At Work: Fundraising - Hot issue

Is the beneficiary gift market at risk of becoming discredited?

Virtual gifts are an increasingly popular fundraising method, but the charities that sell them have been criticised for being unclear about how the proceeds are spent

NO - MEGAN PACEY, director of policy and campaigns, Institute of Fundraising.

As a fundraising concept, beneficiary gifts have grown very quickly in popularity, further fuelled by the apparent thirst of the public to engage with charities using this donation method.

You can now give anything from a counselling session to a single shot of prize bull sperm. The success of beneficiary gifts has enabled a significant number of charities to focus their fundraising, engage their donors and supporters, and secure income streams for projects and areas of work that might otherwise struggle to continue.

Beneficiary gift schemes, just like the charities that operate them, are not homogeneous. Key to their ongoing success is ensuring that each individual scheme is transparent and accountable to its donors.

The draft code of fundraising practice, Accountability and Transparency in Fundraising, currently out for consultation, supports what is already good practice among the pioneers of this technique and provides guidance to charities that are considering establishing a beneficiary gifts scheme of their own to ensure best practice is maintained.

YES - HILARY BLUME, director, Charities Advisory Trust

It started with "buy a gift of a goat" (and you will know exactly where your money goes). Soon it became "buy a goat and we will spend the money on livestock". Now the soundbite goes something like "buy a goat and we almost certainly will not buy a goat, but will use the money where it is most needed, which we think is our core funding" - after all, finance officers and regional directors are really needed.

I agree that core funding is important - I just do not think you can ask for a goat in large print and siphon off the money in the small print. Except you can, because this is the charity sector and your work is so virtuous that it is acceptable to lie to get funding.

No wonder public confidence in charity fundraisers is so low.

Shame on those charities that mislead the public. Shame on the Charity Commission for not intervening. The Fundraising Standards Board is supposed to be setting a standard for 'beneficiary gifts'. What is the betting that it will not alienate its membership by putting a stop to this misleading practice?

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