We recently caught up with the Chief Executive of Aspire, Brian Carlin, who let us know how encouraging supporters to use Justgiving has “resulted in a massive increase in the amount of money coming in, and donations have come in more efficiently and considerably earlier than in previous years”.
Here’s a video of their experiences with us:
What does Aspire do?
We’re a national spinal cord injury charity whose projects and services have a very simple goal – to provide the support needed to take those who use them from injury to independence.
Through our projects and programmes, we offer practical support to the 40,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK so that they can lead fulfilled and independent lives in their homes, with their families, in workplaces and leisure time.
Where does your income come from?
Aspire generates £2 million a year. Half of this income is generated from the services provided through our Aspire National Training Centre. The other half is generated by our fundraising team.
How are donations holding up?
Our latest accounts are coming in at just under £2 Million, of which we’re projecting 6.5% for general donations for 2008-2009. This is a drop from previous years, where it was about 8%.
In terms of fundraising income, we are very events-driven: the projection for the year is that almost 40% of our income will come from events. This is why focussing on maximising income from our channel swim is so important – half of all money raised through events is from our channel swim.
How did your big event, the channel swim, come about?
Before joining Aspire 11 years ago, I worked in contract leisure management. Promoting a channel swim was really good for marketing the services, bringing people together with staff and motivated participants, and increasing income for centres.
I thought we could use this for the charity, so we came up with the channel swim as a fundraising event and this is our ninth year. We’ve worked long and hard on it – investing in it, marketing it, and re-branding it this year to make it a success.
This year, part of overall strategy was to maximise the efficiency of receiving donations, so we focused on how we could use Justgiving.
How has promoting Justgiving to participants affected the amounts they’ve raised?
An increased focus on getting our supporters to set up fundraising pages has resulted in a massive increase in the amount of money coming in, and donations have come in more efficiently and considerably earlier than in previous years.
We encouraged everyone to set up fundraising pages for the event – so we sent out more communications giving people instructions on how to build fundraising pages and how to make the most of them.
We’ve raised about £100,000 more than last year on the ninth anniversary of the event. Such a huge increase can’t be attributed to organic growth, and we think a lot of it is down to our strategy with Justgiving, and the great work of our fundraising team to implement that strategy.
If we look at a graph showing the year on year growth of the event from its start, it’s very easy to see the massive increase in funds coming in earlier – over 40 times as much in the first two weeks as the previous year, and even the ‘lowest’ growth is 50% more than last year.
How does this differ to previous years?
Cheques tended to come in with sponsor forms between December and March. Some people had collected cash, and sent that to us, others had paid the money into their account and sent us a cheque. But the point is that money didn’t come to us when it was given to people taking part in the event, it was only once they then sent it on to us that we could bank it.
What was the cost of processing?
We were lucky to have had two volunteers to process Gift Aid, but their work would have to be double-checked by a full-time member of staff. It was a hugely admin-heavy and challenging process.
Now we can avoid tying up staff time in this and we’ve been able to free up a staff member who used to work solely on admin: they can now focus on communications with participants instead of processing paperwork. So we have more time and staff resource to promote the event, engage with people taking part, and encourage them to raise more.
So it’s saved you time?
Yes, we’ve saved a huge amount of admin time, and people time too, which is also a cost. That time saved has already been put to good use – we’ve already reviewed this year’s channel swim, and we’re looking to how it can be improved in 2009 and planning for next year. We’re setting these new targets much earlier than we used to be able to (in March or April) because most of the money has come in and we’ve had time to reflect and review.
Have there been any other benefits to using Justgiving?
An added benefit from an organisational position is the increase in cash flow earlier on in the year – we get more money, much earlier. This is great because, whereas we used to release money from high interest deposit accounts to cover the costs of running the charity, our increased cash flow has covered those costs, and our investments have remained working for us and generating additional money for Aspire.
We have reserves committed to supporting projects in the future, but they are safe earning interest at 6.75%, not covering the running costs of the charity. We received much more than we’d planned and budgeted for, so it’s great that we’ve not had to dip into our reserves to support the event. And for charities facing difficult times, we need to do anything we can to make any cash deposits we have work hard for us.
So the performance of the Channel swim has supported all of your other work?
Yes, it couldn’t have happened in a better year, when we’ve expanded our housing programme and added nine new properties, equipping, furnishing, and adapting them.
We also asked Chris Field, Head of Fundraising and Marketing, a couple of questions about Justgiving:
Does it make a difference that we are a small social enterprise with transparent values, and not a big corporate organisation?
We appreciate being able to communicate readily with all at Justgiving, and it is refreshing to have queries dealt with straight away rather than being passed from one to the next without a conclusive answer. Often the case with larger organisations in my experience…
Also, I was wondering whether you could comment on whether Justgiving’s reputation among donors has had anything to do with your increased success?
We were recently approached by a company offering us the capacity to set up online giving pages in house. Given the amount of online giving pages we have registered with Justgiving (in excess of 2,000 this year) we did give this serious consideration. However, due to both the quality of service offered by Justgiving, as well as the strength of the Justgiving brand, we decided against this. We felt that as we are a small charity, with relatively little brand awareness amongst the general public, that people would feel happier entrusting their credit card details with a company as trustworthy as Justgiving. That’s not to say that we’re not trustworthy! Just a little less well known…
Thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us Brian and Chris. We hope this year’s event is an even bigger success for you and the charity.