Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Plenaries, charity budgets and Olympic Gold Medals

This morning I got up just before 5am. It is the final day of the conference in India, and I'm nervous about my closing plenary. Actually, I am more nervous about the opening plenary I am meant to be delivering a few hours later in Sydney.

Following the session today, I run the death-race otherwise known as the 'highway' from Agra to New Delhi (dodging cows, cars, bikes, people and trucks going the wrong way on the dual carriageway) and then flying off to eventually land at 06:30 in Sydney, across town to the conference and open up with my plenary at 09:30.

So, up far too early, I start blogging and thinking about the conference. I have already commented about how similar things are here - the same problems and issues, but another one came up yesterday. Charity staff come to these conferences with real needs. Usually they are desperate for funding. They want to to hear some speakers tell them how to pull a rabbit from a hat.

Nearly all of the delegates I have met have no funds, but strong needs. They often believe that of course people will donate - they are so worthy!

Of course, reality kicks in and people begin to realise there is no magic pill. But still they grasp for miracles. "...surely IBM will sponsor this?..." or "... I know someone who knows Lakshmi Mittal or Mukesh Ambani..." (two of the richest men in the world, who happen to be Indian).

But in the end, success in fundraising is like success in Olympics. The more you spend, the more you make. Australians are gutted at being lower than Britain on the official Olympic table.

My Aussie mates, especially Jonathan Grapsas, have a big gripe. 'Yeah, you won more than us - but look how much you spent!' Inferring that our recent investment in sports, paid for by the National Lottery rather than just the tax payer, is a bad thing. Well, what do you know? The more you spend, the more you win - the more athletes you attract, the better training facilities, better competition opportunities and equipment. No surprise really.

Every now and then, a nation spending little on training athletes wins some medals and does well. But if we look at consistency, and the top nations - they all spend big time.

Same with charities. Some, with reasonable budgets, still moan that they are not growing fast enough. Well, sorry guys but the secret to growth is not that secret - spend more on fundraising. No matter what size you are, make sure you put some money aside every year for fundraising purposes.

Look at the annual reports of the top ten charities (by fundraising income) and you will see they are also very high spenders. In the charity world, you don't grow without spending.

A great example is World Vision in Australia. These guys have done very, very well in growth terms. Their formula for success may include child sponsorship and regular giving but they sustain themselves through clever spending. In their most recent annual report, they show how they raised $350m. This makes them the largest charity (measured by income) in Australia.

At they same time they report that they spent nearly $28m on fundraising, and another $25m on 'administration'. According to a table compiled by Givewell*, the fifth largest charity is the National Heart Foundation, which raises just less than $50m. In other words, only four charities raise more in total than World Vision spend on fundraising and administration.

Just like the Olympics, every now and then a charity does really well for some reason without spending much. But when you look at consistent, stable, safe charities raising the most - they spend the most.

Of course, on the Olympics I was on a winner no matter who won between Australia and Britain - as a Citizen of both countries I can be pretty flexible when scrapping with belligerent Aussies...

*This link will take you to their website, but you will need to subscribe to get the report.

1 comment:

stella said...

Hi, I first of all want to thank you for the wonderful talks you gave us with examples, which we in India really need to see to understand better.I had a great time and a wonderful opportunity to meet you and christiana and learn more from your experiences.I am Stella from TANKER Foundation.I hope you get some time to go thro the CD I gave you at the AGRA conference.How did sydney take off! take care.

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