In this new era of fundraising, charities must put their donors first

2015 was a challenging year for many in the fundraising sector. Exposes and allegations put charity marketing and fundraising practices well and truly under the spotlight and have led to uncertain times for the sector. However, one thing is certain – change is coming to fundraising in 2016.

As the new regime is shaped, it’s vital that charities champion and adopt responsible marketing practices to ensure the powers that be don’t plump for the last resort – statutory regulation.

The charitable sector is in a curious position because it has often been at arm’s length to the rest of the economy. The events of the summer mean that this can no longer be the case. Fundraising is to charities what marketing is to business and trust in fundraising needs to be rebuilt. And the only way of doing this is by charities putting their customers – the donors – at the heart of everything they do.

The DMA code of practice, which DMA members must adhere to, advocates just that and by working to its five key principles – put your customer first, respect privacy, be diligent with data, and take responsibility for your actions, as well as screening data against the mailing and telephone preference services – our members are able to create sustainable businesses.

While this framework for responsible marketing is indeed sufficient, charities have an additional hoop to jump through, The Fundraising Preference Service (FPS). Lord Michael Grade, who is in the process of setting up the new Fundraising Regulator, made one of his first appointments in George Kidd to chair the FPS working party. It’s no longer a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Faced with this virtual ‘fait accompli’ the DMA now believes that the best way forward will be to encourage charities and fundraisers to join the debate and input to influence the creation of a service that works for both them and the consumer whilst contributing the future health of the sector through maintaining good fundraising practices. A service that addresses the concerns of both charities and donors by enhancing targeting, reducing waste and protecting the vulnerable to build trust and raise the much need funds.  For charities to take the concerns of their customers – those that donate money – seriously will help, not hinder, fundraising.

We are lucky to have many charities as members, and their expertise has always helped and informed what we do. For example, the vulnerable consumer guidelines and free training material we published over the summer, praised by Etherington in his review into fundraising, would have been impossible without the input of Age UK, Alzheimers Society, Dementia Action Alliance and Rethink Mental Illness.

In light of the changing fundraising landscape the DMA has created a Future of Fundraising Working Group, chaired by the Future Foundation’s Melanie Howard and Age UK’s Michelle De Souza. The group aims to identify and address the challenges faced by the fundraisers in the sector over the coming years to make sure we can influence and help shape the future of fundraising in the light of changing technologies and societal attitudes as well as the changing needs of beneficiaries. FPS just being the start of the areas that we will seek to influence going forward.  We want to know the opinions of large and small charities, so please get in touch if you would like to be involved.

Rachel Aldighieri is managing director of the DMA