How can we reassure the public that supporting charity is the right choice? By letting them know these 5 things, says Professor Stephen Lee
2015 was a difficult year for fundraising and many members of the general public, including existing and possible future supporters, might be forgiven for feeling less well-disposed or motivated to donating in the future.
But the vast majority of fundraising – especially fundraising that occurs locally, for smaller organisations or which is itself donor led through events and sponsorship activities – continues to bring delight to the donors themselves as much as it brings critically needed resources to charity programmes and services.
What, then, are the 5 things that the public needs to know about fundraising?
1. The real and positive impact their support delivers
It is crucial to remind our existing and potential supporters that it is their generosity that makes the difference to the lives of millions of different types of beneficiary in whose name fundraising takes place. Effective fundraising focuses upon the needs of the beneficiaries and the precise way in which a donor or supporter can, through their donation, have a clear and positive impact in addressing those needs moving forward.
2. Donors and supporters will always be respected for the positive impact that they make
It is donors, not charities or fundraisers that make critical services possible and available to those that need them. Donors and supporters command our respect for what they are asked to do and for the positive manner in which they respond. All of our fundraising must be grounded on the continued preservation of this respect.
3. Effective and appropriate fundraising balances the need to ask with the wishes of the donor
Like everyone, our supporters are all busy people, they are bombarded with information from all quarters and they are often not immediately aware of the needs of others that they would want to support. This is the basis of our legitimate right to ask them for their support. But it is a right that brings with it a duty: to ensure that as fundraisers we ask for support in a manner that is appropriate to the needs and wishes of our supporters as well as the needs and injustices that befall our beneficiaries.
4. Donor and supporter choice lies at the heart of all effective fundraising
Fundraised support is not termed ‘voluntary income’ lightly. The preservation of the voluntary nature of our donors’ support is unique to the process of fundraising, and to the positive impact that the act of giving has on donors and supporters themselves as well as on the recipients of their support. This is best maintained by fundraisers ensuring that donors willingly consent to engage in their giving in a free and explicit manner, and that the choices donors express around the nature and the incidence of their giving are respected and acted upon accordingly.
5. At all times we will keep our fundraising promises and protect the best interests of our donors and beneficiaries alike
Trust lies at the heart of truly effective fundraising. Supporters and donors trust charities to apply their support for the reasons for which it was asked and given. Often donors and supporters are far removed from the impact that their support delivers. It is important then, in living up to the promises contained in all of our fundraising requests, that they are properly thanked and clearly informed of the positive impact that their gift has made.
The vast majority of fundraising practice continues to be undertaken in a manner that is efficient, effective and above all appropriate. It is important that we remind both existing and potential supporters that this continues to be the case, because if we do not, no one else will.
Professor Stephen Lee is Professor of Voluntary Sector Management at Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness. He has been a fundraiser since the age of 13.