INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Email comes into its own when you need feedback

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

I am writing this on the day of a postal strike. Although the national strike was rejected for reasons I don't care to remember, the postal system within the M25 has decided to strike. If they do so again a week later then I guess you won't be reading this on time unless Third Sector is despatched from outside London.

During the past week, I tried an experiment and it was one I have been putting off for quite some time. Given the impetus of a national radio show that was going to 'attack' fundraising, I sent an email to the whole membership and asked them if they had any points worth making on the programme when I was lined up to defend the profession.

Provocative responses

Well, more than 100 thoughtful, considered, amusing and provocative replies came back over the weekend. So why had I shied away from using such an effective and efficient form of communication before? Principally because I am really sensitive to the heavy workload you have and I know we all receive and send far too many emails and I didn't want to add to the clutter your email in-boxes.

However, I think the system we run where each individual member tailors the emails they receive from the Institute to suit their needs is the best way to ensure against over use. If you get too many emails from me you just have to go into your membership record on the website and de-select me - if that doesn't make you feel better nothing will!

To all those of you who did send in your thoughts and comments I am quite sure the programme will be repeated and we will let you know when. Your thoughts and contributions will not be wasted, I promise.

Remember, if you are a member of the Institute and have not checked your membership details yet you have only until 10 October to do so before any errors or old email addresses are committed to print for the whole of next year in the members' directory. And if you are not a member you won't be able to select one of the 26 different specialist email groupings ranging from areas of fundraising technique to coverage of the whole of the UK.

I recently summarised the key points of the proposed new set of regulations around collecting in public. These changes have an impact on very many fundraising organisations. The key points are that it brings house-to-house and street collections under one scheme. A licence would be required for all collections apart from the very small and local (carol singing and so forth). The rules would cover the collections of cash, goods and direct-debit commitments. There would be a duty on licensing authorities to provide fair access to collecting opportunities to all eligible organisers, providing capacity exists. Licences could not be denied on basis of arbitrary criteria and, finally, they would be required for collections in places to which the public has unrestricted access, such as outside your local supermarket for example.

Now for a plea on behalf of the Home Office - which is a novel experience.

They are running a series of consultation events across the UK and I have agreed to help point out two things. Firstly, to ask you to please consider attending and contributing and, secondly, to point out that this really is a consultation process.

There is much in the proposed framework above that is fraught with difficulty or might not even work. There is a real opportunity to be heard and to make you views known.

Of course this roadshow of events is only an attempt to galvanise comment and submission, and anyone can complete the questionnaire and make their views known.

Diary of events

So far events have taken place in Cambridge, Newcastle and Manchester and the remaining events are planned for London on 28 October, Derby on 4 November, Llandudno on the 10 November and Cardiff the following day.

Timings and who to contact are on the Institute's website, as is a link across to the consultation document itself. There are specific and different issues for those organisations who currently hold Home Office exemption orders and they are being contacted separately.

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