EDITORIAL: Don't be afraid of showing the cost of raising funds

LUCY MAGGS

This week a large proportion of fundraisers in the sector will be at the Institute of Fundraising's conference in Birmingham. Fundraising has increasingly been in the spotlight and the environment for fundraisers looks certain to undergo more changes with the forthcoming review of charity law and the increasing threat of regulation.

As charity income from investment drops, the focus is on fundraisers to make up the shortfall. The job is not made easier by diminishing funds available from grant givers, whose income has been affected, often dramatically, by the fall in the stock market. The public, the major source of income for fundraisers, is also becoming more demanding and critical of charities.

One hot topic is how and if fundraising costs should be measured and compared. The impending Performance and Innovation Unit review of charity regulation, due to be published on 23 July, means this will be very much a subject of debate. Every time the issue is brought up, though, there is an outcry from many organisations that publishing fundraising costs would result in league tables giving the public a distorted picture of fundraising in the sector.

It is true that fundraising costs will vary depending on the organisation and the cause it supports. A charity for an unpopular cause, such as asylum seekers, is likely to have higher fundraising costs than one for an appealing cause.

But as long as fundraisers are doing their jobs, organisations should not be afraid of showing costs. High expenditure on fundraising can reflect an exciting, innovative campaign and an organisation that is willing to make changes.

Charities work in a competitive, changing environment and fear of increasing costs must not prevent them from pushing forwards. The key is informing donors and beneficiaries about what is going on in the organisation and explaining costs. Celebrate what you're doing, explain why you're doing it and don't try and sweep it under the carpet.

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