Face-to-face fundraising epitomises that which is wrong about donor-charity relations, a Liberal Democrat Lord told parliament in a debate yesterday.
Baroness Barker, who sits on the government and voluntary sector party group and is vice-president of the Local Government Association, told her fellow peers that the best way to get a clear path through Oxford Street in the Christmas rush is to pretend to be a street fundraiser.
“The waves will part and people will avoid you,” she said.
“That is because ‘chuggers’ encapsulate what is wrong with the relationship between charities and donors and why that has to change.”
The baroness said that instead, charities should focus on new technology, particularly to target the 16 million “frustrated givers” in the 25 to 50 year old age bracket.
Baroness Barker, who owns Third Sector Business which works with companies including See the Difference, said that modern donors are motivated by the impact of their gift and passion around the cause, rather than by discussions about money.
“My charity and others - I name-check AliveandGiving and the Pennies Foundation - are waking up to that and are trying to find ways in which we can use the internet, films and videos to make the connection that people want between their act of philanthropy and the output,” she said.
She also suggested that charities were slow in reacting tothe rise of mobile phones.
“For 20 year-olds these days, if something goes wrong with their mobile phone, that is it; life comes to a grinding halt. Yet in the charitable sector we think that mobile phone technology is new. We need to get the expertise from the private sector and other places to help us to develop apps and so on, so that giving to charity becomes part of the culture of that generation. People from that generation are, I believe, very generous, but they want to give in a way that is different from the way in which the older generation give,” she said.
“This is an immensely exciting time for charities, and I believe that the Government have an important role to play in bringing together the best of the private sector and the best of the voluntary sector to ensure that we make this huge leap towards engaging a new generation in a new way of handling philanthropy in society.”
Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, defended face-to-face-fundraising against Baroness Barkers’ attack.
“Here at the PFRA we share the Baroness’ enthusiasm for charities to be canny in making the best use of innovative opportunities to engage with younger and motivated potential donors: that is precisely what face-to-face does every day. It is quite difficult to see how engaging over 600,000 new donors a year can be said to encapsulate what is “wrong” with modern charities – surely it is a case of ‘the more the merrier’?" he told Civil Society.
“There is just as much a place for the exciting new developments in on-line giving she champions as there is for tried-and-tested methods like face-to-face. Clearly the Baroness understands the old adage, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, so, each to his – or her – own, and collectively we will all grow ‘giving’ in every sense”.