, more contacts, more profile, more influence.

If that sounds broadly like your situation too then this report is for you. Over the past eighteen months I've collected what is essentially a collection of conversations. I've asked what, why, how much and what-on-earth-were-you-thinking. I've collected stories of failure, overwhelming success, surprising turns of events, and unforeseen consequences. They've been eye-opening, insightful and honest. I hope the following stories offer inspiration, encouragement and the odd words of wisdom.

Download the collection to read on:
Innovation in Fundraising (PDF)

Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2017