OPINION: A lost opportunity to connect

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust

Like many others in the past few days, I have spent far too long trying to figure out which number I should ring for Directory Enquiries.

Now 192 has gone, there is a bewildering array of numbers to choose from, each with its own incomprehensible pricing structure and level of service.

I can't help thinking that someone in the charity sector has missed a trick. Had any one of the 15 new options given me the chance to make a donation to charity as I waited to be connected, my decision about which service to plump for would have been easier. In such a confusing market it would be a comfort to know that, even if I'd not made the best decision as a consumer, at least a charity was benefiting from my purchase.

What's more, a well-used telephone service that enables you to donate to charity might be just the kind of thing that encourages more people to get into giving. The latest survey published by NCVO and CAF (Third Sector, 20 August) was a reminder of why such opportunities are needed.

While the survey found there had been a rise in the amount given to charities by the public over the past year, it also found that the number of people making donations had fallen.

It seems donors are becoming more generous but, as a nation, we are not increasing our giving habit. One in three people still give nothing to charity and the incidence of giving has yet to recover to what it was just seven years ago.

The answer has to lie in expanding the routes to giving that are already the most popular with the public. The survey showed that straightforward, ad hoc requests for funds, normally via street or door-to-door collections, are preferred. While the sector is most concerned with how it converts occasional givers into committed donors in order to provide stable income, piecemeal fundraising is still more likely to persuade non-givers to give in the first place.

As the new market for providing Directory Enquiries settles down, perhaps someone will offer me the chance to give to charity as I'm listening to musak and drumming my fingers, hoping to find the telephone number I'm looking for.

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