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Posted by Sarah Brown on 18 May '15

Do you know if your fundraising is undermining your charity?

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I awoke last Friday to news that charities had killed a woman in her 90’s or that’s what my sleepy head heard.

Listening and reading more it got slightly better but Olive Cooke, the 92 year old threw herself from the Clifton Suspension Bridge and was overwhelmed by more than 260 charity letters a month, charity fund raising phone calls and also salesmen trying to sell solar panels, double glazing and computers. The Radio Five Live phone in struggled to get anybody who supported the charities and people rang in with many more examples of old people being harassed by letter, in the street, by phone and of charities not listening.

I am struck by the irony of this since I spend a lot of my life telling people who run businesses that they will fail if they focus on chasing money.
The concern is that the behaviour of charity fund raisers believe “the end justifies the means” ; this is wrongly attributed to Machiavelli but widely quoted – is someone somewhere thinking “we are raising money for good so we need to do this”?

Yet just as if a business gives to charity but evades tax or bankrupts its suppliers it is not regarded as OK, the same rules apply to charity. Creating an ethical organisation requires works across a range of areas as the Wheel of Success© illustrates.

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I heard Stephen Pidgeon speaking about issues for fundraisers and how they get it wrong at a charity conference I was speaking at earlier this year. Part of his message was how fundraisers destroy the relationships they have with supporters. In the lunch break we could all think of examples when they had and had lost good supporters by not listening and treating everyone the same.

Doing good does not justify doing bad or being careless with peoples’ feelings. No one should be afraid to pick up the phone or open a letter or walk down a street with ‘chuggers’. It is almost as though the more you give the worse you are treated a bizarre way of operating.

Successful businesses have moved on from the hard sell, charity fundraisers need to learn from them and move on too or people or legislation may force them to.