Fundraising Preference Service double standards

The person chairing the proposed fundraising preference service, says that it will have to be a full reset.  So if you donate to my charity and then sign up, then I’m no longer allowed to contact you. Not even to check that it’s my charity that you don’t want to hear from.

Which exactly how the Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Service DON’T work. I can’t see why it’s one rule for the ‘private sector’ and another for charities.  Or am I mistaken, and the TPS and MPS are supposed to work this way, but simply don’t?


To see oursels as ithers see us


It’s Burns Night, and The Bard may have a lesson for us fundraisers amongst his many works.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Fundraisers have been given a gift, of sorts. We’ve been told how others see us – and it’s not good. It might not be how we are, and it might not be how we see ourselves, and it might be coloured by inaccurate media coverage, but nonetheless but it is how (many) others see us.

The PACAC fundraising review is here, and as we digest it, should we also consider how else we can see ourselves as others see us? I like the suggestions on NPC’s blog about a Gran test – and would suggest that this is something that not just fundraisers, but also Trustees ask themselves. (Maybe we could send DMs / make calls to Trustees so that they receive them before they are produced and rolled out to wider audiences?)  First, we need to ensure that our Trustees truly understand fundraising before we can do this. (I’m sure any of us who deal with trustees regularly will have heard trustees suggest things that don’t follow fundraising codes or laws.

Trustees can take on the role of ‘critical friend’, we can implement a ‘gran test’, but as fundraisers know, to get that “giftie”, you have to ask – who else can we ask to help us better see ourselves?

( The final verse from “To a Louse”, thanks to )

What we want vs what we say we want.

  There’s a tricky balance between doing what we know will raise more funds (and so keeping the efficiency ratios looking the way that donors want), and keeping costs low (which donors want).

Spend more on wine, and donors will give more.

Of course, this is entirely unscientific, but illustrative of the conflicts that fundraiser face daily, and the difference between what donors (and potential donors) say they want, and what they want. What they say they’ll do, and what they do.

And this is the reason I’m concerned when the sector has a knee-jerk reaction to what donors, prospective donors and non-donors say about preferred ways of fundraising. 

Edit> Seth Godin wrote about the accuracy of surveys recently too.  

John Lewis, The Man, The Moon and The Ad


By now, you must have seen it. If not on TV, then in the subsequent media coverage. Yup the new John Lewis Christmas advert is out.

And we all get teary eyed, and exclaim how wonderful it is.

Wonderful that a TV advert can get us all ‘totes emosh’.  

Up until this year, it seemed that we found it wonderful that we were suddenly emotionally inspired to buy a £95 teddy bear or £15 alarm clock. (sales of them went up 55% the week after first broadcast)

This year’s is a bit different though. While there’s still the key product that I’ve no doubt will see an increase in sales (though the telescope isn’t nearly as powerful as the ad might suggest) and the obligatory host of associated ‘man on the moon’ stocking filler products, this year’s campaign has a bit more meaning behind it.

Firstly, with lunar lookouts in stores, it’s linking in quite neatly with the full moon on Christmas Day, which, as well as boosting sales of telescopes, might boost kids’ interest in astronomy, and science.

Secondly ( and I feel it is secondly and secondary) there’s also a partnership with Age UK, tying in with the theme of showing someone they’re loved this Christmas, and tackling loneliness in older people. The website links to a donate page, and… well.. thats about it.

To be honest, it seems a bit like the equivalent of ‘green washing’, adding a charity aspect to a planned campaign, to help ward off the cynics.

I am one of those cynics. In fact, I had a blog topic prepared, and I’m not sure that this has done enough to warrant me not writing about that.

You see, for Age UK, it doesn’t seem to have a concrete aim – financial or otherwise, and this is a campaign that cost £7m to produce.

Howard Lake goes into more detail about the promotion of the Age UK aspect here.

Certainly in the immediate discussion and publicity of the advert, I didn’t see many talking about the partnership aspect. In the days since, I haven’t seen much either. Spoofs, yes, anything about actually doing something for the people Age UK is trying to help, no.  An occasional mention, or an aside, that the ad is in partnership with Age UK, but no aims, no call to action, no clear goal.

Which brings me back to the topic I’d planned originally.

Why are we waiting for a company to show an advert that plucks the heartstrings and makes us cry / fills us with joy / reminds us that GIVING feels even better than receiving?

Where is the charity Christmas advert that generates is level of anticipation and emotion? I know, of course, that only a handful of charities have the budget to produce and air one (especially at this peak time) – so perhaps the opportunity lies, not for one charity to seize this opportunity, but for several to work together?

While charities are being told that they should stop using “emotions to blackmail people into giving“, it seems that some companies are celebrated for doing this – maybe charities will benefit from the Christmas spirit too if we create our own campaign. 

Or would that double standard remain? 


In defence of fundraisers

The other week I finished work early for a change (430), and as it was a sunny day sat in town enjoying the sun, watching the people. Mainly watching a group of three face to face fundraisers at work. Facing rejection after rejection, they carried on, cheerily catching the attention of passers by. 

Never blocking the path of people. Taking no more than three steps backwards, ID visible, stopping contact when asked to. What struck me was that 99% of people they came into contact with walked away with a smile. Whether they stopped for a chat or to sign up, stopped to say “I’m not interested” ( or whatever), or didn’t even break their stride, almost every single one had a smile on their face as they walked on. The few I noticed who didn’t, had been frowning before they were approached. 

In contrast at other times, there are a group of suited characters in the same space, selling expensive credit. I’ve noticed two main differences. Firstly, more people signup, and secondly, few leave with a smile on their face – sign up or not. 

As a “business”, these people face no restrictions on how they approach people, path blocking, ‘chasing’ people or continuing their sales patter when told their prospect isn’t interested. I’m fairly sure there’s a correlation here, in both the number of new ‘customers’ (they get more) and the number of positive interactions (customer or not, far more frowns).  

Yet it’s the people trying to encourage people to change the world for the better that have been vilified in the press all summer. 

After watching them for some time, I returned home. On the doormat, an unsolicited mailing from a company. Now because of the unique spelling error on the envelope, I know they got my info from another company I’ve signed up with, who send me info I’ve asked for on a monthly basis using the exact same spelling error – despite me telling them to correct it. 

At no point did they ask me about sharing my data, yet they’ve decided they can send share the poorly recorded contact details they have for me. 
So why no national scandal? Is it that we expect this from “business”- so we excuse it, or ignore it? 

Ive stated before that I’m against ‘list swaps’- the things my donors have told me about them – even just their name and address are some of the most precious things my charity knows, and I don’t know why I’d give it away or sell it even if I had permission, but unlike the “professional” company that felt the info they had on me could be sold on, without permission, charities only do this if they’ve made it clear that they might. 

I believe, no I *know*, that charities already hold themselves up to far higher standards. Perhaps, given the trust that people have placed on charities, they’re not high enough yet, but charities need to stand up for themselves when criticised. 
We need to remind people that actually, we do try, we clamp down on bad practice, we hold ourselves to higher standards, and all while being told we shouldn’t be spending much on fundraising, or ‘admin’. 

If anecdotal evidence is enough to condemn us, then we need to use it to compare with ‘business’ that we’re told we need to be more like. 

While we’re stamping down on bad practice, we need to stand up for ourselves. The work that charities are doing is too important to be meek about the fact that we do (as we should) hold ourselves to higher standards.

Giving anonymously or proudly, is one morally better?

I’ve just read an interesting post from Philanthropy Impact on the whether philanthropists (and in my view all donors), should talk about their giving or give quietly.   
The author concluded that providing a platform for donors who shout about what their gift achieves should be encouraged, but that the platform isn’t deserved by those who only talk about the fact they gave.

Which I find very interesting. the argument that giving isn’t necessarily morally right, unless the giver knows it’s effective can be persuasive, but it does reveal a challenge. What of those donors funding something untested or experimental? And what of those donors who believe that they’re giving effectively, but don’t know for certain because the charity isn’t providing the right reporting.

I think that it can still be difficult in Britain for donors to give publically, for fear of being viewed as giving for the wrong reasons, and I believe that this is where it’s the charity’s responsibility to help their donors appreciate the impact of their gift.
Not only because it enables them to shout about it – and in doing so encourage others to join them – but also because inspiring people with the change that they make, the problems they’re solving, and the lives that they’re improving is the only way that they’ll consider doing it again. If someone donates to my charity only once, it’s probably because they don’t know that they helped to fix the problem they wanted to fix. And that’s my fault. 

Everyone who’s donated to any charity I’ve worked for has helped to make the world a better place – if not for everyone then, at the very least, for someone. 

Whether you’re a donor or a fundraiser, what’s the best way for charities to show you that your donation achieved your aim?