I am in something of a quandary with regard to the cover theme in this month’s edition, which focuses on trustees and fundraising. As I was putting the pages together I could not dislodge a persistent thought about the response by Lepra chair Charles Bland to the January edition’s cover theme on structural racism, where he gently rebuked the tone of the coverage: “I was weary at reading about yet another subject on which charities are deemed to have failed,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, there is no getting away from the fact that the research conducted by Claire Warner’s Charity Well project among UK charity fundraisers, which is the foundation for this issue’s cover theme, paints another picture of trustee board failure. A total of 700 fundraisers were surveyed for the wellbeing study, a robust sample, and the findings were pretty worrying. Fundraisers’ views about their trustee boards were particularly depressing: only 47% said they could name at least half of their trustees and just 43% agreed that their trustees understood the organisation and the sector. Even fewer, 30%, felt that their trustees understood fundraising and were useful and supportive of their efforts.
The raison d’être of this magazine is to support and champion charity trustees and leaders in their roles, and to promote and share good practice. But it also has a role as a critical friend, to highlight instances where actions and behaviours fall below standard and ought to be addressed, for the sake of the sector and the users of charities’ services. So while I am loathe to be seen to be having another “pop” at trustee boards, especially at the moment, the findings of the Charity Well research were so important that they could not be ignored.
In survey after survey, raising income and financial sustainability come out top of charities’ priorities and challenges. Fundraising is an essential component of the charity sector landscape. Thanks to Covid-19, most of those charities that rely on fundraised income – which is the majority, in one way or another – will be staring into an abyss where projected revenues used to be. The pressure that your fundraising teams are feeling will be huge. There is no better time to adopt a “one-team” approach to help your charity’s fundraisers get through this period. If you are one of those trustees whose names they don’t know, do something about it. Reach out to them, get to know them, make them feel valued. Get your cheque books out, open up your contact books, and respect the fact that your fundraisers are professionals doing a vital job.
Both of the articles in the cover theme contain lots of ideas for how you and your fellow board members can help to share the load of meeting your charity’s fundraising targets. Please read them and take action. Because if ever there was a time that charity fundraisers need to feel like someone’s got their back, it is now.