Last week around 40 finance and fundraising directors came together to look at how these two vital areas work together. The Institute of Fundraising has been working closely with The Charity Finance Directors Group (CFDG) over the past couple of years by running a series of such meetings.
This particular workshop was designed to look in some detail at the issue of the Standard Information Return. Through marketing to our own respective memberships we managed to get as good a focus group as you could design.
We had community-level organisations, small charities playing on a national stage, regionally focused groups, campaigning specialist organisations and representatives of health, the environment, youth, welfare and animals as well as a 'top 10 brand' charity.
The Standard Information Return is one of the proposals from the Strategy Unit report and would mean a mandatory filing of two sides of A4 information for all charities above a a £1 million income level. All those present were aware of the agenda and were there to help contribute to the thinking in how to take the challenge of the Standard Information Return and translate it into a useful and positive tool.
Obviously, one of the conclusions reached was the scale of difficulty in trying to pull together the diverse and disparate group of organisations that make up the voluntary sector. One of the challenges is to persuade such organisations of the need for such a report. It was totally accepted that anything that encouraged the spread of best practice was to be encouraged.
In this case, the need to talk about outcomes, the work of the organisations, and the impact on their stakeholders was gladly welcomed. If the Standard Information Return gets all of us focused away from trying to make our fundraising and administration costs look as low as possible and onto talking with passion about what we do with our money, then it will be worth the extra effort.
With the plethora of recommendations coming out of the Strategy unit now being developed and implemented by the Home Office, links between finance and fundraising are vital to ensure that the sector maintains its independence and its unique flavour. It is certainly core to the work of the Institute to develop and expand these partnerships and to robustly fight off the accusations of self interest. I wonder if there could be a better focus group than the 40 professionals who spent an entire morning sharing their extensive knowledge and experience. We intend to do a lot more of this type of sharing. Get in touch.