Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb has written a stern letter to the CEOs of the top 50 fundraising charities challenging their reluctance to defend the sector on last week’s Newsnight programme about face-to-face fundraising.
The programme highlighted the fact that street fundraisers are often employed by private sector agencies and that it can take more than a year of regular donations to cover the cost of recruiting the donor. The programme implied that the fundraising technique is inefficient and that charities are not always up-front with donors.
Newsnight struggled to find people from the sector who were willing to be questioned on the show, and only two of the 20 charities approached would say how much it cost them to recruit each donor.
In his letter, Bubb said this revealed a “worrying lack of accountability and transparency on the part of charities”.
He wrote: “Our reluctance to defend what are entirely defensible practices poses a very real reputational risk to the whole sector.
“We need to get better at explaining what we do in order to build the requisite confidence needed to strengthen this fragile trust, and we must do it in a clear, transparent and accountable way. If we fail to do this, we propagate and reinforce the kind of myths that were presented in Newsnight’s feature.”
Bubb also voiced his surprise that the debate on the subject has so far been confined to the fundraising community, while chief executives have not really engaged. “I believe that protecting the reputations of our organisations is a core role for chief executives,” he said.
Acevo is home to the ImpACT Coalition, a sector initiative that aims to improve accountability and transparency and boost public understanding of what charities do and how they operate. All of the 50 CEOs who were sent Bubb’s letter are either members of Acevo or of the ImpACT Coalition.
Bubb makes no call to action in the letter but an Acevo spokeswoman said the organisation hoped to spark debate among recipients and other Acevo members. A link to the letter was also included in Acevo’s member newsletter that went out today.
Bubb concluded the letter by saying: “We take our responsibility to improving accountability and transparency very seriously, and we hope that our colleagues in the sector share our conviction.”