Fundraising negativity is not leaving room for alternative views

The recent comment by Sir William Shawcross, that bad practice in some charities has allowed the media to shine a spotlight on our whole sector, resulted in one individual to comment on Third Sector’s story “perhaps you should do more to protect the sector’s reputation, rather than pandering to the Right-Wing rags”.

I am sorry to say such a response is beginning to be a common strain of thought from some.  I don’t believe it is at all representative of the vast majority of views, but I do have a concern that such negativity is not leaving room for an alternative view.

Personally, I have ventured to suggest the idea fundraising is “under attack” is, bluntly, nonsense and that such a view merely feeds a sense of victimhood.  This often triggers some to say I am attacking fundraisers, that what is actually wrong is CEOs and Boards not backing their staff, that this is typical of the long standing burden fundraisers have.

This type of horizontal violence between ourselves is pointless and gets us nowhere.  No-one is listening, other than a few within our sector who are looking for their next argument.  The media just shrugs at any attack on its motives and waits for the next potential story to show itself.  Government doesn’t care, it has myriad other problems to worry about.

Meanwhile, we are wasting an opportunity to engage with the real issue, how to create a new approach that reinvigorates giving in the UK, based on rebuilding trust and understanding of the difference charities make.  Is it not better for us to try and address this rather than automatically defend and make a whole section of charity staff feel picked upon, when the evidence for their denigration is perceived rather than real?

Personally, I don’t mind a good debate, especially on Twitter.  But, as someone who has worked in our sector for 30 years and looks forward to at least another 15 years of so doing, I believe deeply in our power to do good.  But, I also believe in telling the truth and being open to scrutiny, something many charities try to do with other vested interests.  It is time we stopped protesting “woe is us”.  We should look to inspire our whole sector to focus on our beneficiaries.

I love fundraising – and, come to that, fundraisers.  In fact, given that I have done Ride London twice and will do so again this year, I am a fundraiser at a meagre level!  Fundraising is at the core of what charities are about.  Without an income there is no money to spend on the cause.  But, please, let’s be empowered and look outward.  Let’s not gaze at our own navels.

Mark Flannagan is chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer