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Optimism for Fundraising Future as Sector Moves to Clean Up Code of Practice

23 February 2017 at 8:33 am
Wendy Williams
There has never been a more exciting time for fundraising, a conference has heard as the national peak body released the draft of a new code of conduct for the sector.

Wendy Williams | 23 February 2017 at 8:33 am


Optimism for Fundraising Future as Sector Moves to Clean Up Code of Practice
23 February 2017 at 8:33 am

There has never been a more exciting time for fundraising, a conference has heard as the national peak body released the draft of a new code of conduct for the sector.

The 40th Annual FIA Conference, It’s Chemistry, got underway on the Gold Coast on Wednesday bringing together more than 700 delegates over three days and attracting international speakers including Derrick Feldmann and Alice Ferris.

Coinciding with the launch of the conference, the Fundraising Institute of Australia released an exposure draft of a revised fundraising code for the sector in a bid to reflect best practice and meet community expectations.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, FIA CEO Rob Edwards said he was optimistic about the future of fundraising, following a review undertaken by the organisation’s Substantiality Task Force, which identified a number of areas where fundraising practices could be improved.

“I have to say that I am more optimistic about the long-term stability of our sector than at any time in the six years I’ve been with FIA,” Edwards said.

“The reason for my optimism is simply this: thanks to the good work of our sustainability task force, that comprises senior fundraising leaders who will soon have a much better story to tell about how fundraising is conducted in this country.”

The latest review was triggered by a letter from Malcolm Turnbull, then communications minister, who expressed concern about the conduct of some fundraisers.

“What he was especially concerned about was their conduct towards vulnerable people,” Edwards said

“Now it is well over a year since I received that letter and the task force has been looking at issues like, are we over communicating with donors and prospects, are we respecting donors, what about people in vulnerable circumstances, are we showing care and compassion when we have one of those folk on the line and equally importantly, how can we make charity boards more aware of the issues of fundraising and how important it is that they are across the issues as well too.

“So what did the task force find? Well, to be frank, they found room for improvement.”

Edwards said it was time to have a conversation about a new system of self-regulation.

“We have a draft code, and we want your feedback on the code itself,” he told delegates.

“But effective self-regulation is more than just words on a piece of paper, the solution for long-term donor support will come through better monitoring of the performance of your businesses and your operators, it involves compliance training for your staff.”

Changes to the FIA Code are being proposed in three broad areas:

  • reduced in length by removing duplication and by using plain English drafting
  • new protections for people in vulnerable circumstances, including help to be removed from any contact lists
  • a new compliance framework involving “spot checks” and compulsory code training for all professional fundraisers.

He said it was a very important step for the sector.

“We’ve all seen some negative media about fundraising over the past couple of years, our job is to stand up now and be counted and deliver a self regulatory regime for the sector that the sector can be proud of, but more importantly that the governments are very happy to support,” he said.

“It is about transparency, it is about being honest, it is about giving donors a choice, this code reflects those values.”

The announcement was made at the opening plenary session of the annual conference, which promised to build on previous years and offer a more eclectic mix of sessions.

Under the title, It’s Chemistry, the conference set out to put fundraising “under the microscope” and learn from the “experiments” of others.

Edwards said this year organisers had “approached it differently”.

“We have got some new ideas,” he said.

He was followed on stage by Achieve president and “millennial expert” Derrick Feldmann who gave the keynote address exploring the future of fundraising.

Feldmann changed the tone of the opening to explore the question of what makes a good social movement and “how and why people do what they do”.

He said the key was in taking people “from belonging to believing to owning a movement”.

“Your job, constantly as fundraisers and marketers is to move people from belonging, to believing in the work that you do,” Feldmann said.

“It is so easy to attract attention today, it is so easy to get the kind of stuff that we think makes people believe in your work but I hate to tell you this but every time that we do the research around it, those people really don’t believe in you yet.

“That’s a fundraisers role, that’s what we’re here for, our job is to move people that have interests to action to deeper action for the incredible work that you do.”

He said it was important to remember that people believed in the issue, not in how an organisation is structured.

“Belief statements transcend age and gender and demographic, you can have an 18 year old believe the same thing as a 75 year old,” he said.

“We need to start using statements that help us believe and attach to the work that you do, not because you are so well run, or because you have got the best board in the world and you have ended up in the black for the last 38 years, those things are wonderful attributes that the general population get excited about… but the general population involved in a movement is just looking through you and looking to be a part of something.

“So we have to create messaging that we can believe in, and we have to lead with those.”

He ended with a list of eight key pieces of advice for fundraisers he had gleaned from his research into what makes a social movement leader:

  • get out of the office, be with people
  • talk about the issue, remove yourself
  • have an outcome, fight for something
  • ignore technology, get the message clear first
  • build believers
  • be authentic
  • connect via empathy (but don’t stay there)
  • make it about others.

“This is about the issue you address and the people that are so important that receive your services, they need you, they need you out there to connect the two together, because the vast majority of the population won’t ever experience those people,” Feldmann said.

“That is the beautiful work that you help create.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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