Louise Richards analyses the recommendations set out in the government’s green paper on giving and reiterates that at its heart, fundraising is about enabling donors to build a better society
It can be easy to lose sight of the very essence of charitable giving. The science of the latest thinking or big idea, or a technological advancement, can be overwhelming. Cash point donations, iPhone apps, and using Twitter or Facebook to mobilise online tribes are all ways to garner support for your cause. Fundraising can be about capturing trends – taking an established technique and putting a new twist on it. Nobody exists or acts in isolation and fundraising is a very human business where people follow established movements, take up a cause and get involved.
Let’s take a step back and consider the vote of confidence the UK government has recently given our sector. This includes the ability to claim new Gift Aid on donations of up to £5,000 – a potential (and welcome) sum of £1,250. The focus on increasing resources for charities through the green paper on giving, and government’s readiness to consult with our sector to agree a way forward are also positive. Finally, the Institute of Fundraising has successfully retained its position as one of the government’s key strategic partners.
The nitty gritty
The coalition is clearly behind further promotion of fundraising and encouraging giving as a cultural norm. Certainly, new ideas play a part here. But what about the practical suggestions in the giving green paper, which is key in outlining government policy relating to charities and fundraising? For example, the green paper is totally silent on the issue of tax. While the Budget announcement has seen some simplifications to Gift Aid through a modernised system of online filing, tax relief systems do need to be made easier still to encourage further uptake of Gift Aid and Payroll Giving. This should be a particular focus to increase the income of smaller organisations.
New technologies abound in the green paper, and many can be useful tools. However, while they can serve as a means to an end, they do not compensate for engaging donors in a long-term relationship. There are many innovative ways of raising awareness of a cause. However, fundraisers know that people’s reasons for giving to charity are often complex, but ultimately decisions made from the heart. For this reason, it would be more useful to charities if our government supported additional research into motivations for giving, to underpin recommendations made in the green paper.
It’s always tempting to look to the US for solutions to issues associated with persuading people to give more to charity. The green paper shows that our government runs the risk of over-simplifying the state of giving in the UK by making too many comparisons to how it is done in America. There is a sweeping difference in culture between the UK and the US and we need to work with our own national systems and preferences to encourage our sector to prosper and grow.
Fundraising is integral to building a giving culture in the UK. The government is right to consult our sector and some good ideas are flagged up in its green paper. However, it needs to do more to get under the skin of charities and find out what they really need. This is where the Institute comes in –we can provide the expertise on fundraising that the decision makers require, and take advantage of the opportunity to influence and shape the government’s agenda.
Let’s not forget that at its very heart, charity fundraising is about connecting donors with a desire to make the world a better place, with the causes that can make fundamental change happen in society. It’s these deep-rooted preferences which government and fundraisers would do well to focus on.
Louise Richards is director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising