"If you spend it, you should be bloody proud of those that raise it"

Mark Astarita, chair of the Institute of Fundraising, issued a rallying cry to the sector to get behind its fundraisers at this year's National Awards

Mark Astarita speaking at the IoF National Awards 2013
Mark Astarita speaking at the IoF National Awards 2013

This year’s Institute of Fundraising National Awards not only highlighted yet again the sheer excellence of individual fundraisers and their teams, but also the potential power and influence of fundraisers as a group.

After a tough year on the ground, Mark Astarita, chair of the IoF, stepped up with a keynote speech and rallying cry. We thought they were words worth sharing:

"You know over the last year I’ve been absolutely struck by how tough it is out there.

"Public sector funding is decreasing; the economy has been struggling; people’s disposable income is becoming tighter; charities’ fundraised income as a whole has probably for many remained flat – but for more than a few it has continued to grow. 

"I suspect most of you in this room grew your like-for-like fundraising last year like I did and, like me, have one plan in mind – more of the same, with fundraising the only game in town. 

"How many finance directors or chief executives are cutting their fundraisers' targets – frankly, have they ever?

"You all – volunteers or professional fundraisers – inspire people to give and to give again and to give more.

"We all, in turn, give anyone that cares to engage with us the chance to do something amazing. That is a wonderful gift both to donors and the causes we support.

"If we want people to give, then you are all going to have to ask more; and if we are to ask for more and get more civic engagement or big society or whatever you want to call it, we need a positive environment in which to fundraise.

"I am getting pretty sick of the fact that it is the fundraisers of this country in this room tonight who seem to be constantly in the firing line and every time we rush out of the trenches defending our right to ask, every other charity leader happy to take the cash has run for the hills with their petticoats showing. Since when have they become such cowards? 

"Where are the chief executives and trustees, where are the politicians, church leaders and opinion-formers standing up for great fundraising and calling upon us all to be a damn sight more generous in the face of increasing poverty on our doorstep or the harsh reality facing many of your charities? Do we have to set up a Charity Defence Council, as they have in the USA?

"I said last year I would be a gladiator for fundraising and fundraisers everywhere, but why is the rest of our charity community sitting in the Coliseum silently watching the lions take chunks out of us?

"If you want more giving, as we surely all do, this sector, which all too often looks down their noses at their fundraisers, had better start loving us and the fundraising we do, or we will go on strike – not with our feet, but with our passion, our energy and our bloody-minded good humour every time someone says no to us. 

"If our charity leaders don’t give a fig about what we do, why the hell should we?

"I have spent the last two years in hundreds of meetings, writing papers, challenging ministers, head-banging with regulators and wannabes who gave once or twice and are now experts in giving, and you know what? Not an extra penny has been raised because of it all. We might have prevented a few disasters, from tax caps to national exemptions, but raised more? Got the nation giving more? Nope. If we have, it passed me by.

"So bloodied maybe I am, but bring it on I say, for one thing is for sure – UK fundraisers are not cowards and we will not let down those who depend on us whatever it costs. It would just be nice for a few others to take the strain and start pulling the train, too. 

"So tonight’s headline from me to them is – if you spend it, you should be bloody proud of those that raise it.

"I know my chief executive is proud of his fundraisers and I bet many of tonight’s winners' bosses are, too; but too many of our leaders don’t get it, don’t care enough about it, don’t shout about it and, frankly, see us as nothing more than a necessary evil.

"Once upon a time, before a welfare state, if you did not raise it, it did not happen! Dr Barnardo did not wait for the next government spending round; he went out and asked and asked again. I don’t want to see a return to a time gone by, but surely we can all do better than we are now."

This article appears on a page edited by the Institute of Fundraising and hosted by ThirdSector.co.uk

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