Business as usual is no longer an agenda item

Iain photoA guest blog by Iain McAndrew.

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.

3 Comments on “Business as usual is no longer an agenda item

  1. Right on the money Ian. You raise important issues…

    The short term necessaries for me are trustee awareness and engagement with the issues; trustee knowledge and understanding of fundraising in ways that enable them to have proper conversations with fundraising departments; and how we can rebuild trustee confidence in fundraising so that the investment will be there when your questions about how we fundraise are resolved. You may know I am working in these three areas.
    But there are longer term questions to resolve too – I’m leading one of the Commission on the Donor Experience projects on the response of trustees, CEOs and SMTs can respond. We’ll be looking for current best practice around trustee oversight, and looking for drivers of change and recommendations. The brief will be finalised and publicised soon – we’ll need pretty wide engagement to get the best outcome.
    One interesting question emerging is the extent to which trustees have a real understanding of supporters and donors…

  2. Thanks Colin. I agree its crutial Trustees, CEO & SMT’s truly understand the drivers and dynamics of fundraising, the internal & external dependencies & interdependencies. Only with this understanding can there be the dialogue required. Look forward to reading the brief when finalised. Lastly we must arrange that beer 🙂 Iain

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