Monday, 26 September 2016

The Last Post - An end to the Grumpy Old Fundraiser

After seven years and 150 grumbles I've decided to call it a day. And why, because I've just joined LSBU's Community of Experts?

No, more seriously, there is a lot more to say and share about philanthropy and even more about good practice in fundraising. Roger Craver at the Agitator continues to do that rather well. In a similar vein Ian MacQuillin at Rogare is also posing some ethical questions. However, life changes and those of you who have followed me over the years know that my wife died two years ago which left me a changed man, but denying the change. Rather like some fundraisers denying that we need to do things much better.

Recently I've understood the Carl Rogers quote, "the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." I now accept what I am, and that means I'm no longer a grumpy old fundraiser! I can still advise, mentor, teach and cajole but will do so from a very, very, different viewpoint.

Many of us (including many fundraisers who should know better)cling onto baggage that we need to jettison. We all need to talk to people, understand their stories and respond to their needs, not ours. At best we are a conduit through which change occurs.

Do get in touch with me at Kew Quorum if you'd like to continue the dialogue. But as my first sales manager, Stan Hargraves, a gruff Yorkshireman said to me, "Peter, you've got two ears and one mouth, so use them in that proportion."

Thank you to everyone who has supported, commented and criticised.

Good luck and be aware.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

How different is giving in the US compared to the UK? And why?

Latest figures from the "Giving USA 2016" report trumpet that giving rose again in 2015 to more than 2% of GDP. In the UK CAF reports that it is around 0.6% or less than a third of what generous folk in the states are persuaded to donate. Similarly Individual giving is around $1,000 per head for the adult population whilst CAF reckon in the UK it is closer to £300 or again around a third of of what Americans give. That is, cultural, demographic and social characteristics apart, a huge difference in anybody's book.

According to the Guardian, the UK is still the sixth richest country on Earth and CAF reckon we're the fourth most generous. So why do more Americans give, apparently, so much more to charity? We know that religiosity plays a part and that Alumni fundraising is so much better developed than in the UK but let's look at the figures more closely.

Whereas the rich giving up to 3% of their income in the states, here it is under 1% whilst, perversely, the poorest 10% in the UK do give more than 2% of their income and in the states the comparable figure is closer 1%. So is it all the fault of the mean, uber rich Banksters et al? It's a worrying thought isn't it? The richer we get (in the UK) the meaner we get (proportionately) whilst the reverse appears true in the US of A.Perhaps we need to reflect harder on this disparity. Certainly it backs up what Frances Beckett says, in his book, "what have the Baby Boomers ever done for us?" He goes on to ask where are the British Bill Gates' and Warren Buffets? And certainly, even looking at Beth Breeze's £1m donors, we seem to be coming up short in Blighty.

Meanwhile we are increasingly concerned with hauling up the gangplank, casting adrift from mainland Europe, ignoring everyone else and making our own way in the world. I missing something here?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Contrary to popular opinion - we like change! So what price a Brexit?

I'm always very taken with what Roger and Tom have to say via "The Agitator" blog. It's American, but still well worth following! At the moment they're having a go at those fundraisers who spend a lot of time monitoring without doing much about it.

Popular opinion has it that we generally don't like change. We stick with what we know and that might account for why we don't change fundraising practices and habits even when our measures suggest we could do something better.It is easy to say, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" yet the contrary view says, however good things are, we could do better. Think about the old adage for direct marketeers, "testing the most exciting thing you can do with your clothes on!" It's changing things, sometimes, just to see what happens.

In the same way, if we really are so resistant to change why did the Scots nearly vote for independence and why are the Brexit campaigners getting a huge number of middle class, middle aged voters threatening to leave? Just for the hell of it? I don't think so.

I think, and I have been known to be wrong, that we actually like a little change. Something a bit different. Another flavour. Something new, even exciting or possibly dangerous. And if that is true then surely our supporters, young middle-aged and experienced (never old, just hugely experienced) like to see us doing things a bit differently?

Whilst there is potentially a huge change waiting if the UK votes to leave the EU; for charities asking their supporters to do something a bit different, reporting about other activities, being more transparent (as Karl Wilding was suggesting on the Today programme). there is, I believe a huge opportunity to get further engagement and a reinvigoration of our support. At the weekend I was at the AGM of the Society of Friends where around 600 people heard the Treasurer actually ask everyone to consider raising their annual gifts, significantly. And this amongst a bunch of very committed members and supporters! Interestingly the response was very positive. "If we want real change, we've got to fund it" said one usually very conservative and reticent long term member.

So what price change?

Friday, 22 April 2016

Gurus and Champions - Heroes or Villains?

Fundraising Magazine has got its annual poll going for the most influential fundraisers around. It's an interesting concept isn't it? Do you vote for those who you think are the best practitioners (such as Liz Tait or Paul Amadi) around? Or is it about the gurus and pundits (such as Richard Radcliffe or the late lamented Tony Elisher)? What about those who champion fundraising? (maybe Peter Lewis or Dan Pelota). Then we might consider the academics doing valuable research and teaching good practice (such as Beth Breeze and Adrian Sergeant. Modesty, by the way, almost prevents me from dropping my name in!) It's all, of course, a bit of fun but those of us who do get votes tend, I'm afraid, to become competitive - as, one might suggest, befits a good fundraiser.

We've got a very wide choice and maybe this year it is trickier as the industry has been seriously under the cosh. Thanks to Stuart Etherington's report. The new fundraising regulator is beginning to flex its muscles. The PFRA has to remerge with the Institute of Fundraising and we're all worried about how the Fundraising Preference Service will be operated (if you're not you jolly well should be). I got phoned by the Today Programme doing a piece on Birmingham Council's decision to further limit access for street canvassers. I regularly champion face to face fundraising on TV and Radio. Done properly, sensitively, with well trained staff it can still deliver new supporter that other methods simply can't reach. People get so hot under the collar that they are harassed and even bullied when, in my experience a smile and a word of encouragement produces a thank you and no hassle! But then I'm a crinkly and not much of a target. That in turn take's me back to the campaign from the Institute around the right, nay duty, for fundraisers to fundraise whilst acknowledging the right of everyone to say no. When we don't hear that no, and react appropriately, is when the trouble starts.

So who are you going to vote for? Think about the heroes and the villains and make your choice!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Send me your nominations for the Museum of Philanthropy

Have you noticed the increasing trend to reject philanthropic deeds that are now seen as politically incorrect?

The statue of Cecil Rhodes (at Oriel College Oxford) is to stay put but only just. The college began a consultation last month and said the "overwhelming" response was that Rhodes should stay." The college said the statue was a reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism. However, in a statement, the campaign group Rhodes Must Fall said: "This recent move is outrageous, dishonest, and cynical. This is not over." In a similar vein, the university of Cape Town is fighting to keep their bronze of Rhodes against a determined student campaign.

Meanwhile Age UK are fighting to hang on to their deal with Eon. They currently say, "Age UK and EON have decided to temporarily suspend offering the Age UK Fixed 2 year EON energy tariff to new and renewing customers." The sponsorship deal made a lot of money for the charity but has come in for much criticism as not being the best deal for customers. The Sun in particular claimed, that Eon has been paying £6 million a year to the charity and getting promotion for higher rate tariffs in return. It claimed further that the tariff recommended by the charity, on average, costs pensioners £245 more than they would pay on Eon’s cheapest deal.

Perhaps, (rather like the Radio 4 virtual "Museum of Curiosity" or even the real one called the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities in Mare Street, Hackney!) we need a museum that can accept unwanted Philanthropic Gifts? It could proudly display all the vainglorious attempts at immortality as well as the fundraising techniques that have rather lost their glamour or worse!

I'm giving a keynote fundraising speech at the Museum of London next week and thought I might launch the idea there. So please send me, your nominations, for what might go on show. A bottle of champagne for the best one.

Friday, 5 February 2016

How will the Fundraising Preference Service Work?

I was at the IoF/Small Charities Coalition meeting yesterday to hear Stephen Dunmore and George Kidd talk about The Etherington review, the new fundraising regulator and the FPS. Whilst I think that they will try to operate pragmatically and reasonably I continue to worry that the devil will be in the detail.

Bernard Jenkin MP would probably say we asked for it and now we're getting it. However as I reminded everyone. The MPS and the TPS are all about avoiding unsolicited marketing approaches. Individuals can ask any charity they give to, to stop sending appeals (and for goodness sake what sensible fundraiser would ignore a direct request?) so why oh why do we need to go further? The real danger I fear is that, in an effort to "keep in simple" (Kidd) we will require all existing givers to any charity to opt back into receiving communications. And that is a very slippery path. As Adrian Sergeant asks,why should we single out charities when financial services go unnoticed?

I doubt it will affect small charities with limited direct marketing programmes but a blanket approach could be the "thermo-nuclear device" that some commentators and fundraisers fear.

However, like Baldrick, I have a plan! I hope, a cunning plan.

I'm talking to fundraisers at the Museum of London Enterprise and Philanthropy conference on 2nd March so come along and see what you think of my idea.

Meanwhile are you worried?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

More New Year Fundraising Resolutions?

My son announced that he's giving up booze for the month. A laudable effort something I've done in the past (both with success and failure) and it's true most of us consider giving something up at this time of year. However how about resolving to do something really positive rather than negative?

We've all been somewhat shocked and taken aback by the fundraising debacle which hit the press in the summer with the Olive Cooke affair, got worse with the Daily Mail revelations of sharp practice and probably reached a nadir with the Commons enquiry, the Stuart Etherington report and the Institute's own entrail gazing exercises (in which I participated hoping we'd do more good than harm). So we've got a new regime(?) wrists have been slapped, some agencies have gone bust and some charities are predicting dire consequences. Is it all OK now? Safe to go back into the acquisition water? To shall we say, "carry on fundraising"?

Somehow I don't think so. We need, I believe, a new mindset. Or perhaps a development of what Ken Burnett, George Smith and Stephen Pidgeon have been wittering on about for years.Not to mention the academics like Adrian Sergeant and myself. Dan Palotta has it right too. If you haven't heard his rant, do so right now.

Fundraising, simply, has to be about investment. Fundraisers have to develop relationships - and that doesn't mean converting one off givers to a direct debit. Chief Executives and Trustees are to blame for the short sighted, transactional fundraising that has taken over from all the supporter development programmes.

I've just witnessed the true story of a new fundraising appointee, employed for the first time as a Community Fundraiser (in a charity that has never done community fund-raising before) with the absurd target of £120,000 in his first year. The Chief Executive set the target, with trustee support. Probably felt it was a win-win, whereas in fact of course it is a lose-lose. Even if he gets lucky and finds some amazing, friends, volunteers and groups to help him raise that money it will be completely unsustainable. And if he fails, everyone will say, "I told you so".

How do we get the message over to senior managers, who should know better, and trustees who need to learn to know better? The message that effective, sustainable fundraising takes time, money, effort and bags of support from the whole organisation. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up to fail again and again.

I'm doing a session at the DSC on Monday 25th January, so come along and hear more and if you disagree tell me why!