Fundraisers 'could be less defensive', says Shelter chief executive

Campbell Robb tells the Institute of Fundraising convention that fundraisers should do more to integrate with other parts of their charities

Campbell Robb
Campbell Robb

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, has told fundraisers to be less defensive and work more collaboratively.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s national convention yesterday, he responded to comments made at the institute’s awards dinner on Monday evening by Mark Astarita, chair of the IoF and director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, who said that many charity chief executives did not understand fundraising and saw it as a nothing more than a "necessary evil".

Robb said he wanted to prove that charity leaders did think about their fundraisers. He said he thought fundraising was a "tough gig".

"Not only do you have to be a great practitioner to be successful, you also have to be continually ahead of the curve," he said.

Robb highlighted examples from Shelter in which fundraisers had given the charity independence, innovation and authority.

But he said fundraisers also had to remember that chief executives had different responsibilities.

"Yes, you are important; yes, you do a vital job – but you are not unique and you could do more as a profession and individually to integrate with the rest of the organisation," he said. "You could be less defensive and more responsive to feedback. You could be more collaborative inside and outside the organisation.

"I have one role as chief executive of Shelter and that is not to raise as much money as I can – it is to help as many people as I can, and sometimes in your rightful claims for more recognition you need to remember that we have responsibilities, as well, to do different things."

He later qualified his comments and said that all specialisms within charities needed to work more collaboratively and look beyond their own targets.  

Speaking in January last year, Robb said that fundraising was a "dirty secret" for many voluntary sector boards and chief executives and that many almost wanted to pretend that fundraising happened by magic.

Speaking at the convention, Robb also called on the voluntary sector to "stride into this maelstrom" of deepening public spending cuts and set out to help more people.

He urged delegates to be optimistic in their approach and seek to grow rather than batten down the hatches. He outlined the challenges facing the sector and society in the "hideous economic climate". 

"We need to respond to the flux and the uncertainty by increasing our capacity to raise public and political awareness about what is happening to people and communities around this country," he said. "At the core of this is the belief that organisations that campaign for change must work with those in need of support and advice to ensure that what we call for is grounded in the reality of people’s lives.

"Without service delivery we are just a think tank, and without campaigning and supporters we are just a satellite of the state."

Robb warned that if the sector did not adapt and grow it would be "diminished by a thousand cuts".

- Read more on this year's IoF National Convention

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