Thursday, 28 November 2013

Have you thought through the potential impact of Scottish independence on your charity? If not, here are 4 questions to help.

Well has your charity (or have you) thought through the potential impact of Scottish independence?  What does this mean for your organisation and for your ability to fundraise?  If yes, great and well done.  If no, where do you start?   

The Scottish Government will publish it’s white paper on independence this Tuesday and on 18 September 2014 the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide whether or not the country should remain part of the United Kingdom.  The prospect of Scotland becoming a wholly independent country has created many areas of uncertainty and has the potential to affect a range of matters which will directly and indirectly impact on fundraising.

In my day job I have started to consider the potential impact of Scottish independence on my charity (the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – a national charity working across borders) and I have been particularly grateful for the work undertaken by the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) in Scotland to stimulate the debate and grow my understanding.

In May 2013 the IOF Scotland published ‘Scottish Independence and Fundraisingwhich looks at the potential impact of independence on fundraising in Scotland.  The report presented the findings of 135 Institute members who participated in a survey and found:

·         Very few charities have discussed the possible impacts of independence, and only a few more definitely intend to.
·         Most think independence would have a negative impact on their charity’s income.
·         Little impact is anticipated for community and events fundraising but many are concerned about post-independence funding from UK-wide trusts and companies.
·         Cross-border charities were more likely to have negative views about impacts of independence.

Following publication of the report, a question time style debate was held in September to discuss potential impact of independence on fundraising and in early 2014 the IOF plans to produce a ‘blue sky’ policy paper.  This paper will aim to identify opportunities that constitutional change may bring to fundraising in Scotland, thus allowing the Institute to be proactive and pre-emptive in preparing for new policy positions.

Some key questions to consider:
From working through this topic I have identified four areas – case for support, financial impact, communication and organisational structure – that I think fundraisers should be considering:

  1. How robust and inspiring is your Scottish case for support?  Does your organisation run services from other part of the UK (eg. Helplines) that benefit people in Scotland and if so have you considered how donors and beneficiaries will view this?

  1. What level of financial support do you currently receive from Scottish donors?  Do you receive funding from trusts and foundations outside of Scotland for Scottish projects?  In the event of independence will this income be ‘at risk’?  Will donors stop supporting causes they care about if them deem their chosen charities work to England centric? Arguably the fundraising challenge won’t change – the continued need remains to appeal to the heads and hearts of donors. For some organisation improving their ability to communicate their Scottish case for support to Scottish donors this could be an opportunity to grow support.

  1. For cross border organisations - Can your systems cope with the need to communicate with an independent Scotland or can your systems communicate your Scottish case for support to Scottish donors?  Can you balance communication of UK-wide initiatives with Scotland-only programmes of work via existing communication channels (eg. Newsletters, magazine, website, social media platforms)?

  1. In the event of independence how will your charity deliver its objectives?  Will there be any implications for how your charity structures its resources to best deliver its mission (for example, will cross border charities require an increased presence in Scotland)?

Many of the issues creating the uncertainty will not be resolved for some time yet but all charities should take the time, especially those working across borders, to think through the potential impact.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the potential impact of Scottish independence so please do post your comments or tweet me @garyker.   

Gary Kernahan - @garyker

Gary is Head of Volunteer Fundraising at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.  He is also a member of the Institute of Fundraising’s Scottish executive committee and Chair of the Professional Development Committee.

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