IoF chair: I'm sick of charity 'cowards' leaving fundraisers in the firing line

Mark Astarita, chair, Institute of Fundraising

IoF chair: I'm sick of charity 'cowards' leaving fundraisers in the firing line 1

Fundraising | Celina Ribeiro | 2 Jul 2013

Mark Astarita, chair of the Institute of Fundraising, last night issued an incendiary challenge to charity sector leaders to get behind fundraising rather than "watching the lions take chunks out of us".   

The British Red Cross fundraising director warned the audience at the Institute of Fundraising's National Awards in London last night that he would have a rant, and did not disappoint.

An audience that was otherwise chastised for murmuring fell either silent or erupted in applause as Astarita issued a call to arms against charity leaders who wash their hands of fundraising. The dining hall at the Hilton Metropole appeared both nervous and enthused by the moment of verbal catharsis.

"If you spend it, you should be bloody proud of those who raise it," he said.

In a speech which referenced gladiatorial battles, Astarita intimated that some charity leaders were hypocritical in their aversion to supporting the techniques and individuals which fund their work.

"I am getting pretty sick of the fact that it is the fundraisers of this country... who seem constantly in the firing line, and every time we rush out of the trenches defending our right to ask, every other charity leader happy to take the cash has run for the hills with their petticoats showing," he said. "Since when have they become such cowards?

"Too many of our leaders don't get it, don't care enough about it, don't shout about it and frankly see us as nothing more than a necessary evil."

Speaking at the opening of the National Awards as chair of the Institute, Astarita's sympathetic audience was rallied by his unequivocal charge on what some fundraisers privately complain is a lack of support and understanding of fundraising by charity chief executives, staff and boards.

While it is an ongoing complaint, the most notable instance of a lack of such support was in 2010, when a Newsnight 'expose' of face-to-face fundraising struggled to get any large charities on air to defend the technique.

Picking up on the campaign for fundraising in the US, spearheaded by Dan Pallotta, Astarita asked: "Do we have to set up a Charity Defense Council as they have in the USA?"

Astarita argued that without wholesale leadership buy-in to fundraising, the level of giving - static for decades - will not shift, and this when charities are facing declining income from the state and public sector contracts. 

Read Astarita's speech in full here

Fundraising consultant Alan Clayton has struck a similar vein in an exlusive blog on today.  You can read it here.


Marg Mayne
Chief Executive
16 Jul 2013

It is true that CEOs can be cowardly about defending their fundraisers in the firing line. They know fundraising is important but often don’t have a real understanding of how (or even why) it works. It is this reality that can lead CEOs to run for the hills when the results on investment don’t immediately shoot through the roof.

When I became CEO of VSO, I wanted to learn the fundraising ropes. The first step was asking my senior fundraising staff what support they needed and what I needed to know about the fundraising process. They told me that the first step was not to just assume it is common sense! They got me active in fundraising; from hosting events to directly asking supporters for money. It was scary and exhilarating in equal measure but it means now I celebrate success with our fundraisers because I understand how hard won those victories are (and I haven’t met a fundraiser who doesn’t want a bit of recognition!)

The emergence of the fundraising CEO is not new but is here to stay. It’s vital for the continued growth of the sector.


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