Fundraising in the Irish Market
20th November by Breige McGinn
In September we featured an interview with George Milne, senior consultant at AAW, as the company she founded – Audience – joined the AAW Partnership Group. This month we hear from Breige McGinn, Account Director at Audience, who has worked with a variety of not for profits in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK.
Breige specialises in individual giving and describes herself as a ‘a data-loving fundraiser at heart’. We asked Breige to share her background and understanding of working in the not for profit Irish market and the challenges and opportunities that charities face there.
AAW Audience’s Work
I have been with Audience, now AAW Audience, three years this month. Audience struck me as an ethical, family-friendly company producing work at a very high level for their clients. Having previously worked directly for mainly international development organisations, I was keen to work agency side and bring my experience to a wider range of charities.
I am Audience’s Account Director, so I work closely with clients to develop effective and strategic plans and creative that are appropriate and bespoke for each individual organisation. While I also work closely with clients in UK, I am particularly proud of the growth Audience has experienced in Ireland over the last three years.
I am based halfway between Dublin and Belfast, just north of the border in Northern Ireland, allowing me to visit clients north and south. Hopefully we will get back to the days of face to face visits soon. AAW Audience is currently working on a number of exciting and innovative projects with a range of organisations and causes, including cancer, homelessness and international emergencies.
I began my fundraising life with Concern Worldwide in 2001 specialising in Individual Giving. I was actually part of the team that AAW’s Tobin Aldrich led when Director of Fundraising with Concern – it’s a small world! I had nine amazing years at Concern, learning and progressing there during a period of significant growth for the organisation. I went on to establish successful IG programmes within other organisations such as the humanitarian organisation, GOAL. I have worked across Ireland and UK, but I have a particular understanding of the nuances of the Irish marketplace, which is important to our Irish clients.
Irish people have long since been regarded as one of the most generous nationalities in the world when it comes to charitable giving. We have had a strong tradition of giving for many decades, especially with regard to international development, but also to home-based causes including homelessness and hospices. And we don’t forget generosity shown to us. 173 years after the Choctaw Native American people sent the equivalent of $5,000 of relief aid during the Great Famine, over 20,000 Irish people donated to a coronavirus relief fund to help Native American communities in Arizona who have been hit hard by the pandemic.
In June, almost a third of the population tuned into watch RTÉ Does Comic Relief raising an incredible €5.5m including matched funding from the government. It was also watched on RTÉ Player in over 100 countries across the world. Amazing Irish talent came together during a very difficult time to ask for much needed funds and, yet again, Irish people answered the call.
One of the huge advantages of fundraising in Ireland is our strong sense of community. When fundraising for a national disability organisation, for example, people are likely to be aware and supportive of services in their local area and rally around to support community members who use the service.
However, Irish charities face the same challenges as in the UK around integration, recruitment and how to harness digital. Another key issue is that donors tend to give one off cash gifts to various causes rather than regular, ongoing support. Many Irish organisations have implemented successful strategies to change this and AAW Audience is working with some to do just that
The impact of Covid
Of course, charities in Ireland have also been negatively impacted as a result of Covid and, as the recent 2020 Charity Leadership summit explored, leadership teams are making difficult decisions about the future in a period of uncertainty and constant change.
This includes the many small to medium sized organisations in Ireland that rely on community, event and corporate relationship fundraising to generate the majority of their income. As a result of Covid, one AAW Audience client saw the majority of their fundraising streams decimated overnight. I am delighted to say that this organisation proved to be incredibly brave and agile. Rather than stopping investment, they are continuing to identify and strategically invest in alternative fundraising streams. This approach is proving successful so far helping futureproof the organisation during and beyond Covid.
During the first lockdown, we developed emergency appeals with clients who have never had to ask in this way before. As always, the Irish public has proven to be incredibly generous and appeals have had significant success, but now is the time for not-for-profits to create space to work out what kind of organisation they need to become in the longer term to face the ongoing impact of Covid and ensure they continue to exist. We are working closely with clients to help them make necessary changes to their fundraising models.
I’m pleased we are part of the AAW Group and can now offer an even wider portfolio of services from strategy and global insight, to talent and creative implementation. The onset of Covid has created an even more challenging fundraising environment but one that also offers huge opportunities for change and innovation.
Being part of AAW will help us continue to support our clients as they pivot and adapt and work to continue to bring in vital funds
If you’d like to find out more about the services that AAW Audience can offer and how we can help your fundraising and communications programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.