Debate: Are UK charities bad at asking for money?

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations' Funding the Future report, published recently, suggests that charities are not good at seeking donations from the public, and that fundraisers are sometimes seen by colleagues as a 'necessary evil' or an 'alien species'

TONY ELISCHER - managing director of Think Consulting Solutions

The moment we believe we are good at asking will be the moment our fundraising will seriously suffer. Charity may be a core human value but the ability to ask is not a natural trait in many people.

Asking for money requires humility, insight, creativity and belief, sprinkled with the right level of passion and inspiration. Achieving each of these qualities is a lifelong mission and a journey in itself; as we get one quality right in relation to a particular donor, we need to adjust the other elements to increase the connection. Hence, we must never think we are good at asking for money.

Good results from an activity do not necessarily mean that we have been good at asking; the story may have connected and gained a response but did we build the case sufficiently to increase the donor’s connection to us? Could we have asked for more?

AMANDA McLEAN - chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

No. At the heart of successful fundraising lie professional principles and practices.  The majority of charities adopt a strategic approach, carefully considering which sources of income they are looking to target, and which techniques they ought to employ to order to further bolster their organisation’s funds. 

Charities should also think more about pooling resources and support. The success of Remember A Charity’s wide-reaching social marketing campaign is all about charities joining together to raise awareness of the tremendous benefits of gifts in wills amongst the UK population at large. 

To support this activity, the IoF’s new Academy will further equip fundraisers with the skills they need to ‘make the ask’ – through professional qualifications, hands-on training delivered by sector experts and a structured mentoring system.

Of course, let’s not forget the extra special factor of personal passion and persuasiveness which also goes into the most successful of fundraising approaches. Relationship building, empathy and a genuine care for the cause are often at the heart of the fundraiser’s suite of skills.

RICHARD SPENCER - head of individuals marketing at the RSPB

It depends who you ask. Someone responsible for raising the money might say: "Yes, charities should be more bold at asking for money". But someone who gives to charity might say: "Yes, it really annoys me people stopping me in the street and asking for money". And someone who is responsible for delivering the charity’s goals might say: "Yes, we are becoming too focused on the finances and forget about the cause".

But while they might all say yes, charity donors and employees don’t agree on the reasons. Many charities unintentionally create a divide between donors and employees, yet in the most successful asks, there is a vital and visible connection that unites them.

A good place to start looking to change the answer to the question, therefore, is first to look at how to align ‘supporter engagement’ – understanding your donors – with ‘employee engagement’ – leading the organisation.

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