Drop your obsession with data, Gosh Children's Charity chief warns

At Third Sector's Fundraising Conference, Louise Parkes says charities must find better ways to engage with their supporters

Louise Parkes
Louise Parkes

Charities must think completely differently about how they engage with supporters in the wake of recent fundraising scandals and the introduction of new technology, according to Louise Parkes, chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Speaking at Third Sector’s Fundraising Conference, Parkes said new technology would "revolutionise the way we fundraise", but in many cases charities had an "obsession" with collecting all the information possible when often it is not used.

She said "we need to drop the obsession with data and hope that people engage", adding that charities were "scrabbling around for the next big thing" in fundraising after the recent scandals in the sector.

Parkes, who has led the fundraising directorates at Shelter, Barnardo’s and the British Heart Foundation, said: "I genuinely believe that innovation often comes out of adversity. I am not saying the sector is facing adversity, but we have had a tough few years.

"We need to do things differently, and the ability to innovate and think differently about how we do things is a really important way of moving forward. This is not how we can reach the same audiences in a slightly different way, but how we can think completely differently about what we do and how we do it."

Parkes called on charities to challenge their own thinking, but said they should be curious and "open to the answers" provided.

In the question-and-answer session, Parkes agreed that donations were in decline, with legacies propping the system up.

She said charities had a timeframe of five to 10 years to address the problem.

In her speech, Parkes said that fundraising needed diversity of thought, ideas and recruitment, and professionalising fundraising could help address these issues.

The Institute of Fundraising is seeking permission to apply for chartered status for fundraising as a profession, and is currently consulting on the issue.

Parkes said: "Fundraising can become a bona fide profession that can focus on ethics and standards. In the recent climate of increased regulation, I think that is a good thing.

"It gives us credibility, it can increase trust in fundraising and it provides us with professional recognition. It will allow us to attract talent, and it will potentially broaden the pool of applicants who want to step into fundraising in the first place."

Topics:
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