Beyond a Strong Fundraising Code of Conduct
24 February 2017 at 11:54 am
While a revised fundraising code of practice is welcome, the responsibility for any charter in this space is to be visionary and bold, writes Good2Give CEO Lisa Grinham.
This week we welcomed the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s revised fundraising code for the charity and not-for-profit sector. The exposure draft addresses key public grievances towards fundraising practices of late. Namely how we approach people in vulnerable circumstances and the due diligence charities carry out when working with fundraising contractors.
These are important steps – firstly because it’s the right thing to do. But also because it helps to avoid future scandal, something that as a sector we frankly can’t afford. Preserving trust is indeed important, but will it equate with donations to the tune of billions? I doubt it.
If we are going to effectively fund organisations to meet growing community demand in the coming years, there is a responsibility for any charter in this space to be visionary and bold.
Beyond the status quo, and focused on innovating and improving fundraising to engage donors in new and meaningful ways.
So why is this code needed? As Rob Edwards, CEO at the Fundraising Institute of Australia, highlighted at the recent FIA Conference, over a year ago there was a direct call from the then federal communications minister to curb unethical behaviour directed at vulnerable people. And last year a number of third-party companies conducting traditional fundraising were drawn into the spotlight. Not for their invasive techniques – though you wouldn’t have to travel far to find someone to complain about that – but for mistreating employees. Reports of bullying and underpayment made national headlines. It’s not the first time that some third-party fundraisers have been hit by undesirable attention. Theirs is a reputation stained by an array of criticism from for door knocking, phone calling or on-street fundraising.
The complaints have been from the media, mayors, politicians and the regular uproar from a hijacked pedestrian who just lost their coffee to a forceful handshake. The charities that contract private fundraising services are regularly named and shamed as a result, and you might say that’s fair enough, but the wider sector suffers as a result. It’s reputation damage that we can’t afford. It’s funding that those charities’ beneficiaries certainly can’t afford.
So, with such high risk and possible brand damage, why do we continue to see charities invest in these practices? And importantly, why aren’t we actively driving towards smarter ways of raising funds? It’s pretty simple: traditional fundraising methods work. And have done so for decades. But you know what else works? Change.
It’s about the money, right?
Australia’s largest study of charitable giving in over 10 years found that while 64 per cent of people dislike being approached by street fundraisers, close to 20 per cent still made a donation to them. That figure went up to 25 per cent when approached through a phone call, and 57 per cent when met at the own home by a door knocker.
Media reports suggest that one fundraising company alone reached 50,000 people every day through face-to-face fundraising. An effort that raised $800 million for key Australian charities in 2016. Even with the potential of losing up to 60 per cent of donations to the fundraising company – it’s a service that still manages to make its case. These fundraising methods are a valuable source of income for many critical services and programs. Those services come with a price tag, and the money has to come from somewhere. And increasingly that’s not going to be government.
So let’s find a new way to give
Please. It’s time. We’re already hearing noises that 2017 will be a hard year when it comes to raising funds, but it is the year 2017 and there are plenty of emerging technology solutions and fundraising initiatives that can shift the sector out of the era of shaking a tin. It’s not just digital innovation for hipster cred, it’s where our community operates. And it’s just a smarter way to raise funds – scale up and reduce costs.
Here are a few of my favourites.
Vodafone last year had customers donate their phone data for the Garvan Institute big-data research. Woolworth’s latest initiative to add a donation to your shopping basket online or in their store. And Share the Dignity’s handbag drive has taken off – not just in my office. My colleague’s Facebook feed was flooded with pictures from friends.
There are smarter ways to give through simple text messaging, and NAB’s latest rewards program that we recently partnered with, that enables credit card holders the opportunity to donate points to their charity of choice. We’re seeing groups like The Funding Network take off, and there’s Good2Give.
We have 20 per cent of the top ASX 100 companies offering their staff our online Workplace Giving Platform. Across a client base of more than 100 companies, 70 per cent match their employees’ donations and effectively double the charitable impact. That’s before mentioning the ridiculously low admin fees and fundraising costs to the charity – who last financial year received 98.8 per cent of every donation made through us.
Let’s be real though – even though we’re a not-for-profit organisation we do charge modest fees so we can turn the lights on and pay our amazing staff. It’s through the generosity of the companies we work with who pay the majority of our fees that we can then deliver such low-cost funding to charities across Australia and NZ. Perhaps at Good2Give we think about things a little differently. We are all about how people like to give and making it easy for them to do so. That means bringing charitable engagement into their lives in ways that resonates and has meaning to them.
Putting the “fun” back in fundraising
Fundraising should not be a dirty word. Nor should it be an outdated one. The act of raising funds for a good cause is synonymous with words like: generosity, contributing and supporting. Why should that be anything but positive? Community giving initiatives should bring us together and make us proud as a society that when one of us falls, many are there to help. With all the time we spend on carrying the guilt of poor practice in fundraising and harnessing the generosity of Australians with traditional methods, let’s invest in new approaches, utilise and adapt evolving technology and consider what other smart systems people are already using in their everyday lives to make it easy, to make it resonate.
A shared code that we uphold as a sector collectively is one thing. The incredible transparency we gain from existing regulation is another. And while these lie important foundations, they shouldn’t be offering a level of complacency in preserving how we’ve once raised funds and how we continue to do so moving forward. In sum, they’re not an excuse to press set and forget. We need to do more as a sector to actively invest in methods of giving that represent charities as a movement for excellence, for positive change.
We frankly need to stop irritating supporters – because the negative sentiment is there and it cannot be ignored. So let’s provide and invest in giving opportunities that excite our communities – especially our new generation of supporters who manage their lives digitally, don’t sign up for anything on the street and often don’t have a landline available to their rental property.
It’s only then that we’ll tap into the generosity that exists in Australia and will bring the communities who we serve along for the journey.
About the author: Lisa Grinham is the CEO of Good2Give, a not-for-profit organisations that works with companies to encourage corporate philanthropy.