As I’ve mentioned before I am the Chair of EUConsult. Recently we held our Spring Conference in London, with the theme “The Challenges and Opportunities of Income Generation in Europe”. This conference gave us the opportunity to look beyond traditional fundraising into impact investment and hear from high net-worth individuals and ultra-high net-worth individuals on the impact investment decisions that they take and what they look for in a charity, nonprofit or NGO.

We also looked at case studies of NGOs that have found different funding solutions, tackled challenging funding crises and considered whether the sector and donors to the sector are perpetuating the social issues we think we’re trying to solve by the way we define and fund organisations.

The take-away message for me from the conference focused on two themes:

  • Participation and inclusion: it is crucial for NGOs and agencies to ensure their supporters and donors, as much as their beneficiaries and service users, are included in the discussions about strategic direction, programme design and priorities for intervention strategies. Previously nonprofits have been encouraged to include their beneficiaries and services users, but this is only a part of the stakeholder groups that are interested, and have a stake in, the results achieved by social impact organisations. Working with supporters and donors is important to ensuring financial resilience. Other voices not always heard in traditional fundraising need to be brought to the table too. In addition, siloed ways of funding and defining issues to be funded are not working and a complexity-aware approach needs to be taken in developing both funding and intervention design strategies.
  • A different type of conversation: Engaging supporters, donors, HNW & UHNW individuals is not about setting out a defined case for support (although there will always be situations where that might be required), it is about understanding the priorities and interests of supporters etc, and working with them to develop programmes that jointly reflect the organisation’s and the supporters’ interests. This is a shift and requires a different set of skills and understanding both of what is going on inside the organisation and who the supporters, donors, HNW & UHNW individuals are around the organisation.

We also trialed a new concept whereby our members, consultants from across Europe provided an hour of their time free to advise a charity or NGO about an issue that was challenging them. This was brand new and we had no idea whether there was an interest in this concept, but we got some uptake from smaller NGOs and it was enough for us to draw some learning from in order to improve and develop the concept further.

Whilst EUConsult members are already contributing to social cohesion through their daily work, it is important that we are seen to walk the talk and give back. What better way to do that than use our skills to help organisations that usually could not afford consultancies to get invaluable support and advice. What better reason to get together could there be?