OPINION: THINKPIECE - Fundraising is not something to be sorry for

ADRIAN SARGEANT, professor of marketing at Henley Management College

The public, we are often told, are increasingly worried that a large proportion of their donations to charity will be "wasted

on fundraising and administration.

In reality, much of this criticism has been whipped up by a scandal-hungry media and a plethora of ill-informed voices that don't understand how fund-raising works.

Distinguishing cause from effect is obviously tricky. Research at Henley Management College suggests that the public feel they should be concerned about fundraising because the press has told them that they should be - rather than the press responding to public concerns.

The upshot of all this nonsense is that a large proportion of givers now believe that charities spend too much on fundraising and only around 65 per cent of their gift will actually be applied to the cause. But while donors believe this could and should be improved, in reality, we are as a sector much better already.

There is an urgent need to educate people about the reality of fundraising, and to find an easy-to-understand vehicle for explaining costs. Sadly, the majority of recent studies have either been of the "name and shame

variety or they have produced simple ratios comparing organisations with little or no information provided about what drives these results.

It is time to hit back and to provide better quality information to donors, not just about fundraising costs but also other aspects of voluntary-sector performance. There are already various initiatives, led by bodies such as the Institute of Fundraising, the Charity Finance Directors' Group and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. The sector needs to provide this information, but it also needs to stop being defensive and to actively promote what it does.

This is simply the difference between apologising to a donor for having spent 10p of their £1 donation on fundraising and saying to them instead: "We spent 90p of your gift helping starving children and guess what - with the remaining 10p we went out and got another £1.

Two sides of the same coin, but a world of difference in terms of how we promote and build confidence in what we do.

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