Institute of Fundraising: Clearing up the opacity on transparency

Transparency. It's not very clear is it? There is much talk about transparency, or the greater need for it, in the fundraising world. In our context it stands for clarity and openness but what is it to others?

For some, transparency means outlining your funding cost ratios - i.e. pronouncing that you have an ROI of 4.235:1. This is completely missing the point.

Transparency means explaining why you need voluntary income, its role in your organisation's income mix and the importance that unrestricted income plays. It is explaining the range of fundraising techniques you use. It is why, for a larger charity, a wide range of fundraising techniques, rather than over-reliance on one, spreads the risk and makes you ideally placed to exploit a newer, more successful technique. It is how techniques such as face to face are successful at engaging newer, younger audiences.

It is why investment is good and necessary, why start-up costs more than long-term activity or why your organisation has decided some fundraising is not appropriate.

In short, transparency is telling your fundraising story. Any fundraiser knows that if you tell the story you can engage with people and after a few times some donors might want to know more. It's highly likely that once your story is understood, then it's relevant to report on cost ratios.

But don't start at the end because the point will not be understood or appreciated. Start telling your story in the annual report and if your fundraising team is not inputting into it then it's time to knock on the chief executive's door.

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