Editorial: Fundraising goes on the offensive

But the "right to ask" cited by the chair of the Institute of Fundraising needs to be balanced by a more convincing self-regulatory system, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

This year's Charity Pulse survey contains indications that charity staff generally are feeling happier than they did a year ago: fewer respondents report redundancies, there is a seven percentage point increase in those saying their pay is competitive, and there is a five point rise in those feeling safe about challenging the way things are done in their organisations.

But the biggest increase in job satisfaction is among fundraisers - morale has climbed by 15 percentage points, the proportion saying they feel appreciated is up by 11 points, and there is an eight point rise in those saying their pay is competitive.

Frances Hurst of Birdsong Charity Consulting says it is clear from the survey that fundraisers are being better led and feel more valued at a time when charity income remains under pressure and effective fundraising is at a premium.

Perhaps this welcome improvement helps account for the outspoken criticism of charity chief executives by Mark Astarita, chair of the Institute of Fundraising, at the institute's convention last week.

He talked about fundraisers "rushing out of the trenches defending our right to ask" and charity leaders, while happy to take the cash, "running for the hills with their petticoats showing". (He excluded his own boss at the British Red Cross from this.)

A sensible response came in a speech by Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, who told the convention that fundraisers were highly valued and did a vital job, but could be less defensive, more responsive to feedback and more collaborative.

Another aspect of Astarita's speech also merits attention: the "right to ask". Three years ago the institute considered launching a campaign under this name, but wisely decided not to.

If such a right exists, it has to be balanced, like all rights, with responsibility - in this case, to avoid antagonising the public. A key factor in that balance is a more convincing self-regulatory system, which Lord Hodgson, the government and others want to see, and which is still a work in progress for the institute and the Fundraising Standards Board.

- Read our Charity Pulse survey results

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