Charities 'should be honest with major donors if they want their support'

The philanthropist Nick Jenkins tells delegates at the conference that charities should educate donors to help them understand where help is needed

Nick Jenkins
Nick Jenkins

Charities must be honest with major donors if they want their support, according to the philanthropist Nick Jenkins.

Jenkins, who sold his stake in the greetings card company Moonpig for £120m in 2011 and has since become involved in a number of charitable projects, told delegates at the Third Sector Improving Impact Measurement and Analysis 2013 Conference in London yesterday that philanthropists were able to provide better support for charities if they understood the problems those charities faced.

He said that "charities must educate donors" to help them understand where their help was really needed.

"There are some major donors and what they really want is their name on a brass plaque on a door," he said. "But there are others who are willing to be very flexible and will fund the things that no one else will fund.

"Often we are there to fund things to see if they work. Most major donors have made money in business and understand that you have to try a lot of things, and that sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t."

He said that charities should tell the truth to donors when reporting on the effectiveness of the interventions they funded.

"As a major donor, I want a bit of honesty," he said. "If it failed, I just want to know that it failed."

He said that donors should ask charities to report on their impact, but they should not ask for anything that the charity itself was unlikely to find useful.

"The kind of donor who wants a complex individual report is the same kind who complains about the money spent on administration," he said.

He said major donors often had the capacity and the willingness to grasp the problems charities faced but lacked experience.

"The public face of fundraising involves telling people all the problems of the world can be solved for £3 a month," he said. "Institutional fundraising is more likely to be two groups of professionals who understand the problem and can speak the same language, who know that it can be solved but it’s very difficult. As a major donor, you have to leap across that gap.

"The closer I get to how charities actually work, although it’s more complex and expensive than is first presented, the more worthwhile I find it."


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