David Burrows: Recession is not a time for making cuts

It's a time to be more inspiring, says the head of fundraising at TDA

Experts are predicting that 2010 will be tough for many charities. Back in September, Paul Breckell, executive director of finance at the RNID, echoed many people's fears when he said: "The worst is yet to come because of the sector's reliance, directly or indirectly, on the public sector."

And with the public finances in a terrible state, cuts are likely. If the grim predictions come true, reduced funding and cut-throat competition for contracts will be a painful reality for many charities.

So what are charities doing about it? How are they rising to the need to replace state funding with donations? Well, earlier this month, Third Sector reported that Scottish charities were reducing their fundraisers' salaries.

Brilliant. Just when we need to raise more funds from the public, we decide to pay fundraisers less. That's bound to attract the best people to fundraising jobs and ensure they are motivated to work hard and innovate.

Instead of this negative approach, perhaps charities should start looking for more positive ways to increase the effectiveness of their fundraising.

Just as recession could force charities to adopt a stronger fundraising culture, technology is presenting them with new ways to gather inspiring stories. Everyone who works for a charity should be encouraged to collect such stories, using the latest technology, to support the fundraising effort.

This would mean that every frontline project team would have to identify case studies, provide diary and blog entries and use those funky little Flip camcorders to film their work.

Fundraisers should manage libraries of the latest stories and films, and choose the best to create appeals that are powerful enough to beat the recession.

This might force charities to rediscover the fact that inspiring supporters to raise funds is central to achieving their mission and should once again be central to their culture.

This culture change is needed because there are still organisations where fundraising is treated like cleaning the toilets - a dirty job that someone else does and which the rest of the organisation looks down on and avoids.

I remember having a conversation with a care worker years ago who said, in essence: "I disagree with charity, so I don't get involved in fundraising." I was tempted to point out that because he worked for a charity and was paid by a charity, he might want to support the effort to pay his salary.

So what will it be, third sector leaders? Cut fundraisers' salaries, or change our organisations to make them inspiring enough to raise the funds we need to ride out the storm?

It's your choice.

FACT FILE: INVEST OR SAVE?

According to the results of a survey revealed at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland annual conference last month, the average salary for a director of fundraising in Scotland fell from £56,500 in 2008 to £47,250 this year.

The average salary for a fundraising officer in Scotland fell from £24,000 to £23,908 in the same period.

At the same conference, digital media specialist Jason Potts encouraged charities to make fundraising more widespread in their organisations by encouraging all staff to use social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands in October, Potts said charities should not be scared to experiment with new online fundraising techniques that brought all of the sections of their work more closely together.

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