Posts Tagged: Institute of Fundraising

McLean’s departure is a blow for the IoF

Amanda McLean’s resignation after only four
months as chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising is a huge talking
point in the sector. It’s the second most read story of the year on Third
‘s website, with a dozen comments left by readers and letters still
coming in to the magazine.

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Hands up if you understand Gift Aid… most charity employees don’t

One of the main reasons that the voluntary sector only claims a third of the Gift Aid available is because few people understand it well enough.

This is not widely discussed, but in my experience it is true. When it comes to how tax relief actually works, the charity sector is an ocean of uncertainty, dotted with islands of knowledge in specialist agencies, umbrella bodies and accounting departments.

Many trustees don’t understand it, some chief executives don’t understand it and, most worryingly, a lot of fundraisers – the people who are usually responsible for collecting Gift Aid declarations – certainly don’t understand it and aren’t incentivised to ask people for it. Possibly rightly, too, because when they do ask, it often puts donors off.

A lot of donors certainly don’t understand a word of it. Some of them tick the Gift Aid box; some of them don’t. Most of them then forget every word about it. For them, charity tax relief is a deep darkness.

The sector can improve the situation with better communication tactics.

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, has given one example. He says charities are more effective at collecting Gift Aid if they cut it out of their initial ask altogether, and leave it to a follow-up call when it can be explained properly to donors.

Another tactic, suggested by Theresa Lloyd, a fundraising consultant, is to write to all higher rate donors who are able to reclaim tax relief for themselves, explaining how to go about it. Hopefully, by doing them a favour, this will prompt them to give more in the future and make them more conscious of tax relief.

Another suggestion she makes is to run an information campaign for donors and charity workers alike.

Charities are entitled to point out the benefit of tax relief to themselves and launching a national campaign, funded by third sector organisations, might help explain how the system works.

It is hard to believe that with the best part of £2bn going begging last year, spending a few million on a campaign to improve take up is a losing bet.

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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.

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MP ‘sees nothing but a fudge’ on phasing out of cheques

If charities thought cheques being phased out by 2018 was a foregone conclusion, they might have to think again.

The Payments Council proposed the move last year and has been consulting charities and sector umbrella bodies, as well as small businesses and other groups. Many, including Citizen’s Advice and the Institute of Fundraising, had come round to the idea that the end of cheques was inevitable and it was better to help the Payments Council manage the process than to campaign against it.

But the MPs on the Treasury select committee, which met at Portcullis House, Westminster, on Tuesday, were less easily swayed by the idea.

“I want to keep cheques,” John McFall, Labour and Co-operative Party MP and chair of the committee, told Paul Smee, the Payments Council’s chief executive, as he pulled a chequebook out of his pocket with a flourish.

“It’s beyond belief that the use of cheques is in terminal decline,” he said, pointing out that they accounted for transactions worth £1.4 trillion in 2008.

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, put Smee even more firmly non the spot. “Your members benefit from the decline of cheques,” he said. “What gives you the right to decide this?” Tyrie criticised Smee for being unable to provide an estimated figure for the how much the move would cost consumers.

Smee said the decision had been taken in a transparent way and in consultation with those affected by the phasing out of cheques. He said there would be a review in 2016, by which time the alternatives would have to be “available, accessible and already being used” in order for cheques to be phased out.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy the MPs. “I can’t see anything other than a fudge here,” said McFall. Sir Peter Viggers, the Conservative MP for Gosport, summarised his view to laughs from the panel. “You and I are in terminal decline,” he said. “But we wouldn’t welcome the setting of an end date to close us down!”

So, should charities stop worrying about how they’ll live without cheques? The committee has no powers to prevent the move, but it has asked Smee to produce an independently verified cost-benefit analysis and then return to answer more questions. Smee was also warned that Parliament could, if necessary, intervene on the issue.

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Telephone fundraising might not be pleasant – but it works

Charity call centre scandal, screamed a headline in the News of the World last Sunday. The paper had sent an undercover reporter to a training session for callers at telephone fundraising agency Pell and Bales.

It accused Pell and Bales of using “shameless tactics” to “generate money from the jobless, frail and even sick.” The company’s training manager, Travis Hodges, is reported to have told trainee fundraisers that “if someone says they’ve just been made redundant, it doesn’t matter. For all you know they might have just got a huge pay-out!”

It said bosses monitored calls and reprimanded staff who didn’t ask for money enough times.

The article also accuses the firm, which last year agreed to end its practice of making ‘administrative’ calls to people who had asked not to be contacted, of calling people registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

If true, the newspaper’s allegations suggest that Pell and Bales is breaking the law and the Institute of Fundraising’s code. But Derwyn Jones, chief executive of the Panther Group, which owns Pell and Bales, told Third Sector the firm only called TPS-registered people if they were existing supporters of the charity and had agreed to be contacted.

He said it was difficult to strike the right balance between motivating staff to meet their targets and making them feel comfortable about their work.

“Charities have invested money in telephone fundraising and they need to get a good return on their investment,” he said. “And raising money over the phone is a difficult job, which a lot of people are not suited to. But we draw the line at bullying staff.”

The Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Standards Board will hold a meeting next month to clear the air about telephone fundraising. Charities, fundraising agencies and representatives from the Information Commissioner’s Office will gather to clarify the legislation and the best practice guidelines on the subject.

But will this work? It’s perfectly possible that Pell and Bales has done nothing in this case that is illegal or against any codes of practice – but it still ruffles feathers.

The truth is, telephone fundraising, like face-to-face fundraising on the street, is a difficult job and is inevitably driven by targets – which put staff under pressure to raise funds.

And, by and large, it works, raising millions for charity. A telesales culture in fundraising agencies might not be pleasant, but there’s not much any regulator can do to stop it.

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The Right to Ask campaign misses the point

The question of whether charities have a “right to ask” the public for donations has been stirring up controversy lately.

The Institute of Fundraising wants to remind the public that fundraisers – whether they stop you on the street, knock on your door while you are in the middle of dinner or phone you at home – have the right to do so because their beneficiaries need funds.

The aim of its campaign would be to reduce bad feeling among the public towards charity fundraisers, and to give fundraisers a more positive attitude to their work.

The institute is right to address the issue, but I think it is missing the point. Plenty of charity fundraisers know that they have a “right to ask”. The trouble is, most of the general public do not feel confident about their own right to say no.

I used to get annoyed and even embarrassed when I was stopped by face-to-face fundraisers. I felt guilty about not signing up. My new approach – of explaining that I do my charitable giving online and will not sign up in any other way – seems to be working well. But the trouble is, I am in a minority.

If people felt able to politely say no without feeling guilty about it, they wouldn’t have such a problem with fundraisers. If they wanted to support the charity’s work, they’d sign up. And if not, they’d let the charities spend their time talking to other people who might.

But I suspect this is a message the sector is less keen to promote. People do sign up because they feel guilty, and this is probably more common with face-to-face and door-to-door than with other types of fundraising. If these folk started saying no, charities could be sacrificing cash to appease public opinion.

Is it a price the sector is willing to pay?

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