Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What is the future of fundraising?

Great meeting of the consultants group last week. If Michael O'Toole is to be believed the future is "contracting". Yes well we know that CAF reckon individual giving is down £1.7bn and that government cuts have knocked another £2bn out of the budget, but, his view in the light of Government preference is that there are still great opportunities to bid for work. But is it work we want to do?

If the techies are to be believed then the future is in crowds, or to be precise, crowd sourcing. Ryan Bromley couldn't come but Vicky from Chameleon did a great job of explaining the applicability of it to fundraising. Crowdfunding if you prefer, though it was pointed out that social enterprises and small businesses are doing a great job of raising capital through crowdfunding which is interesting because it came up again at a Third Sector Research Centre seminar this week.

Here academics and practitioners were looking more at the supply and demand of/for social investment and crowdfunding does seem to be a viable option. However the more interesting debate ranged around where philanthropy ends?

That is, a gift from an individual or a grant from a trust is clearly philanthropy and nobody expects to get any of their money back. It is, in risk terms, a 100% certainty. No risk, no financial return on investment though givers are increasing asking for a social return on investment. However the moment that some of the money is to be returned, as interest or capital repayment, risk rears its head. What price the feel good factor? Where does a social investment fit in the philanthropist's portfolio? Some tricky questions that, of course, the academics suggested needs more research.

Well it does and I'll be adding some investment questions to my "nature of philanthropy" interviews so watch this space for some interim ideas.

Meanwhile what do you think is the future of fundraising? Same old same old, digital,or increasingly back to basics? Tell me what you think, please!And don't forget the champagne is still on offer (see October's challenge).

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Champagne and Social Enterprise still on offer!

I was at the NCVO and ISIRC conferences in Birmingham last month presenting papers on Philanthropy and Social Investment but listening to a number on developing Social Enterprise(SE). There's still a lot of discussion about what SE is and isn't but between a large number of academics no agreed definition save that "you know one when you see it" and also lots on what it isn't.

So I'm offering (again) a bottle of champagne to the best definition in 30 words or less and as someone pointed out this around the 140 character SMS/Tweet limit. We generally agreed that SE is somewhere on the spectrum between a purely "altruistic" charity and a "red in tooth and claw" commercial company but where and what does that mean?

Come on have a go, but be warned I'm hard to please and four professors have failed so far to satisfy me. Incidentally Stephen Barber (now a reader at LSBU!), gave a very whitty run down last time on the "Big Society" and likened it as liable to be ditched by Cameron if things get too hairy in the same way as Blair ditched the Stakeholder Society when it started biting him. Just how much have we heard of late?

I am still convinced that if we mention BS at all it needs to be as the "Bigger Society", since we've had a very successful Big Society, in the guise of the work of charities and community organisations for more than 100 years. Albeit at the moment, with the retreat of government, it's definitely becoming the "Smaller Society"

Friday, 21 September 2012

Charities 'rely on the over 60s' for donations

Very interesting report out from CAF this morning (just in time for the partly conferences) about charities getting more than 50% of their donations from the over 60s. The report compiled by Bristol University has some very interesting findings but the overall presumption is that, as a percentage, younger people are giving less and there is therefore more relience on those getting distinctly older. But is that really what's happening?

Well we always knew that that "silent" generation who fought in and lived through the second world war were generally charitable in their giving but represented (especially after the death toll) a relatively small cohort as generations go. On the other hand the baby boomer generation is a huge cohort (by definition) so as we get older our giving has a far greater impact upon the overall picture. And, like previous generations, as we get older more of us are giving and giving more at that.

However we're doing it differently as Maple's Spectrum of Philanthropy suggests.We don't necessarily trust established charities to do the biz. We may want more say and certainly more meaningful feedback. We may find or even form different social enterprises to do what needs to be done. So the challenge to fundraisers is so much greater.

All the more reason, of course, to understand where your givers are coming from and why they do what they do. Pretty good case for more research just as long as it is focussed on the needs of fundraisers.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Congratulations, you have been awarded a substancial grant!

Always a delight to get a letter, phone call or email confirming that you've been succesful (again!) with one of your carefully crafted, researched and produced, fundraising application to a grantmaker.

However what if you didn't actually apply?

I've just found out that I'm the lucky recipient of a substancial grant from a very large Foundation. Problem is, I didn't apply and like the lottery if you don't apply (or buy a ticket) you don't stand a chance. OR do you? We get unsolicited gifts so why not an unsolicited grant? Stands to reason if you're being successful and creative with your marketing communications doesn't it?

Sadly however the Dove Foundation is the latest incarnation of the classic Phishing email. Respond with all your bank details for the transfer and bingo, you're the one out of pocket. Interesting twist on an old con. Just like a fundraiser really?

Beware Geeks bearing gifts!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to improve your fundraising performance

Interesting month August. Many of us taking holidays (mine was a real staycation - gardening, house painting and repairs but also some boating, walking, music and reading). It's the reading that can help your performance, if you use the opportunity!

I'm not talking specifically about fundraising texts, marketing tombs or even volumes on self improvement. No, just use that wonderful sense of curiousity that every good fundraiser must exercise. And if you don't then cultivate the skill. it's vitally important.

Whatever your holiday reading can be turned to your advantage and improve your capacity to operate effectively.

Think about what you would discuss with a mentor. Problems at work? Issues with colleagues? Opportunities to explore? Processes to improve? The advantages of having a mentor is that time given over to reflection. More often than not it's not what they might suggest but the space they help you to create in order to reflect on your options, redefine your priorities, sort the important out from the urgent and think more objectively about the effects of change upon colleagues.

You can create that same space without the mentor's intervention. Use the times you are deep in a thriller to stop and ponder - what the detective, heroine, adversary or whoever you are contemplating - might do if faced with similar issues. Again it's not what they might say but what you might be able to jump to given some time in the NOW.

If you don't get it yet try reading Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now). It's a great read or re-read for the holidays and will give you the opportunity to be in the now for a bit longer. That's the place to be when thinking the unthinkable and contemplating change. Try it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Always have a plan B

So what are you doing to improve your fundraising effectiveness? Maximising the use of social media? tick. Optimizing the use of volunteers? tick. Going back over all the stuff that didn't work? Ah, no time? Make time. It is in our failures, also runs and non-starters that some of the best alternative plans are fashioned. As Redmond Mullen used to say, "There's nothing new under the sun in fundraising" (though I don't know what he'd make of SMS) but as I always say, " You can always find a new twist"

On the radio this morning defending street canvassers again when FiveLive rang me to oppose what Lord Hodgson is recommending. Well, I do oppose his procrastination over the public benefits test and possibly the payment of trustees, but most of what has been recommended is all good stuff. More of the FRSB and PFRA. More on self-regulation and trusting the charities to get it right. That includes a level playing field for house to house so do away with the exemption certificates for the few but make sure everyone, commercial or charity, has permission to collect merchandise. That of course isn't so newsworthy so the noble lords was, I believe, unopposed cause the Beeb didn't have a plan B.

I failed to persuade enough of you to vote me in as a trustee of the Institute in the main election (tante pis) it was a long shot with 10 people standing for two places. However plan B means I've been elected by my peers (the other chairs of the Institute of Fundraising Special Interest Groups) to represent the groups as a trustee. So job done, well started at least. So let me know what you think the Institute ought to be concentrating on. More member benefits? Better CPD (continuing professional development) or lobbying harder on behalf of fundraising with the likes of Hodgson?

Meanwhile keep working on your plan B.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

How to increase fundraising by 60%

The Irish have a plan to increase donations to charities by 60% over the next four years!
Even with a touch of the blarny that's going some. But just maybe there's something there for this present bunch of denialists (see

The Irish are planning:

A National “Giving Campaign”, aimed at the public, high net worth individuals and corporates in Ireland to increase their giving.

Improvements to the fiscal environment and incentivising greater giving.

Development of better fundraising capacity, education and training among not-for-profits.

Creation of a National Social Innovation fund, supported by the Government and the philanthropic sector. (Backed with a massive 1.1m Euros - but it's a start).

I think what I like is the fact that there is a will to do something as opposed to spouting more rhetoric. It contrasts nicely with the HMRC's revelation today that George Osborne's concern about gift aid and tax avoidance was down to all of 320 high rate tax payers. And he still missed the point that whilst they reduced their headline tax rate, they were worse off (financially) having made the charitable gifts than if they hadn't bothered at all.

Bit early to say Baa Humbug but that's how it feels, especially with the rain pelting down and the need to turn the central heating on. Tante pis. I see the Times is selecting its charities for December appeal so it'll soon be Christmas.

Friday, 15 June 2012

How to help the Institute of Fundraising?

Did you get your notice of the AGM yesterday? Mine came in the post and set me to think about the changes afoot.

The Institute of Fundraising has a new Chief Executive, Peter Lewis, who when I met him last seems to be very open about the huge job he's facing and the radical changes that the Institute needs to undergo to make it more relevant to fundraising and more valuable to fundraisers. Backing him is a trustee body of 16 good men and women.

Interestingly (according to the Charity Commission) only three of them are trustees of other charities. Now I'm not saying that you have to be a trustee to understand the world of governance, but it doesn't half help. In fact I advise and urge all my students to do just that. Become a trustee of another charity that they are interested in and walk a mile in the other person's moccasins. As a fundraiser it really helps clarify the thought processes that those, legally responsible for the governance of the charity, go through. That's one of the reasons I've been a trustee of five other fundraising charities over the last 20 years and am still there for one currently.

The Institute is, of course, a particularly odd fish. It is a membership organisation that happens to represent fundraisers. How well does it represent us? How well can it represent our needs, concerns and issues to government and the rest of the sector? What more could it be doing for us?

Well to misquote JFK, "Ask not what your Institute can do for you but rather what you can do for your Institute." That's why I've decided to stand for one of the two places up for election this July. Those of you who know me can be sure that I'll tell it as it is and where I can, do something about it. Changes in member benefits and support, membership qualifications and (one of my favourite subjects) continuing professional development. For example, we really have to get to the point where membership is a requirement of every fundraising job, not just a "would like".

So unashamedely and not very grumpily I'm asking for your vote please, on the ballot paper. Help me to help the institute. As I said when I campaigned (long ago but successfully)as president of the student union - "All the way with PKJ."

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

More on giving motivations or "why I hate chuggers"

I spend some time on TV and radio defending street canvassing, because if done properly and sensitively it is another very appropriate fundraising practice that helps charities reach younger potential supporters. Many people however talk about how guilty they feel saying no. When Ian MacQuillan sent me this article, by Julian Baggini I knew I had to comment on his verbalisation of what I think a lot of people will recognise when they encounter a canvasser. The full article is in a magazine called Heaver and whilst I don't agree with everything he says I think the sentiment is spot on. That's why I'm electing Julian an honorary member of the association!

Julian writes that, "bitter experience having taught you to be alert to their presence, you spot one in your path as you approach. What to do? Pretend you haven't seen anything? Keep your gaze fixed ahead and avoid any distraction? Try to appease the monster? Whatever you choose, you know the one thing you must not do under any circumstances is stop. Once they've demobilised you, there is no way out that isn't ugly."

He's talking, of course, about what many call chuggers and he reckons they are somewhat dishonest in that for examply, "they have numerous plays designed to make you stop, from complementing you on your scarf to asking whether you've ever met a Nobel prize winner." He elaborates further and goes on to say that secondly he finds that,

"their euphoric, joyful enthusiasm isn't natural. Or at least, it certainly isn't British. Spending a whole day in the often rain outdoors being dodged by people is not fun. So these people are either massive fakers, on heavy medication, insane, or some combination of the above". And he doesn't stop there going on to add that he resents being made to feel guilty! He adds, "I resent being made to feel bad when I'm sure I'm more conscientious about my charitable giving than most of the saps who stop. It should be more virtuous to give under no pressure from the privacy of your own home. But it is those who stop who look kind and those who walk by who look mean. It feels as though we are being judged by how we respond to chuggers when that is no the benchmark of philanthropy at all."

However the punchline is, rightly saved until the end where delivering his "coup de grace" he says, movingly,

"But the truth is, I should feel bad, and that's why I hate them. I hate them for reminding me that, even if I do already give money to charity, it is not enough. There are numerous good causes, all of which deserve my cash or time and while I can't give to all of them, I can and should give more to more of them. I hate them for interrupting my healthy, lovely day with thoughts about disease, death and suffering. I hate them because they remind me that relying on the milk of human kindness is not enough. Chuggers exist because they work, and that means they are plenty of people who just would not give as much as they do if it weren't for chirpy youths accosting them on the street. And I hate them for reminding me that I'm a miserable misanthropic sod who can so easily hate people who are only trying to earn a living in some kind of meaningful purposeful way. In short, I hate them for reminding me of all that is bad in the world when reminding is just what we all need in order to make it better."

Thank you Julian I couldn't have put it better myself! Do you agree or think we're both barking?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Giving Motivations

As I blogged last week, it is extraordinary that 80,000 have given more than £1.1m (including gift aid) to Samaritans (no indefinite article I'm told). The article in the Guardian comments on the importance of who makes the ask as opposed to the case for support, the cause or other such factors. There will be a strong "giving in memoriam" element as a trigger. In my experience giving, in memory of a loved one, parent, partner or child, is one of the most powerful triggers for a gift. It is why some people start charities and why tribute giving is such an important area that, if charities realised it, could be harnessed to much greater effect. Currently charities tend to wait until after someone has died and then, in response to "in memoriam" or "gifts in lieu of flowers" suggest tentitatively that perhaps the givers and the family would like the charity to set up a fund in memory of the loved. Of course, handled sensitively, with an appropriate involvement device it works really, really well. So why stop there? Just as some people buy a little bit of immortality with pledges and legacies why could we not actively suggest, to those most likely to like the idea (research, research, research)the concept of gifts beyond the final legacy? Perhaps it's a step too far. However remember that talking about a "gift in your will" was thought to be insensitive and now is a routine part of legacy development. So, those minded to involve the family in the decision process (and many do) might be persuaded to continue the fundraising beyond the original giver's death. Just a thought?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Claire Squires - what an extraordinary effect

In the wake of Claire Squires' sad and untimely death on Sunday is is extraordinary that 65,000 people have given £3/4 million to the Samaritans in memory of someone who the vast majority had never heard of before the marathon. It's not unusual for the public to respond generously to a tragedy (witness the tsunami response) or when someone in the public eye dies (witness the Princess Dianna effect) but for a young women, doing the marathon for a great, but not huge charity (£10m turnover last year) is, in my view, extraordinary. So what is going on? In my view the Spectrum of Philanthropy applies rather well here. It's not the cause, great though the Samaritans are, it is the the person doing the ask - albeit in this case a very powerful implied ask. But what do you think? Were you minded to give and why? More of this, I hope, if I can persuade the Guardian to commission a thought piece from me. In the meantime however do please respond and let me know your feelings, emotions or cold logic about this phenomena. Well it's in the Guardian at: What motivates people to give to charity? Please post a comment there or here whether you agree or think it's something completely different!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

George Osborne just doesn't get it

It is extraordinary that so many people (especially George Osborne and one suspects the rest of the cabinet) don't get it! Whether a high rate taxpayer is giving £1000 or £1,000,000 they do so out of taxed income (even if they are only paying 10%). Thus the high rate relief they get back only reduces the cost of the gift by 20% or enables them to give 20% more. It's arrant nonsense to suggest that people give to charities (even the Royal Opera House) to reduce their tax bill.

That said, there may not be many who would give more than 25% of their £200,000 income but I can think of quite a few generous souls who do give a lot more than the £50,000 proposed limit would cap. Can't help feeling that Zac Goldsmith's prediction that "....this will for ever be remembered as the Government that smashed the charity sector in this country." is rather over egging the situation.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Why oh why is Sport Relief giving the Evening Standard £1m?

I don't believe it! Are they mad or am I losing it?

I applaud the fundraising efforts of the Evening Standard to raise money for London's homeless and dispossessed (now £8.3m). Equally I applaud All of Sport Relief's work in raising £52m for a huge range of good causes. However, what is the logic of one grant provider giving to another?

The Evening Standard are actively fundraising using the oxygen of free publicity via the daily paper and having those funds managed and distributed by CAN (Community Action Network). Nothing wrong in that. Similary Sport Relief fundraises using the oxygen of free publicity from the Beeb and then adds the money to that already administered by Comic Relief. OK so far? So now why is Sport Relief giving £1m to the standard to pass on to CAN to distribute?

It's a bit like Help for Heroes who fundraise (very successfully) using (amongst others) Murdock publicity and then give the money to some of the existing well established service charities. Perhaps they are more effective, not least because of all the extra publicity generated. However one can't help worrying whether much real additional cash is being raised and whether some events and activities cannibalize the efforts of those same charities that are supported by the new kids on the block?

I suppose I could be less grumpy and grateful for small mercies. At least they are giving the money to established providers who (hopefully) know what they are doing, rather than really reinventing the wheel and getting into direct service provision. Still it makes you think that there might be a better alternative.

Friday, 2 March 2012

What do you think of Fundraising Consultants?

The original Grumpy Old Fundraiser, John Sauve-Rodd sent me a very interesting survey about what clients think of their consultants and (and why not) what consultants think about their charity clients! Makes for some interesting reading, have a look at:

Of particular interest is the observation that "we only used them to persuade our boss to do what we wanted" because in my book that is one of the three worthwhile times to invest in the fundraising consultant. When you are a prophet in your own land, you often need the external "objective" voice to help win the arguement. My old friend Redmond Mullin, who sadly died last year was a consumate professional at persuading trustee boards and senior managment teams of the need to invest in fundraising. They would listen to Redmond in a way that they, sadly, would not listen to their own director of fundraising. (Yes that is the voice of experience speaking).

The second of the usual reasons for employing consultants is simply to provide the expertise or capacity that does not exist in-house. The capital campaign feasibility study, the fundraising audit in an under performing area and so on.

The third and I think least understand, is that of the change agent. The consultants can come in on an interim or time limited project basis, help to implement and manage change and then leave with all the monkeys on their backs. Its what they're paid for and helps the new team or reorganised department function far more effectively.

Each of these areas benefit from the use of consultants, provided that the brief was clear, unambiguous, without unrealistic expectations and, most importantly, fully agreed by both parties. It goes without saying, I hope, that you've got to find the right consultant with the right skill set and approach to be able to work within the culture of your organisation.

Anyway, do let me know what you think of the survey results.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Sir Stuart Etherington and the 4th Sector!

Stuart is absolutely right (Civil Society News 15/2) to highlight the dangers of current government policy that will allow a small number of for profit companies to dominate the provision of public service which were previously the baliwick of smaller, innovative charities focussing, not on profit, but on delivering the best possible services and outcomes for beneficiaries.

What's worse is the cognative dissonance being shown by the coalition, in supposedly promoting and encouraging "the big society" whilst retreating from and slashing the funding for such services. The reality is that we have a big society which needs investment. As it is we'll finish up with a smaller society which will penalize those least able to speak up and complain.

NCVO reckon there's £2bn coming out of the sector, Cathy Pharoah says £3bn. By my sums I reckon that it'll be closer to £5bn by the time you include all the small local authority grants and funding to community organisations that is being wiped out.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Philanthropy is not fair

With all the talk of bankers (or as I prefer, banksters) bonus' and whether they could, should, might give them to charity it is worth reminding ourselves of why people give. After all, as some of you know, I'm doing a bloody PhD on the "Nature of Philanthropy" and some of the bankers I've talked to in the past have actually been really quite nice people with a social conscience!

Equally, as the Guardian put it, most people don't want charity, they want fairness. Equality of opportunity whether it's in jobs and homes or clean water and food. Giving philanthropically does little to address those concerns but may still help make the world a slightly better place. It doesn't matter whether it's Bill Gates trying to abolish polio (winning) or malaria (way to go) or a mere mortal making a more modest £10 per month to help bring books to kids trying to get educated. The charitable intention is, I believe, a healthy one and capable of making the world a nice place both in the givers' own community or country as well as where the funds are used.

However, just as inducing a guilt trip for a quick one-off donation is, usually, counter productive for developing good relations with a giver; so, blackmailing a bonus receiver into forgoing it or giving it to "charidy" will probably provoke a backlash in the individual's own charitable motivations and also in his or her working community. Maybe, just maybe, we've got to use intellectual persuasion to change beliefs in order to change attitude and behaviour as those of you who've read the "Spectrum of Philanthropy" might twig.

It's a harder, longer, slower path but I think it could pay dividends.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year (or is it?)

Last year I posed the question where are the baby boomer philanthropists? Bingo the New Year honours list has 14 according to Howard Lake at This list includes Doug Ellis and Paul Ruddock as well as my old Cranfield mate Mike Bear (now Sir Michael - so many congratulations!)

Perhaps most notable of these good doing generally baby boomers is probably Gerald Ronson for his (reported by Civil Society) £100m fundraised for charity (and £30m donated!) after a spell in prison in the 1990s. This is a bit reminicent of John Profumo who, (after the Christine Keeler scandel) spent many years working in the East End for Toynbee Hall. Maybe redemption (or the pursuit of) is something we all begin to think about as age beckons. I for one have certainly started thinking about these things far more since hitting 60. So what lessons are there for fundraisers?

Well don't assume we've all found god. Giving motivation is (as I'm discovering) fiendishily complex and anyone who says otherwise doesn't have a clue. I think fundraisers have to start with themselves! How generous we we? And why do we give (or not)? Know thyself (which according to Wikipedia Diogenes attributes to Thales) and you might begin to know Mankind (according to Alexander Pope). More insight and introspection may not make for a happier New Year but it will definitely help your fundraising.