After many months of debate, the Fundraising Standards Board has unveiled its Fundraising Promise - and what a disappointment it is.
If ever a document was designed by committee, this must surely be it.
It is no longer enough for our communications to be legal, decent, honest and truthful - they must now be honest and open, clear, respectful, fair and reasonable, accountable and, oh yes, meet high standards too.
This document is dull, long-winded and needlessly repetitive. How, to take an example, is it possible for an organisation to be accountable if it is not both honest and transparent?
Voluntary sector jargon
If the scheme is to work it must be clear to the public exactly what their 'new' rights are. It is essential that these are expressed in a simple and memorable fashion, and not, as is the case with this document, garbled and couched in contemporary voluntary sector-speak.
It cannot be beyond our collective wit to summarise the essence of the codes of practice as something along the lines of "legal, decent, honest and accountable". The codes, as now, could do the rest by mapping out the specifics of what this means, and the public would be much better served as a consequence. A far clearer understanding of their rights would emerge.
I would also urge the board to stay away from specifics. Exactly why it is concerned with how we communicate procedures to amend regular donors' contributions is a mystery.
For what reason has this been singled out for special consideration?
Of all the many forms of fundraising we currently engage in, is this one really the greatest cause for concern?
And what of the generally negative tone of the promise? It makes for pretty depressing reading at present. Promising not to cause unreasonable nuisance is a particular gem. Is this really going to inspire people to give to charities? Will it truly build confidence? I doubt it.
If we must have something long-winded, let's write from the donor's perspective, focus on their needs and promise we'll do the best we can to meet them.
A final thought. Let's employ a wordsmith to get this right. We need someone with the class of fundraising writer George Smith to give us a document we can be proud of. The simple elegance of the US Association of Fundraising Professionals' Donor Bill of Rights puts our attempt to shame. Read it online at: www.afpnet.org/ethics/ethics_and_donors.
You'll see what I mean.
5 MORE THINGS ...
The Fundraising Promise replaces the Donors' Charter, which many charities considered unwieldy and repetitive.
The promise is a set of six commitments to the public. These include: high standards, honesty, openness, clarity and accountability. The full document can be viewed at www. fsboard.org.uk.
The FSB will adjudicate on public complaints about fundraising as part of the new self-regulation scheme. Member charities are required to commit to and promote the promise. They are also required to abide by the Institute of Fundraising's codes of practice and to display the scheme's logo on materials.
Charities have been able to join the scheme since April, and 120 have signed up so far. The public launch was set for October 2006 but was postponed because not enough charities had joined.
The AFP's Donor Bill of Rights clarifies expectations about fundraisers in the US. Donors should feel free to ask questions when making donations and should expect to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.
They should also be given the chance to have their names deleted from shared mailing lists.