Former IoF chair Mark Astarita says charities don't put sufficient resources into fundraising

Finance and fundraising directors should understand each other's disciplines better, Astarita tells delegates at the Charity Finance Group annual conference

Mark Astarita
Mark Astarita

Mark Astarita, the former chair of the Institute of Fundraising has urged finance chiefs to invest more in fundraising, saying most UK charities fail to put sufficient resources into raising voluntary income.

Astarita, director of fundraising at the British Red Cross and chair of the IoF from 2011 to 2014, was speaking at a session of the Charity Finance Group annual conference in London yesterday.

In 2009, the BRC spent £30.1m on generating voluntary income and received £95.6m in voluntary income. By 2014, these figures had increased to £49.8m and £140.5m respectively.

"We are way richer than we would have been if we hadn’t invested," said Astarita.

He said that finance directors and directors of fundraising needed to work together and gain an understanding of each other's disciplines.

In particular, he encouraged finance teams to discard what he called their staid stereotypes and get involved in fundraising activities. "If you work in a mainstream fundraising charity and you don’t have that attitude of everyone gets down and dirty and gets stuck into fundraising, then I guarantee you will not be very successful," he said.

But Astarita acknowledged that it was a difficult decision for a charity to put money into fundraising ahead of channelling it into its charitable activities, especially in an age of financial restraint.

Rohan Hewavisenti, who left his role as finance director of the BRC last month to become group director of resources at the RNIB, was speaking alongside his former colleague. He asked how many of the finance professionals present had ever been to a fundraising conference; none had, and he said this could be a useful experience for finance directors who wanted to understand the fundraising world.

Hewavisenti urged the audience to think carefully about fundraising budgets rather than making superficial decisions. "Leave aside your personal likes and dislikes, look at the analysis and go with what works," he said.

Chairing the session was Ian Theodoreson, chair of the CFG. He described an occasion in a previous job when he and a director of fundraising had both been asked to fill in surveys for a study – the last question asked fundraising chiefs what they wanted from their finance directors and vice versa.

Theodoreson said in his survey that he wanted his director of fundraising to "be more realistic", but the director of fundraising said he wanted Theodoreson to "take more risks".

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