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Tell us how much we should tell donors, Naidu asks regulators

Tell us how much we should tell donors, Naidu asks regulators
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Tell us how much we should tell donors, Naidu asks regulators1

Fundraising | Tania Mason | 2 Jan 2008

The Institute of Fundraising or the Charity Commission should take on the task of establishing what level of information is required by different groups of donors so that charities don’t overload them with inappropriate information in their efforts to be more transparent, senior Mencap fundraiser Michael Naidu has suggested.

“We can’t assume everybody wants the same level of information – what is required by a major donor will be quite different to what a 65-year-old lady wants,” he said. “Maybe there is a role for the Institute or the Charity Commission to ask people what kind of information they really want from charities.”

Naidu (pictured), who is head of donor marketing at Mencap, voiced the idea in a panel discussion on transparency and accountability at the Professional Fundraising Digital Communications for Charities conference in London last week.

Also sharing the platform were Tris Lumley, senior analyst at New Philanthropy Capital, Richard Marsh, director of the Impact Coalition, and Adam Rothwell from donor advice website Intelligent Giving. PF’s editor Becky Slack chaired.

Naidu was responding to a comment from Lumley that charities don’t do nearly enough to measure and report on the impact they have. Lumley also said that preying on people’s guilt might be an effective way of recruiting donors, but real relationship fundraising required charities to explain how they were helping to solve problems.

“Real transparency is about inspiring people,” said Lumley. “It may require some investment but it can be a transformative shift.”

Naidu argued that most donors wanted no more than easy-to-understand statements about a charity’s impact, though he acknowledged that there may be a difference in the requirements of modern donors as opposed to more traditional, older donors.

For this reason, he suggested, the Institute or the Commission should provide some guidance as to the level of information that should be provided to various stakeholder groups. 

But the Institute clearly didn’t think this would be necessary. Megan Pacey, the Institute’s director of policy and campaigns and Impact's Richard Marsh issued a joint statement to say that fundraisers already have a huge amount of information available about donor attitudes to, and expectations of, charities.

“The codes of fundraising practice provide significant guidance to support fundraisers how to disseminate information to the range of donors which their causes engage,” they said.

The Commission also felt its existing tools already provided adequate information. “This is largely what Summary Information Returns are for,” said a spokeswoman. “The SIR is designed to give a snapshot of a charity’s aims, activities and achievements and to enable charities to give an indication of factors that have affected their performance during the year.

“More detailed information is then available from other sources, for example the trustees annual report and accounts, which are available elsewhere on our website. They are also directly available from the register entry page of each charity with annual income over £1m. So, stakeholders are able to access varying levels of detail.”

Richard Marsh added during the debate that the Impact Coalition was around six weeks away from publishing an online toolkit that its member charities could use to improve their transparency and accountability.

Andy Taylor
30 Jan 2008

Michael Naidu's idea for guidleines on how much different donor groups should be told about the charity they are supporting would be completely unworkable in practice.

Donors don't always fall into neat groups. Major donors for example vary on an individual basis and it is the job of the fundraiser to understand and meet those individual needs, not just work to a pre-ordained formula that says what they should be told.

If fundraisers want to know whether they are sending the right information to donors then the first place they should look is their results. If you are raising more money then clearly you're doing something right. If you're raising less then maybe one reason (out of dozens of possible ones) is that what you're sending donors is either too much or not enough.

Andy Taylor
Director of Fundriaisng and Marketing
Action for Blind People

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