It's worth remembering we do a wonderful job

Sometimes fundraisers go too far, but we should not forget that we mostly do good things, writes Stephen Pidgeon

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

Post-Etherington debates and comments seem to have ruled our lives for ever. For example, there was an unnamed "director of fundraising and communications at a well-known charity" announcing at the International Fundraising Congress that "he was bored with fundraisers acting like victims". But as I come to the end of November, one thing is driving me: absolute delight at the thought that, come the new year, there will be people receiving support from charity clients of mine, which would have been impossible without a successful autumn appeal.

The appeal is successful because I'm a fundraiser. I've learned how to ask for donations from one group of people to support another group of people who are having a tough time. We fundraisers do that well and people who are not fundraisers do it conspicuously badly. Let's look again at what we're good at, instead of dwelling endlessly on criticisms from rubbish newspapers and people anxious to win popular votes.

This year, we got a number of things wrong. We live in a blast furnace of transparency, and that's uncomfortable, but we've made many positive changes.

So let's see what 2016 brings and remember that, without our work, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people would be a lot more difficult. I'm looking back at an autumn where our well-delivered fundraising craft has given pleasure to donors and changed the lives of recipients.

In Ireland, for instance, my appeal for the homelessness charity Depaul UK focused on the ghastly calculation that there are 100 Irish children on the streets every night because of the housing shortage. What I arrogantly describe as "my" appeal, is a newspaper insert and donor appeal that my wonderful creative colleague and I produced with our Depaul colleagues. Our insert gave thousands of readers of The Irish Times the opportunity actually to do something about it, and all of them felt better by taking that opportunity.

In the UK this winter, dozens more elderly people struggling with arthritis will have access to a helpline that would have been impossible without the appeal developed with colleagues at Arthritis Care. We fundraisers enable care to be given and warmth to be expressed that, without us, would not happen. I'm not being triumphalist about it, and certainly not boastful. But it is worth reflecting, as we reach the end of the year, that we have a wonderful job and we do a wonderful job. Sometimes we go too far, making mistakes we must learn from.

By the way, don't you hate hearing opinions from an unnamed "director of fundraising and communications at a well-known charity"? If you have an opinion, then don't be coy; put your name to it or keep your mouth shut. As a group of people, we fundraisers must be the most liberal of any group in the country in our acceptance of diverse views.

Stephen Pidgeon is a consultant and a teacher

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