Welcome to our July 2020 Monthly Briefing

This month:

  • Fundraisers “have a duty” to ask for donations – objections to fundraising during the pandemic are explored in a new report
  • Survival Fundraising – How small charities can build income streams to survive the present crisis
  • How to build an inclusive charity workspace environment for disabled staff after lockdown
  • The latest good news shared

Fundraisers “have a duty” to ask for donations despite the pandemic, report finds

A new report “Advocating for Fundraising During Emergencies” published by the fundraising think tank Rogare argues that fundraisers have a duty to ask for donations on behalf of their beneficiaries, to ensure the services they rely on and use are funded during the pandemic.

The report identifies a range of arguments from charities, leaders and donors that claim fundraising is “inappropriate” during the coronavirus pandemic. Objections to fundraising were collected from Canada, UK and USA.

The project was initiated to collect and collate the many arguments that have been made and to develop values-based counterarguments, which fundraisers can use or adapt to make their case for the continuation of their fundraising.

Some charities were concerned about being criticised for being insensitive by asking for support, particularly if not directly involved in the frontline response to the pandemic. Some communications teams have advised fundraisers to stop sending out direct marketing because it might be seen as inappropriate, in poor taste or “greedy”, while potential donors are enduring economic hardship. Other criticisms have been of legacy fundraising, with boards suggesting that it should cease because it might be seen as offensive.

In response, it argues that “if we stop fundraising now because we are concerned about perception, we risk losing donors now and having to increase our costs later to make up for it.”

The report also points out the positive social impact of giving. It says that people are looking for ways to feel connected to each other during the social distancing measures currently in place and donating can offer that sense of connection: “Giving a gift, of whatever size, to charity is a hugely positive and empowering action for a person to take.”

Rogare’s Director Ian MacQuillin commented:

“The need to fundraise is just as imperative during an emergency as it is during normal times and may be even greater. Yet, if the objections to fundraising that fundraisers are currently encountering become the norm, charities will find themselves in an even more parlous state, with the effects of the pandemic exacerbated by a reluctance to ask for support.”

Project leader Vivian Smith said:

“We know that fundraisers are encountering these types of objections, not just from the board and senior management, but from colleagues and donors too. Some of the project team have had direct experience of it.”

“So what we aim to give fundraisers are the types of things they could say to people to persuade them that sensitive and appropriate fundraising should continue. We’re not suggesting fundraisers copy and paste what we’ve crafted, but we do hope we’ll have saved them a lot of the brainpower and time.”

Survival Fundraising

Small Charity Fundraising has published a guide to show how small charities can build income streams to survive the present crisis and become much less vulnerable to shocks in the future. The guide has just one purpose: to answer the question “where is the money going to come from” now that Covid 19 has done so much damage. So why exactly is it that small charities struggle? How can small charities survive? How can they build income streams that are more robust?

How to build an inclusive charity workspace after lockdown

Sightsavers is one of the only international NGOs in the UK with Disability Confident Leader status. Kate Bennell, organisational inclusion coordinator at Sightsavers UK explains how charities and businesses can create an inclusive environment for disabled staff as they rebuild post Covid-19:

1. Provide training and raise awareness

One of the first steps to being inclusive is by increasing knowledge and awareness among staff, and we encourage businesses to set up internal groups to do this. Our Social Inclusion Working Group, of which I am a member, brings together staff from across Sightsavers to promote commitment to inclusion and accessibility and raise awareness of issues surrounding it. Over the past few years the group has conducted numerous disability awareness training sessions for staff, and senior management agreed to make participation in the training mandatory for all new starters.

We have also developed an online awareness-raising platform with tips to include colleagues with disabilities, organised courses in British Sign Language and arranged a series of seminars inviting external experts to talk to staff about their experiences and share their knowledge on disability inclusion and accessibility in the workplace. Our HR team has also rolled out global guidelines for line managers to support staff with disabilities.

These actions encourage discussions around disability in the office that people often shy away from. They also help managers within the organisation gain a better understanding of how their team members work and the workplace modifications they might need.

2. Embrace flexible working and make use of technology

When Covid-19 broke out, remote working became a necessity for everyone. But for those with chronic illness or disability, this is not new, as many thrive with more flexible working conditions.

On the one hand, this requires an inclusive culture within the organisation, which is responsive to the needs of all employees, and in particular those with disabilities and chronic conditions. On the other hand, it requires a solid digital infrastructure. Thankfully, these days there is plenty of technology available to accommodate this.

Sightsavers has invested in systems like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Microsoft 365, which allow people to connect to the company’s networks from wherever they are in the world. We choose conference and virtual technology that specialise in captions for those with hearing impairments (such as Microsoft Teams), provide braille keyboards and make sure that all new laptops have mics and webcams built in. These are some straightforward technological tools which make a real difference for people with disabilities and they don’t always have to be expensive.

3. Include accessibility in design

By including everyone’s needs in design from the start, systems run smoother and work is made easier.

Communications accessibility is important to ensure that nobody is left out of the picture, and so our templates and branding have been designed with this in mind. For example, using colours that can be easily read by those with colour blindness, or making sure text is appropriate for screen readers. We have launched our brand accessibility guidelines which encourage staff to make sure our content is consistent and as accessible as possible. In Britain and the EU, it’s also the law.

4. Take mental health seriously

Life can be stressful enough even without a global pandemic going on and we recommend support systems are put in place to counter this. Long before Covid-19, our CEO, with guidance from our senior HR business partners team, launched a wellbeing task force with resources for all staff. They developed a team of mental health first aiders (all employees) to signpost staff to appropriate help when they are experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress.

Our online Wellbeing Hub includes a subscription to the meditation app Headspace, a confidential telephone counselling service (included free from our insurance provider) and a stress-busting tips message board. Even small things, such as regular updates from our CEO on what resources are available, can help create a more open and welcoming working environment where staff feel more comfortable asking for help.

We have recently launched a Disabled Employee Network at Sightsavers and hope to use it to share resources and information that promote the wellbeing and welfare of people with disabilities working in our organisation.

5. Look for guidance and collaborate

There are lots of tools and guidelines available to companies looking to be more inclusive. Along with all the resources linked to above, some others we use regularly are:

  • Disability Confident Employers – this UK government scheme supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to the workplace.
  • Jobcentre – they provide guidance on hiring people with disabilities.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities. Sightsavers have developed our own screen reader testing solution based on these.
  • Microsoft Accessibility Checker – this tool helps to make sure office content is easy for people of all abilities to read and edit.
  • Apple accessibility – a guide to all of the accessibility features of Apple technology

The process of inclusion is never complete and despite our achievements so far, we always have more to do and learn.

The latest good news shared

If you’re watching, reading or listening to the mainstream media at the moment, you may be in the mood for some good news. The Good News Shared website went live in April 2014 to spread a bit of positivity and to showcase the work and impact charities, social enterprises and individuals are having on the world. Categories include “amazing animals”, “community spirit” and “inspirational people”.

Through working and volunteering for small charities, Good News Shared founder, Nisha Kotecha has seen first-hand the impact they have on people’s lives and their communities.

In discussions with groups all over the country, Nisha found many other people who share the view that charitable organisations deserve more interest and support, and so Good News Shared was born.

“Good stuff happens, and it’s important we hear about it.”


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Monthly BriefingJuly 2020 – Monthly Briefing