Editorial: Telephone fundraising is not in a happy place

Many agency fundraisers consider the solicitation statement a millstone around their necks; but the law looks unlikely to be changed, writes Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Complaints and surveys show that the things that bother people about telephone fundraising include the timing of the calls, mistakes about data or just the fact of being tapped up for money at home in the evening.

But one thing people don't complain about is arguably the most important – whether or not the callers, usually from an agency, make the statutory declaration that they are being paid. That's because most people don't know such a statutory requirement exists. If they did, this would probably be another bone of contention.

Privately, people running many face-to-face or phone fundraising agencies feel this so-called solicitation statement is a millstone around their necks – that they are required to remind people of the single thing most likely to put them off donating. They naturally try to disguise it as heavily as possible; and they complain that other forms of fundraising, from direct marketing to TV appeals, don't have to make such a declaration.

Some fundraisers argue that the statements should be abolished, not least because most people who think about it for a moment realise and accept that there are costs in all forms of fundraising – that it's reasonable for charities to spend a pound of a five-pound donation on raising more pounds.

But the law looks unlikely to be changed, and there are others, like former fundraiser Graham Kirby, writing in our analysis, who argue that the way forward is to be more rather than less up front about costs. Either way, telephone fundraising is not going through a happy time.

Also in the October edition of the magazine, Andy Hillier surveys the sector in the north east, which is down but not out, and Tim Smedley interviews the engaging Ciarán Devane as he leaves Macmillan for the British Council. There's also quite a lot about knitting, of course.

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