Our outgoing head of fundraising and communications, Peter Christmas, shares his thoughts and thanks supporters and funders.
As I prepare to leave Quaker Social Action after five very rewarding and enjoyable years spent leading the charity’s fundraising and communications functions, a colleague asked me to write down some of my reflections.
My overall sense is one of gratitude – to colleagues, people who volunteer to support our services, those who participate in our services and are prepared to share their story with the wider world, and of course to QSA’s many supporters and funders.
During my time at QSA I have been humbled by the generosity and loyalty of the many individuals, Quaker meetings and grant-making trusts that give to QSA regularly, in many cases over a great many years.
This core of supporter income not only helps QSA to keep its services running – working alongside people living on low incomes or affected by homelessness as they negotiate issues as diverse as paying for a funeral, developing greater mental or financial resilience, or accessing a space to prepare meals.
Supporter income is also critically important for sustaining the ways of working that make QSA so distinctive and effective: its ability, through listening to people living on low incomes, to identify issues that are less well known, and then develop pioneering responses to these problems, sharing our learning and in many cases building coalitions with others to speak truth to power and work on root causes.
Our work on funeral costs – which combines practical support for those struggling to afford a funeral, with strategic influencing work to tackle the causes of funeral poverty – is a case in point. Another example was QSA’s work with young adult carers; initially an extremely generous bequest in a late supporter’s will enabled QSA to take the bold step of developing a unique supportive housing project for young adult carers, which entailed developing entirely new partnerships and securing seven figure social investments.
Why is supporter income such a critical ingredient to this formula? Firstly, it is reliable. For example, in each of the last three financial years at least 10% of QSA’s income has come from individual supporters and Quaker meetings from all around the UK. More comes from trusts and foundations that give regularly, and more again from occasional bequests.
Secondly, most of this income is ‘unrestricted’, meaning that QSA can use it however it sees fit in carrying out its charitable purposes. This is so important in enabling QSA to respond flexibly to needs – acting nimbly to pursue an opportunity, take a calculated risk, or to try out what might work ‘under our own steam’ before approaching other funders who are likely to be interested in the specific issues we are seeking to address.
Flexible income also ensures that we have properly resourced ‘back office’ functions – for example measuring our impact and continually reflecting and learning; having robust information technology enabling us to blend online with in-person service delivery; solid financial oversight; and the capacity to communicate effectively with multiple stake-holders – not least those fantastic supporters!
So as I leave QSA for a new fundraising challenge, my message to QSA’s supporters and funders is simple: thankyou, and please never underestimate the value of your support, and how much it is appreciated!