Fundraising and Veterans’ Charities - by Major General David Shaw CBE
Over a month ago
A few years ago in the middle of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, I recall talking to the then CinC Land Forces, General Sir Richard Dannatt about why the Government doesn’t fund some of the services that armed forces charities provide. His answer (paraphrased) was as follows: the UK has evolved that way over decades and we accept that the support that veterans need is provided through a mix of public, private and third sector support.
[General Sir Richard Dannatt]
Around the time of my conversation with the CinC, Help For Heroes was formed and it drew massive support through its clear message, its innovative approach and use of social media. The public’s realisation of the need to support people in the armed forces was made very clear by General Dannatt, among others; he made people realise that regardless of the politics behind the UK’s military action, Tommy Atkins deserved their support. The effect of such messages couldn’t have been made clearer than through the extraordinarily moving scenes we witnessed at the now Royal Wootton Bassett.
In spite of the decrease in the UK’s involvement in operations and that the armed forces are less in the headlines, the need for support from armed forces charities and help from government departments continues – and so too does the charities’ need for funds. Mental and physical injuries leave a life-long challenge. However, with the loss of the headlines, the public’s knowledge and support is drawn away from the needs of our serving and former servicemen and women, so how do armed forces charities sustain their income in these challenging times?
To answer this, I ask you to think of the many layers of an onion.
• The centre of the onion represents the strongest layer of support and at this core are the people who are directly involved with the Services, those in uniform, both regular and reserve.
• The next two layers are those of the dependents and the families of those serving followed by that of the veterans themselves and their families.
• Further out is the layer containing members of the public who are aware of the Services and the lives of military people.
• And even further out is the largest layer of the general public who would be supportive if they knew more about service people’s needs.
• The final layer, effectively the skin, are members of the public who are, for one reason or other, unsupportive.
Each and every group represented by these layers of the ‘onion’ needs to be communicated with in a slightly different way - some more intensely than others – and this is a huge challenge for charities, small charities in particular.
Charities have many different methods that they can use for fundraising and here are just a few:
• Repeat donations
• Corporate donations
• Commercial spin-off
• Goods and services
• Single donations
• Charitable grants
• Government grants
• Voluntary support
All these devices need effective communication – for instance, why are funds needed, what will they be used for and is this a good charity to support? Also, some will appeal to you, others might have more appeal to your neighbour.
Big charities usually have a team of staff members who conduct fundraising; many of them make fundraising their professional life. They understand what works and what doesn’t; importantly, they know the laws and regulations regarding fundraising. Smaller charities tend to fund raise in between conducting other activities and while it is usually success with gaining support for a cause and initial funds that prompts the formation of a charity, sustaining the income necessary, while also perhaps being successful and growing, becomes hard. I talk of the “3rd year challenge” when initial funds dry up and more is needed to continue the good work that has been established. And in spite of delivering a useful service some charities still fail for a variety of reasons largely because they are not run by business-savvy individuals. Running a charity is no different from running a business: it lives or dies through its finances and early recognition of, and eliminating or bypassing, risk.
So, how do you support the charities that mean the most to you?
At Launchpad (www.veteranslaunchpad.org.uk) we benefit mainly from grants from trusts and foundations; these are obtained through submission of case documents and having purposes that match the donating organisation. It is a time-consuming process, as some applications need more than one submission and a hosted visit; but we are most grateful to the likes of the Big Lottery Fund, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, MOD-supported funds such as the LIBOR fund and Covenant Funds as well as regional funders such as the Sir James Knott Trust for their past and continuing support. But Launchpad also benefits from public donations and corporate donations; DHL Express (UK) stand out for their generosity to Launchpad and service people in general. Every penny, and more, is needed for young and successful charities like Launchpad, so we never rest from fundraising when the opportunity arises.
Launchpad receiving support from the Big Lottery Fund
Another charity, the Veterans’ Foundation (www.veteransfoundation.org.uk), provides funds to charities that are delivering services to veterans in need. It welcomes donations, online and through other ways such as legacies; every penny of the donations is passed on to the beneficiaries. If you are writing a will or know someone who is, encourage them to leave some funds to charity, apart from being an altruistic act, it will also bring tax-saving benefits! The Veterans’ Foundation also runs a lottery, the Veterans’ Lottery (https://www.veteransfoundation.org.uk/lottery/join/); of course this costs a bit to run (prizes, marketing, licenses and staff) but in addition to having some fun and hoping to win a prize in the lottery by subscribing, you know that the surplus from your subscription goes to help servicemen and women in need.
Finally, if you have any particular skills that could help charities – legal training, accountancy, knowledge of veterans’ requirements, the ability to plan well etc – do consider becoming a trustee. It can be incredibly rewarding to be one and it should not be time-consuming. New charities need the guidance of experienced people to become successful; bringing benefit through a charity needs more than just good intent and motivation.
If you have some comments about charities and fundraising, do write to me or discuss the subject on the forum. In particular, I appeal to those of you living in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – how do other governments and charities support veterans?
Want to get involved in this debate? Come and talk to me on the forum, or via my profile
Next time and among other matters, I will be discussing the Gurkhas.