Stephen Pidgeon: Keep the snide remarks to yourself, Lord Grade

The interim chair of the Fundraising Regulator was wrong to say that charity fundraisers should be told to "bugger off", says our columnist

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

There’s something deeply unattractive about powerful older men describing, with obvious relish, how they harangue and bully to get their way. You’ll not be surprised to learn I’m talking about the outburst by Lord Grade, interim chair of the Fundraising Regulator, in The Sunday Times when he clearly took pleasure threatening to sue charity fundraisers who phoned him and telling those who knock on his door to "bugger off".

We lesser mortals have two simple solutions to the man’s issues. Signing up to the Telephone Preference Service stops all charity calls; no UK charity would breach that defence. And a "no cold calling" sticker stops the door-to-door fundraiser.

Like many, he’s got used to being unchallenged. With huge confidence, he said: "I can’t tell you how many phone calls or texts I get. I always send them a text back (threatening legal action)" and so it goes on. The implication is that he’s texted back hundreds, if not thousands, of times. The reality? My bet is that he’s done it less than half a dozen times, but who is interested in bullying?

Here is a man who admitted in his speech at last night's dinner at Institute of Fundraising's convention to getting wild about the ads that interrupt his free-to-download mobile Scrabble game. The only thought I can remember from Lord Grade’s speech was the oft-repeated phrase that we have to remember that "donors are also consumers" and are "bombarded" with advertising material.  We were told we had to be "sensitive", by which I assume he means, we have to back off.

Well, of course, we have to be sensitive: we know we have to treat our donors with warmth and affection. They are that important to us. But I think Lord Grade wants us back on the street corners with a tin, meekly asking for donations.

He did a good job and he did it quickly. The regulator will launch this Thursday and I’m looking forward to it because its clear that those involved have really understood the importance of good fundraising. But Lord Grade now needs to ride off into the sunset. Peevish outbursts are inappropriate if we are to build back the trust and confidence of our donors. 

Perhaps he just had a bad day.

Stephen Pidgeon is a consultant and a teacher

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