REAL Fundraising: putting values at the heart of the business

REAL Fundraising


When forming REAL Fundraising in October 2009, the company were passionate in their mission of creating the most ethical fundraising agency in the industry. A force for good in the world. This meant combatting the following industry challenges:

  • High cancellation rates of donations leading to poor ROI for charities across the sector and therefore a high turnover of clients for agencies.
  • A decrease in charities using face-to-face fundraising agencies for long term direct debit donors.
  • An inherent lack of innovation in the sector causing a stagnation in evolution for social and environmental standards.
  • A poor public perception of the industry which can be attributed to truly abysmal practices from other companies as a result of substandard organisational culture.

REAL Fundraising knew that in order to combat challenges of this magnitude they would need to create and maintain an industry leading and unbreakable positive culture that permeates throughout all levels of seniority in the company.


To make the ultimate statement of the importance of their values to the business, they embedded them into their identity: Respect, Ethics, Activism and Love. They knew however that stating their values would not be enough to create the required culture and that this would only achieved by all members of the REAL Family (from new starter to Director) consistently putting them into action at all times. In order to keep their ‘values in action’ philosophy deeply embedded into the company DNA they took the following approach:

  • Keep their REAL Family members actively engaged in matters of social responsibility. Their cultural hub on Slack allows all family members to discuss causes that are important to them, and creates stimulating conversation to help build activism levels. When they have a new family member join the company they are assigned to a “family” named after historical activists – Atwater, Artemisa and Malala. Each family hosts weekly “Culture Calls” to discuss anything culture-related, from current affairs to company policies.
  • They encourage participation in activism events. These vary from “Activism Days” (paid days of volunteering for each REAL family member) to national campaigns including Build a School for SEED Madagascar; Prisoners Abroad Christmas Card Campaign; Volunteering at Prisoners Abroad 40th and 41st Anniversaries at Westminster; Multiple Beach Cleans; Winter Homelessness Project; Centrepoint Sleep Out; and Volunteering at Freud Museum’s Uncanny Ball.
  • They set up a board of representatives from the REAL Family (staff) through a detailed application process. Together they hold REAL accountable to their mission of becoming the most ethical fundraising agency in the industry. This board is known as the REAL Ethical Group (REG). The board meet every 3 weeks and all heads of the families are part of REG. One of the main responsibilities for REG members is to manage and allocate the REAL Ethical Fund (REF). REF has committed £44,073 to 36 different causes since 2019.
  • They put environmental considerations at the centre of their day-to-day. Week commencing 2nd March 2020,  they had a companywide Climate Emergency Week. Key goals were to reduce their carbon footprint and raise awareness.
  • They have always ensured all social groups have a voice and are represented appropriately. They have a women’s advocacy program to ensure there is no gender bias, and a BAME group to ensure a diverse and inclusive environment for all socially under-represented groups.
  • Mental health is a vital consideration for the REAL Family. They pair with an Employee Assistance Program to ensure all members are able to access support when and wherever it is needed.
  • They introduced a peer-to-peer recognition platform whereby family members can recognise each other for their ability to live up to their core values in order to build their culture.
  • They have a strong social media presence in order to promote their powerful culture. This wide platform allows them to reach out and be accessible to smaller charitable causes in need.


The positive impact of setting a strong culture and putting their values into action consistently has been immense for their clients. They have created a culture that empowers ethical decision making at every level of the business and this in turn creates a culture of high standards and quality. Since introducing the three internal families at REAL Fundraising they have seen a significant increase in engagement with voluntary events. This has created an increase in the impact their staff is having on society and the planet, including a 362% increase in Christmas Card submissions for Prisoners Abroad; a 700% increase in Centrepoint Sleep Out participants; and a 800% increase in activism days.

The REG has had a monumental impact on the overall direction of REAL Fundraising, with a recruitment strategy relating to candidates’ environmental and social awareness; the introduction of environmental policies for all staff and operations, which vary from recycling policies to the replacement of fleet vehicles with hybrids. The REG has also led to the evolution of their company boycotts and CSR; helped shape their third-party purchasing policy, ensuring environmental considerations are prioritised; and increased their network of smaller charities by building and maintaining relationships. Finally, the REG have run regular REAL climate emergency weeks and introduced incentives to reward ethical behaviours and cultural activism, including weekends funded by REAL visiting Auschwitz, the Red Cross and UNICEF museums in Geneva. As a result of these initiatives REAL Fundraising are now B-Corp certified which has provided them with a roadmap to improve in terms of their ethical processes and procedures. This certification also allows them to innovate in these areas, bringing them closer to achieving their mission; improving the reputation and public perception of those in their sector and REAL Fundraising.

A key part of being a REAL Family member is putting their values into action. Their peer-to-peer recognition platform allows them to monitor how often individuals are recognising each other for doing exactly that. During 2019 they had 2146 recognitions for REAL family members upholding their values. These values in action have allowed them to build a company culture focused on love and respect. The same Peer to Peer software allows them to monitor employee happiness which in October 2020 demonstrated that 100% of the company’s employees would have turned down a 10% pay rise to work elsewhere.

Their social media presence has allowed them to project their culture to a considerably wider external audience. This has had several benefits including building their brand and reputation in the non-profit sector. It has also increased the number of smaller causes who were able to apply for funding for their REAL Ethical Fund, particularly during the difficult times they were facing during the Covid-19 outbreak, during which they received 9 applications and provided £3300 of support. These were funds that charities would not have received access to if it wasn’t for REAL’s social media presence, which in turn further improves the perception of their company and industry in wider society.

The increase in engagement and values in action outlined above has led to a more conscientious and socially responsible workforce with higher principled and ethical decision making. This has subsequently and critically provided the lowest cancellation figures in the company’s history, maximising the ROI for their charity partners.

In this day and age companies are judged not just on their values but whether they put them clearly into action at all times. Being named after their values of Respect, Ethics, Activism & Love means that REAL’s values are in the spotlight daily. If they were not authentic, they would be found out. Putting values before profit is absolutely key. REAL Fundraising has delivered this and will continue to do so. Some key takeaways demonstrating their values in action are their ongoing donor cancellation rates, which are better than industry standard; the B Corporation Certification achieved in Oct 2018 and the fact that they hire and manage to the values of the business.