There is no question it has been a depressing year for all of us who feel passionate about our roles as fundraisers. For years we kidded ourselves that net income was the priority (and who can blame us for that when we could see how desperately beneficiaries needed the services that income provided) and that we just had to accept that some people would never like the techniques we used. Quite rightly we are now seeing a strengthening of the Codes of Practice and a major structural change in regulation.
However, this ‘mea culpa’ approach has meant that only a few people have been prepared to stand up and defend some of the inaccurate, illogical and irresponsible media criticism. The irresponsibility concerns me the most. If people lose confidence in charities it is the people who benefit from the service who will ultimately suffer – and in an era where charities are relied upon to provide what in the past might have been a statutory service. And if charities cut the ‘administrative’ expenditure that the media hates so much we will end up with organisations that have to cut corners and aren’t able to put in place the strong management and governance processes which I for one DO want to see if I am going to trust a charity with my donation.
There still seems to be a perception that charities should be run by volunteers (anyone know where those 750,000 people are hiding?) or people who are lucky enough to have other sources of income to enable them to run a home or bring up a family.
So, I put out a challenge to The Mail and The Sun. Find a need and set up a charity to fulfil that need. Run it purely with volunteers and don’t spend more than 2% of your income on ‘administration’. Don’t actively fundraise (because of course people will give without being asked, won’t they?) And grow the charity over the next 10 years to meet what will no doubt be an increasing demand for the services, without adding in any managers.
If you can make it work, then I will know that my 38-year career in fundraising has been a complete waste of time. If you can’t, then I will be able to hold my head up high at my retirement party and say ‘I am proud to be a fundraiser’.
Valerie Morton is a fundraiser and consultant