Editorial: It's time charities told their stories

Those organisations that shy away from defending face-to-face fundraising look like they have something to hide, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

The recent Newsnight programme on BBC2 about face-to-face fundraising seemed to start from the idea that it is in some way wrong that street fundraisers should be paid.It banged away at the point that some of the money donated by those who sign up will, in effect, go towards paying the fundraiser.

The answer to that is: what do you expect? Why shouldn't they be paid, just like, for example, broadcasters? Mick Aldridge of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association tried to say that in a diplomatic way, but his answers were edited to suit the predetermined theme. You could see the joins as they used the classic demonising technique of a tight, unrelenting focus on his face. Betty McBride of the British Heart Foundation also fought back gamely. All credit to them for mitigating a hatchet job.

But another notable aspect of the programme was the list of big charities that use face-to-face but declined to be interviewed. That only reinforced the implication that they have something to hide. Even if you suspect you won't get a fair hearing, you should always come out and make your case - otherwise you just give the the other side a field day.

So Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, was right to contact the 50 top fundraising charities last week and urge them not to be so reticent. There's a debate about whether chuggers should be more explicit about being paid (they should); but the fact that they are paid is normal and defensible, so come out and say it. Anyone who fails to understand the point is probably a lost cause to charities anyway.

Next week sees the launch of the Impact Coalition's transparency manifesto. Let's hope its emphasis will tie in with Bubb's theme of getting charities to come out and tell their story instead of playing the 'no comment' game or griping about the shortcomings of the media.

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