Monday, March 5, 2012

New line of attack on charities

A journalist attended the recent FIA conference at the Gold Coast and wrote lots of stuff about charities and how they do their fundraising.

To be honest, he is bloody good at his job - he has managed to get front page of one of Australia's best selling tabloids and syndicate the story across the nation and it has been picked up by other media.

It is easy to knock him, or accuse him of doing a hatchet job, ignoring the good stuff and spinning amazing stories out of nothing - but that after all, is his job.  And he will be looking for the next angle.

But our bosses will be worried, some charities are specifically named (but not really accused of anything) and it is easy to panic and do something silly.  Some donors will maybe get a little worried about it, but overall it shouldn't make much difference to our ability to fundraise - unless we do something daft in response.

The very worst things we can do, as a sector, are give any credence to the nonsense printed, or give the press examples of conflict between charities which will act as an accelerant.  Approaching the journo or his employers is not going to help.  He is, after all, not stupid - he knows that his story is completely out of context, but it is a great career boost.

Please, charity media departments, think it through before you release your media statements but don't add any credence to what he wrote by saying things like:
* We would never pay professional fundraisers to work for us (kind of cuts future options for you)
* We only target people already supporting us (where will you get new supporters?)
* Apologizing for salaries
* Undermining fundraising techniques that you may not use, but others do very succesfully.
Put up a public statement, complain to the newspaper and talk to your key stakeholders; defend your good practice but do not knock other charities - even if just by implication.

The two areas specifically attacked were bequests and face to face.  Here are some facts you can use when talking to people - even if you don't use these methods.  The data is taken from looking at 41 Australian and New Zealand charities in the Pareto Benchmarking program.

* About half of all individual donations from 2001-2011 came from bequests
* In 2011 bequests accounted for about a third - because other methods are growing
* Regular giving is one of those areas growing (also accounts for about a third of individual donations) and by far and away the largest source of regular givers is face to face
* Generally speaking, people don't give unless asked, and asking costs money

All the way through - focus on the outcome; start with a case study "Little David had cancer but...." and then point out how many little David's were helped as a consequence of your fundraising.

And don't knock Richard's training techniques (he got attacked for making jokes about raising money from the dead): It is well established that shock, unexpected comments and humour improve learning.  If any of you know nurses, care assistants and ambulance workers you will know they deal with stressful situations with humour which is appropriate at the time but sounds terrible when re-told out of  context.

For a great summary of the story, don't bother looking at the paper - there is a brilliant summary from fundraising database supplier AppiChar 'Journalist targets Australian population with Dumb Story'.

"Charities target the elderly and dying for bequest dollars.
In a shocking turn of events, it was discovered via the undercover reporting ...that organisations across Australia, many providing some of the most important services to the country were:
  • Taking a strategic view of their funding requirements
  • Doing everything they can to make sure they tell their story in the most efficient manner to the right people in order for those people to make an informed choice about the money they spend
  • Were sharing knowledge on best practise to help make sure they weren’t wasting time and money..."
Read the rest here.


A Fundraiser's Tale said...

Professional fundraisers do have a responsibility for using appropriate language when taking about donors and supporters. It's in FIAs professional codes and standards.

Carl Young said...

Well said.

Andrew Watt said...

I attended both of Richard's sessions - the first legacy marketing training I've attended for many years. Both were completely professional and taught me valuable lessons. Richard uses humor as a tool to engage his audience and focus them on the key issues. He kept us engaged with him throughout many hours. I did not notice anyone walk out or fail to participate - he received warm applause from all.
Richard's one of the most effective trainers on the international circuit today - I'm delighted to have been given the opportunity to work with him by FIA.

Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here