Business as usual is no longer an agenda item
No one would dispute that the charity sector has found itself under intense scrutiny over the last 12 months. I have no doubt that this spotlight will continue.
Evaporating public trust, new regulation, new (Brexit aside) EU data protection legislation, the watchful gaze from the media and a state ever more determined to roll back on public expenditure all point to one conclusion; that to survive, the sector must use this pivotal moment not just to adapt but to fundamentally change.
Fundraising regulation is here to stay. Politicians are demanding it, and the public are in favour of it, having told charities they are fed up with the present approach. The media are fuelling the fundraising regulation debate into which the fundraising profession has been slow to react and the third sectors leadership even slower. Hoping that the problem of fundraising regulation will go away, or that the fundraising profession can fight it, is frankly ludicrous. It will only serve to reaffirm to our detractors that charities are either resistant to change or arrogant to a point of being unwilling to recognise there is now a need for change.
Charities must get actively involved and work to ensure common sense prevails and that the resultant fundraising preference service (FPS) is measured, appropriate and workable in the real-world. The devil really will be in the detail.
Whether it be the Olive Cook scandal, how Age UK and indeed many other charities raise funds or how Kids Company was led and governed (or not as it turned out) there is in this debate, the need to address some fundamental aspects of how the sector is lead, governed and how that governance is focused on ensuring mission delivery.
With this, we can as a sector, begin to rebuild public confidence in the real and powerful impact the vast majority of the 180,000 charities that operate in the UK deliver.
Boards of trustees are now being made painfully aware of and will be held to account for the fundraising practice that is undertaken on their watch; and this is entirely right and long overdue. Regardless of the fundraising regulation that will be put in place, fundraisers will need to find new and imaginative ways to connect and inspire donors to continue their giving.
With that, is an opportunity to re-evaluate both the sectors funding and service delivery models. I think this evaluation is much more than simply about changing fundraising techniques, or about finding new imaginative ways to connect and inspire donors. I believe that donors expectations of us have changed and that the sector has as a consequence been disrupted. The ‘raising more to do more’ model is fundamentally broken. The solution is to become disruptors in both our approach to fundraising and to service delivery.
What could that mean for the good work that charities exist to do? I’d love to hear. Please comment below. It is a topic I will return to in a future blog.
Iain McAndrew is an instigator and change catalyst who challenges organisations to think big and strategically to transform their fundraising and the impact they make.