CONVENTION PREVIEW: Raising money in tough times

Dominic Wood

Fundraisers may be feeling the pinch, but help is at hand at the National Convention 2003.

The stock market's dramatic fall over the past three years has forced many charities to explore uncharted territory to make up for the loss of income.

Never has it been so important to know how to secure legacies and major donors' millions. But that is just part of the modern fundraiser's role - they also need to be aware of issues such as the politics and pitfalls of cause related marketing, how to assess ethical issues and how to make accounting more transparent.

These are among the subjects that will be debated at more than 150 seminars and workshops at the National Fundraisers' Convention 2003, which is organised by the Institute of Fundraising.

The workshop 'The New Philanthropist - a Case Study of Partnership with a Major Donor' will explore why millionaire Graham Hellier decided to choose Plan UK over Oxfam when he was looking to donate £600,000 to charity.

Like many donors today, Hellier wanted to maintain a strong personal connection with the project. Gabriela Bucher, major donor funding officer at Plan UK, who will discuss the issue from the charity's perspective, says: "It's important to involve the donor. Traditionally direct mail was the main relationship with donors, then face-to-face, and now we have embraced something beyond that."

Richard Radcliffe's seminar on 'Legacy Marketing' covers another topical issue. A recent Mori poll shows that the legacy market has grown by £100 million in the past few months following a marketing drive by the Legacy Promotion Campaign, a consortium of more than 100 charities.

Radcliffe, who is chairman of legacy specialist Smee & Ford, will provide examples of how insensitive direct marketing can quickly turn off donors.

He explains: "A woman who had given a charity £25 per month for 17 years was sent a letter with a free pen asking her to support them with a legacy.

She already was so incensed by the wasted resources she took the £85,000 legacy out of her will the very next day."

Radcliffe will discuss ways of getting better results by gently making people aware of the value of legacies. "People over 65 enjoy tea parties," he says. "Arrange them and talk about the charity's needs. Mention legacies, but don't specifically ask for them.

Legacy fundraising is the only time you don't make 'the ask'."

Cause related marketing is an area of huge risk and reward for charities.

In his seminar 'Cause Related Marketing - If it's that good, why isn't everyone doing it?', Matthew Hunt, accounts strategist of cause related partnerships at WWAV Rapp Collins, will discuss the way through the minefield.

"Charities should retain due diligence at all times when getting into bed with corporates," says Hunt. He cites Breast Cancer Campaign's decision to accept £50,000 from wine company BRL Hardy, despite evidence linking excessive alcohol consumption with an increased risk of the disease, as an example of scoring a PR own goal.

"Everyone needs to be vigilant and look at all the stakeholders involved.

If everyone benefits and the links are transparent and clearly understood, then the relationship should be a good one," he says.

Receiving gifts from unethical companies is tackled in the seminar 'Doing Well by Doing Right - a Fundraiser's Guide to Ethical Decision Making'.

Michael J Rosen, a freelance consultant from the US, will help fundraisers to overcome ethical dilemmas by providing a model for decision making.

"Seldom is an ethical dilemma solved conclusively," says Rosen. "It's not so much about getting the right answer but getting the best decision and being able to stand by it."

Transparency and accountability, two voluntary sector buzz words, will be the focus of the seminar 'Transparency and Accountability in the Charity World' by Stephen Ainger, chief executive of Charities Aid Foundation.

Ainger will remind delegates that when it comes to independent verification, one-size-fits-all doesn't work for such a diverse sector.

Simon Hebditch, head of policy at CAF, says: "Each charity must decide how they will provide the information that funders require to decide on their support. Charities can't use spin in their annual reports. They must state openly what they do."

The conference includes a series of nine seminars especially for senior fundraisers, allowing extra time to thrash out issues and share experiences.

They include advice on how chief executives should manage fundraisers, the five strategies for fundraising success and how to reach new audiences.

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