Opinion: Third Voice - Fundraising at its most effective starts at the top

Diane Yeo, a charity chair and consultant

In the United States, trustees are generally recruited for their fundraising skills. But here in the UK, it is still too often considered distasteful for trustees to go out and ask for money.

In most charities, however, there is no more important activity for trustees to be involved in. There are some good role models, too. As former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said: "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only had good intentions."

Imagine you are the chair of a charity. A highly paid fundraiser has been appointed, leaving most of the trustees with the belief they have done their bit as far as fundraising is concerned. Dr Johnson said that "there are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money". But how on earth are you going to mobilise your colleagues?

First, the trustees have to decide where fundraising fits within the charity's overall strategy. This does not just mean assessing the advantages of one fundraising technique over another, striking a balance between avoiding risk and encouraging enterprise or ensuring the charity spurns dodgy funding sources and avoids irresponsible activities. It implies taking a cool, critical look at where the organisation is now, where it has been in the past and where it wishes to be in the future.

Next - to use the jargon - comes 'the ask'. To raise money, you do have to actually ask for it. Although some trustees might be happy to make donations, approach their peers, attend events or ask for reciprocal favours from their friends, many are reluctant to do so. Most, however, have a network of contacts and can open doors if they are asked in the right way and taught how to do it. They just have to explain why a particular type of fundraising is taking place, what it involves, how much it costs and what the benefits are.

This is not a new concept. According to Redmond Mullin, donors to the Milan Cathedral fabric fund were told in 1390 that they were buying fast-track promotion in personal salvation - more motivating than any tax concession.There is no record as to whether they succeeded.

If your colleagues are still reluctant, you may need to ask them why other people should be expected to give to your charity if they are not prepared to do so.

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