Opinion: Why the institute is giving me insomnia

Sometimes I lie awake at night, worrying about the Institute of Fundraising. No, don't laugh - it's awfully serious, because on the eve of its national convention next week, the institute is in a spot or two of bother.

Nick Cater
Nick Cater

It is not an easy time for fundraising when one of the voluntary sector's bouts of self-doubt coincides with a rush of charity scandals - none of them any fault of the institute - and wider changes, such as the public benefit test.

This is especially so when the new NCVO almanac says fundraising is securing vast sums for a big charities yet has let the income of smaller groups fall by almost £700m. Despite a long boom - in business, house prices, employment, bonuses - the charity cake is still as small as ever. Has Peter merely robbed Paul?

Meanwhile, the institute is busy doing little or nothing about the now abandoned soft target of lower SMS phone fees for charity donations (bar something strange and Scandinavian called LUUP). Yet it is working the whole day on the lost cause of recovering £70m in Gift Aid. And it's trying to find lots of things not to do, like giving back £4m from its payroll giving promotion.

Ah, payroll giving, that mysteriously afflicted cashless cow, of which institute chief executive Lindsay Boswell declares: "It's fantastic to see the impact payroll giving has made on the income of charities in the 20 years it has been around."

So fantastic that, after 20 years of charity blood, sweat and tears, debates about its pitfalls and lack of productivity prompt internecine warfare among institute members. So fantastic that, after two long decades of investment, subsidies and tax breaks, institute policy director Megan Pacey is launching a "root and branch review to allow payroll giving to reach its full potential".

No wonder I'm losing sleep about the institute, though Lindsay B - apart from personally ensuring that the institute is highly efficient and always delivers its promises - appears equally concerned for my welfare, or at least my education.

Almost three months ago, LB dramatically urged me to learn more about fundraising by meeting 700 leading practitioners at the national convention awards bash and dinner (a snip at up to £1,350 + VAT).

My invitation was already in the post, he wrote. As you can imagine, I could hardly wait. Perhaps he just forgot to lick the stamp.

- Nick Cater is a consultant, speaker and writer: catercharity@yahoo.co.uk.

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