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Proceed with caution on the Right to Ask

The Institute of Fundraising has been holding more meetings about a campaign it is planning which has been provisionally called Right to Ask although it has also been mooted that it could be called Right to Give.

It’s not surprising that the launch has been delayed from the original target of spring this year. It raises a lot of difficult questions that need to be carefully thought through.

If you asked your friends down the Dog and Duck if charities had a right to ask and the public had a right to give, they would look at you in bewilderment and say “of course they do – what’s the problem?”

But when you scratch the surface of this mooted campaign, you soon realise that this is mainly about the voluntary sector’s concern about no cold calling zones and the public view of face to face fundraising and telephone fundraising.

Back at the Dog and Duck, you’d get a different reaction if you asked people what they thought about those specific things. Not everyone likes fundraisers knocking on their door, stopping them in the street and ringing them up when they’ve got the kids in the bath.

The danger of some kind of general campaign is that will create a link in people’s mind between the bits of fundraising they don’t object to and the bits that many do.

Isn’t it better to work on specific difficult issues rather than try to make them acceptable by equating them with general principles that people don’t object to?

  • becky coleman

    Interesting article. Small charities are also benefiting from the advances in technology. easyfundraising.org.uk is helping thousands of causes (large and small) to raise funds. We are on target to give away £1 million to good causes this year.

  • Daniel Coleman

    I could not agree more, quality over quantity every time, this will also give the volunteer the quality they require and deserve.

    I believe that rather than simply asking for volunteers, a organisation should first work out what they want done, back it up with a job description and then advertise for that volunteer for example volunteer community fundraiser, people then know what they are getting themselves into and the organisation with the use of a good application form know they are getting the right people with the right skills.

  • Andy Thornton

    Sure – but the Give More campaign is an awareness raising not a recruitment campaign – it doesn’t set out to do too much but help people to recognise that there’s a recession on, and when you come to consider how much you give out, like in terms of your direct debits or if you can’t afford that, the time you allocate to helping others, remember how things are panning out for the less well off. It’s an initiative funded by a private philanthropist and I think the last thing he’d want is to undermine skilled voluntary professionals who he supports all over the place.

  • Chris Hornet

    ‘One day the people behind these campaigns will realise…’ I admire your optimism! I’ve been waiting nearly 20 years and the ‘answer’ always seems to be creating something new rather than recognising and building on what actually works. I guess if you have the power/resources to set something up (and I don’t doubt that it is always well-intentioned) then you also have an ego that needs to be sated, hence the desire to create rather than simply invest.

    The problem with these campaigns is the very blunt nature of the ask that fails to recognise the nuances between giving time and money. Giving money is dead easy, unless the source is dodgy you will never be turned away. The giving of time though is much more complex and needs to start with the opportunity. Unfortunately these campaigns risk setting people for disappointment, when they realise they can;t always give time in the way they want.

  • Charlotte Parker

    I agree entirely that organisations need to look at the type of volunteer they require rather than the amount of volunteers they have. A volunteer army would be great – but only if those volunteers have the right skills and personality for what the organisation needs.

    The charity that I work for (The Air Ambulance Service) has recently changed the volunteer pages on the website so that there is a clear definition of each volunteer catergory. We also have a ‘What do you expect from me?’ section.

    If people are to give up their precious time for free, then it is important that they do so for an organisation and role that is right for them, and in turn if the organisation is to take the time to register and train the volunteer, it is important that the volunteer is right for the Charity.

    However, I do agree with Andy that the Give More campaign seems to be more of an awareness raising campaign than a recruitment campaign. And anything that raises the awareness of the positive impact that volunteering can have on organisations, society, and individuals, has to be better than nothing.

  • Ivor Sutton

    Yes, but the third sector also needs to create employment opportunities for those ‘right volunteers!’

    If we are serious about stimulating growth in our economy, long-term volunteering, though casually acceptable to Charity organisations, does not create a tax-payer.

    The third sector needs to strengthen and be more collective in how it improves ‘business.’ As part of that a fundamental collaboration it needs to have, the third sector must do more to engage ‘Charity director’s/Owners with potential employee’s who have asset-worthy contributions to bring to their organisations. In my view, I do not believe that HR departments, who stack CV’s high and look for certain word usage, can ever replace a ‘business owner’ who wants to hear ones passion, listen to the transferable skills one has and give such individuals an opportunity to build their organisations, while keeping the values and ethics sound.

    The Third sector should be more dominant in sector Leadership, but I feel it’s still hiding… seemingly believing that Change and Progress mean the same thing. But, they don’t.