Opinion: Real impact means taking donors' view

Has the new inter-charity coalition ImpACT fundamentally failed to understand the true problems facing charities as it tries to improve their image and income?

ImpACT's jangle of jargon stands for Improving Accountability, Clarity and Transparency, yet the coalition's perspective of worthy principles and pledges, with a code of practice to come, is relentlessly that of charities justifying everything they now do, even chugging, and neglecting to see either of the two other essential points of view.

Let's leave for another day why understanding the perspective of beneficiaries and helping them present it to others is one of the most important tasks for almost any charity. Instead, a simple question: how hard is it for some of the sector's leading fundraisers and communicators to appreciate the donor's point of view?

Could it be that donors do not need to have a lecture from their charity about the inner workings of direct mailings, including the essential role of free pens? Perhaps donors already know what they instinctively dislike and do not need telling that they are wrong about, for example, the sector's population explosion and damaging competition.

Enough with the propaganda, maybe; how about a little listening and a lot of action to build real trust, whether in driving forward mergers and partnerships, refusing responsibility-shedding government contracts or abandoning fundraising techniques that stick in the craw, while putting more effort into smarter strategies, from payroll giving to Gift Aid and online donations?

Talking of the net, ImpACT should check out the latest research into peer-to-peer fundraising by my old friends at the £30m online success story, Justgiving.com (see News, page 7). This discovered that many people will donate online when they would not bother offline, and even give to charities they have never heard of if friends they know and trust ask them to do so.

We're back to the trust thing again, and perhaps something rather more simple. Forget ImpACT instructing donors in the regulatory powers of the Charity Commission; how can charities foster and harness the most powerful marketing tool ever discovered - word-of-mouth endorsement?

It will not be by learning ImpACT's "wordbites" of waffle. The first step might be to say on every communication: "Please ask your friends to give."

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