Stephen Pidgeon: Ignore its flaws - this report has bite

We should all get behind the NCVO's campaign The Big Ask, says the chair of direct marketing agency Tangible and of the Institute of Fundraising's standards committee

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

I've just read a paper by the NCVO's funding commission. It's a very good review of individual fundraising over the next 10 years that proposes launching a new campaign with real bite.

I'm not normally impressed by the NCVO's detailed grasp of individual fundraising, but this report, Individual Giving, is good and we must get behind it.

The report says the people involved in asking for funds should be more involved in campaigns to stimulate giving. It says these people should be at the forefront of a new campaign called The Big Ask.

The Big Ask would train trustees, chief executives, fundraisers and volunteers to make 'the ask'. Wow!

It would encourage coalitions of local charities and develop new ways to ask for donations, as well as seeking to clear away some of the bureaucracies surrounding, for example, Gift Aid, prize draws and lotteries.

Brilliant! No more costly advertising campaigns saying little more than "giving is good".

These were always useless and reminiscent of a more recent but equally flawed decision to plough £2m into research into philanthropy, while specifically excluding fundraising, which is what happened when the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy was set up.

This report is the first recognition that much more money will be raised by increasing the confidence - and competence - of all those responsible for making 'the ask' for support.

This report is full of ideas, many of which are from a cracking recent nfpSynergy paper How Can the Next Government and the Sector Increase the Size of the Fundraising Cake?

Inevitably there are anomalies, but only two. The first is very odd. In a mass of recommendations, it claims the campaign "will target philanthropists as well as the general public". That would be a complete waste of money.

The campaign must target those responsible for fundraising. This contradicts the very idea behind the whole paper.

It also suggests that the small group recommended to run The Big Ask should be chaired by a philanthropist. Why? I don't get to chair Tesco because I shop there.

It's almost as if a nice wealthy philanthropist makes the business of individual fundraising more palatable. No, whoever's in the chair must know about fundraising.

This paper largely avoids traditional stereotypes. Such clear thinking is rare in the bodies that guide our fundraising sector. Please don't spoil this paper with that sort of nonsense.

FACT FILE - Something's got  to give

- According to the NCVO's UK Civil Society Almanac, individual giving by donations and legacies was the third biggest source of income for charities in 2007/08 at £7.8bn, after public sector sources and trading.

- Cash is the most common form of giving, says the NCVO's Individual Giving report. About 48 per cent of donors use this method. Direct debits are growing, used by 31 per cent, while cheques are down from 51 per cent of donors in 1999 to 13 per cent in 2009.

- The report also says there has been a decline in giving to charitable causes of 11.6 per cent in real terms since 2007/08, equating to 774,000 fewer donors in a typical month.

- The NCVO funding commission sees individual giving as an important area of potential growth for the sector and wants the figure to increase to £20bn by 2020.

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