INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Chief execs and trustees must be fundraisers too

LINDSAY BOSWELL, chief executive at the Institute of Fundraising

The Northern Ireland Institute of Fundraising Conference took place recently.

In one of the sessions a well-travelled speaker explained how he witnessed something remarkable in New Zealand. An employee of one charity spent a small period of time each week dropping in on donors, saying thanks and asking why they supported it.

As a result, she built up a better understanding of her donors and, surprise, surprise, she noticed that they almost all donated again and increased their support. When she called to say thanks she never asked for money. Sounds very logical, even obvious doesn't it? Common sense really.

My point is to focus on common sense. Most of fundraising is common sense. Have you ever met anyone who admitted that they were singularly lacking in the stuff? So, if we all have lots of the stuff (we think) and it is the main ingredient in fundraising, then it stands to reason that we are all good, active fundraisers or at least could be.

Fundraisers always complain about their lot being a lonely existence.

Many fund-raising managers repeat the mantra "my boss doesn't understand fundraising".

Perhaps we make it too complicated. Might we be concentrating on the mechanics of the various techniques and the tax-efficient gradients just a bit too much?

If you are a trustee, chief executive, finance director or hold any position within a charity, you have a duty to know the basics of Gift Aid and the few other key forms of tax-efficient giving. You should know how efficient a mechanism such gifting is, for both the donor and the charity and be able to tell someone how to Gift Aid a donation.

Two years ago, I set the challenge to a room of 50 senior charity staff, yet only 5 per cent got the Gift Aid details correct. If you are a fundraiser reading this, train your boss. If you are the boss, be trained and train your trustees. Then, while you are talking to your fundraisers, stick your nose in and dig about at what they are doing.

Remember, with all that common sense that you possess, you are bound to be able to see ways that fundraising can integrate with all the other areas of work that your charity does.

One of the best sessions at the National Fundraisers' Convention last week was listening to a couple of pretty damn senior chief executives talking about how they have done just that and how they regard themselves as fundraisers. Leadership is a wonderful word.

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