Greater transparency needed in fundraising, FRSB chief advises

Alistair McLean, chief executive, Fundraising Standards Board

Greater transparency needed in fundraising, FRSB chief advises1

Fundraising | Niki May Young | 13 Jul 2012

Results from the latest FRSB trust and confidence survey show that many donors are non-committal on whether charities' fundraising methods are effective, or whether their spend on fundraising and administration is too high.

Of the 961 donor respondents around half (54 per cent) agreed that 'charities use the most effective means of fundraising', but with only 9 per cent disagreeing, 37 per cent gave a 'neutral' response, indicating a lack of confidence or understanding in this area.

Additionally, while 48 per cent of donors said they agreed that 'charities do not spend too much money on fundraising or administration', 44 per cent were neutral.

These figures compare to overwhelming confidence in other areas, such as whether the charities they support make a difference (84 per cent agree), or whether the charities they support value their donations (80 per cent agree).

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said that the neutral results were unexpected, and the organisation would amend next year's survey to allow it to "drill down" and get a better picture of what they mean. But he advised that the results indicated a lack of confidence from donors:

"Whilst we can’t be conclusive, the high level of neutral responses in these areas would suggest that we need better transparency and openness in the sector. Charities and fundraisers need to share with their donors what they do and how they do it.

“Wouldn’t it be great to get that 44 per cent of donors to jump into the agree box and say, actually I know my charity doesn’t spend too much money on admin or fundraising, and what an endorsement that would be for the sector.”

Support for regulation

The annual survey, conducted by independent agency TNS for the FRSB, posed some welcome figures for the membership body. Of the 1,062 respondents (961 donors, 101 non-donors), 72 per cent said they would have more trust in a charity's fundraising if it were accountable to an independent regulatory body, and 71 per cent would have more trust if it were a member of the FRSB. More than 60 per cent said they would be more likely to give to a charity if it were a member of the umbrella body. 

Regularity of giving

Just 9 per cent of those asked said that they were not donors, but a further 10 per cent said they gave less than once a year, and 10 per cent said they give on an annual basis.

Only 11 per cent give more than once a month, while 33 per cent give monthly. 16 per cent give once every three months and 11 per cent give once every six months. 

The figures showed great disparity in trust and confidence levels between donors and non-donors, with just 33 per cent of non-donors agreeing that they trust charities, while 82 per cent of donors said that they trust the charities that they support.

The variation continues in the earlier discussed results, with 19 per cent of non-donors agreeing that charities do not spend too much on fundraising and administration, compared to 48 per cent of donors; and 32 per cent of non-donors agreeing that charities use the most effective methods of fundraising, compared to 54 per cent of donors.


Non-donors displayed a much higher neutral response rate than donors, for instance 45 per cent of non-donors neither agreed nor disagreed that 'giving to charity is the best way of supporting good causes', as opposed to 18 per cent of donors.

However there were some questions which prompted a significant negative response from non-donors, such as 'Charities use donations wisely', with 33 per cent disagreeing, or 'I trust charities' which attracted a 29 per cent 'disagree' response. 



Tania Cohen
Freelance Consultant
Various Charities
13 Jul 2012

It is really difficult to see how the conclusion has been drawn from this data that “the results indicated a lack of confidence from donors” or that there is “Greater transparency needed in fundraising”

Donors are non-committal when asked whether “Charities use the most effective means of fundraising” because they are not fundraising experts and are reluctant to comment on whether the most effective fundraising methods are being used. Effectiveness for the donor in their donation is about where the money is going not the fundraising mechanism. We wouldn't expect a shopper to know whether the item they want to buy has a particular type of supply chain - they buy it because of what it achieves, how it works, and that it is right value for them.

The survey shows that donors are more interested in what their money will achieve than how it is raised - and this echoes the results of the recent Charity Commission publication in to Public Trust and Confidence in Charities.

In the same FRSB survey, only 3% disagreed with the statement that “Charities must invest in fundraising to secure the future of their services” and only 4% disagreed with the statement that “The money I donate goes to the right place”. If donors thought the fundraising was not effective and their money was being wasted, both of these would have been higher.

Fundraisers are not complacent about the need to be transparent - but we wouldn't want charities communicating more about the fundraising mechanisms than where the money will go and what it will achieve.


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