With a number of changes to fundraising the onus on fundraisers to be compliant is stronger than ever. But Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, says charities should actually be aiming for excellence.
Compliance is being talked about in fundraising teams like never before. There are more compliance managers, projects, and resources being developed to make sure that a charity’s fundraising follows all the rules, regulations, and professional standards.
But in the drive to be ‘compliant’, we shouldn’t lose sight of what makes fundraising special and what inspires supporters and creates long-lasting relationships. For that, we need more than compliance. We need excellence.
Excellent fundraising isn’t just about following the Code of Fundraising Practice. No one gets out of bed in the morning with an ambition of running ‘a really compliant campaign’. We start out with thinking about what will make a connection with a supporter. The trick is to ensure we do that, always, in a compliant way. The two aren’t mutually exclusive at all – it’s not a binary choice between compliance and excellence. Fundraisers can, and need, to do both.
In the week after the Fundraising Regulator released their first complaints report, thinking about this connection becomes even more important. Stephen Dunmore has talked about “getting under the skin” of the report and what makes a complaint, which is really welcome. We need to understand more about what drives complaints, as well as gain insight into what constitutes a ‘complaint’ – some can be a general dislike of a method, some could be that they felt under pressure, some can be because they don’t like the images or words used, some can be because they think the charity should be spending their money on different things.
I’m keen to see how the Fundraising Regulator takes this forward to develop their complaints report so that it can be more useful in responding to and improving the public’s experience of fundraising in the future.
But here’s the key thing: compliant fundraising could still result in complaints, whereas excellent fundraising is less likely to. Compliant fundraising can follow all the rules, but not inspire any supporters or raise any money; excellent fundraising will. We need fundraising to start from where the current or potential supporter is and thinking what kind of communication they might want and respond to, not starting from ‘what do the rules allow us to do’.
So as we see a welcome focus on compliance across the sector, we also need to make sure that we are supporting and nurturing excellence. At the same time we also need to remember that some of the most important and emotive issues in fundraising don’t always have to do with rules or standards, but are about values and choices that organisations make and the ethical approach they take.
Let’s start with values, adopt an ethical approach, aim to achieve excellent fundraising, and make sure we are doing it in a compliant way. That’s what will not only raise the most money, but will also reduce complaints and raise the experience and satisfaction of supporters.
Our vision at the IoF is ‘Excellent fundraising for a better world’. ‘Compliant fundraising for a better world’ just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Civil Society Media would like to thank the Institute of Fundraising for their support with this article.