Friday, December 13, 2013

Where Did My CRC Donation Go?

I started wondering where my donations to the Central Remedial Clinic went.

I've been entering a monthly lottery for nearly 6 years now (because I want to win a car) and I've been very happy to know that in that time a portion of my money has gone to the CRC. I reckon about €250 worth.

But in the current scandal I'm seeing a lot of figures thrown around. Bonuses of €200k, massive pensions, massive salaries. [Salaries I dream of and aspire to - We live in a world obsessed with money and I fantasise about earning €240k so that I can donate loads, buy lots of presents, pay off my mortgage, take my family on a nice holiday and finally buy Fantastic Four #48.]

But for the moment I'm wondering where my €250 here's the breakdown (rough estimates):

  • 50 cent went to Paul Kiely's 'retirement bonus'.
  • About €1.70 went EVERY YEAR to the CEO.
  • About 47 cent went every year to the IT Manager (Not a volunteer).
  • Nearly €200 went to the rest of the staff - trained nurses, speech therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, nurses, cleaners, etc. (Legends, who in turn spent that money on their mortgages, at the shops, paying taxes, etc.)
  • About €40 went on electricity (running a gait lab and a heated pool for example), maintenance, phone bills, cleaning products, toilet paper, etc.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Charities Already Are Transparent...Maybe You're Just Not Looking?

You might think charities are hiding something. The ongoing CRC scandal, Comic Relief's unethical investments, responses from politicians, countless people (including me) crying out "Charities need to be more transparent!"

But actually, some charities need to be more transparent. Some already are. And it's easy to see why the organisations that already publish their accounts and salaries and effectiveness are getting frustrated that they're being called on to do something that they already do.

Don't us donors have to take some, if not more, responsibility? If charities like the CRC don't publish their accounts and we still donate to them then aren't we perpetuating the problem?

When I think back to the charities I've donated to this year I can say that, personally, I'm confident that my money is being spent as well as possible.

I'm proud to donate to Concern Worldwide. They publish their accounts with more detail than is required. For the fourth successive year they won the Published Accounts Awards for charities in Ireland. They keep me updated with videos, photos and more information than I can keep up with. I've e-mailed them twice in the last year with questions - they responded quickly and thoroughly.

Dogs Trust also publish their accounts. And they have a re-homing centre out in Finglas where I can physically go and actually see their happy dogs. They have a running counter on the wall which tells me how many dogs have been re-homed this year.

Whenever children's rights are in the news I know Fergus Finlay will be there in the front row speaking and campaigning of behalf of the children that we treat so badly. The internet's auto-response to Fergus is, "Yeah, but how much does he earn?" which annoys me massively because he tells us exactly how much he earns about 4 times a year. Seriously everyone, stop asking the comments section on news sites and ask Google or Barnardos' own accounts. They are extremely transparent.

The two children I sponsor keep me updated with actual letters and drawings and for me that's good enough to instill confidence. But the charities also adhere to a number of codes of practice above and beyond what I'd expect. And I know what their CEO earns because they publish it.

I donated to Bothar for (I think) the first time. Their website tells me (-ish) what their CEO earns, they publish accounts, they have a feedback/complaint procedure, a donor charter and more. And more importantly, based on the available information, they are improving my world. [Updated: their CEO made completely the wrong move on the radio the other day - criticising the CRC and then not willing to say how much he earns. Shame really, when we already know he earns less than €100k]

I also donated to about half a dozen other charities because I liked the fundraisers, I'm researching the charity's donor communications, or as a result of my Twitter experiment. That's totally the wrong reason to donate and really - since I didn't do any research or ask any questions - I don't have any expectations beyond the fact that they're operating legally.

And finally, (this may surprise you) I also donate to the Central Remedial Clinic. Kind of. Like the majority of people who donate to the CRC I actually enter a monthly raffle to win a car. I really want that car. If any of the money helps people in need then that's a bonus. But let's be honest...I want a car.

I flippantly compared it to the Lotto, but was then shocked to find that the National Lottery are amazingly transparent. Honestly, a number of charities could learn a lot from the Lotto's annual report. I'm seriously considering switching my CRC 'donation' to a lotto 'donation'.

The point is that we, as donors, have to take at least some of the responsibility. The HSE funding is a problem too and again we have to take some of the responsibility for the government we voted in.

The lesson...if it wasn't already to find out the answers to what concerns you before you donate. If a charity doesn't put their accounts on their website then why are you donating to them? If you phone/e-mail and ask a question that they won't answer then go find someone who will.

Donating is like investing in a business. When you are donating to a charity you are investing in a better world for yourself, investing in people trying to do good, and investing in people who need a little support to achieve basic human (and non-human) rights.

Would you invest in a company without researching simply because someone asked you to?

Monday, December 9, 2013

We Owe Our Supporters Transparency

I wrote a guest article for the European Fundraising Association here.
Charities can spend their income in any way they want as long as they are able to explain why their actions are the best way to make the world a better place, says Simon Scriver of Total Fundraising.  The sector needs to be more transparent and to focus on showing the real results of their work.
When the CRC 'top-up scandal' settles down I think there will be much more to be written on transparency. But for the moment I'll stick with the guest article We Owe Our Supporters Transparency.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Do You React To Charity Sector Scandals?

There are 3 types of events that will cause your donor cancellations to spike: organisation, sector, and national/global.

Organisational events are things like your CEO saying something stupid or you sending out a really bad mailing. Something that affects only your organisation.

National and global events affect everyone, not just charities. For example, if the Government announces a tough budget or there's a global catastrophe. Similarly, every January everyone sees a spike.

What we have going on right now is a 'sector' event: the Central Remedial Clinic "used charity money to top up senior staff salaries" above what was agreed, and above what was implied to the public. There's more coming out and more questions to be asked - so I'm parking my thoughts for another blog post.

These sector events affect every charity. How is your organisation reacting to this scandal? And how do you react and prepare for future organisation, sector and global events?

There's no doubt your donors - individuals and companies - are trying to decide whether you're one of the good ones or bad ones. And there's no guarantee they'll be rational. For many people charities are interchangeable and, unfortunately, some people think 'a bad charity' means 'charities are bad'.

The hospital foundations have started to react. Beaumont Hospital Foundation reacted quickly going as far as to take a newspaper ad in the Irish Independent. Similarly, Mercy Hospital and CMRF both quickly released statements. Irish Cancer Society released a super transparent Questions & Answers.

Central Remedial Clinic are currently giving a lesson in how not to react. Their statement was patchy, their silence is worrying. And they are getting absolutely battered.

Perhaps most impressive was Jack & Jill Foundation who came out quickly on their website, in on-line news, as well as all over the radio. Their CEO used it as another opportunity to publish his salary and to justify it. He thanked his donors. He appealed for support. The response has been, for the most part, positive. Jonathan Irwin's €90k could easily have been criticised if it was presented as part of a witch-hunt, but they're presenting it on their terms. (I just wish they'd publish their accounts on their website).

Transparency is key. There should be no surprises.

Wherever you are spending your income, you should be able to proudly stand by and broadcast to the world. "This expense is absolutely the best thing we can do right now to make the world a better place."

And if it's not, why not?

Regardless of your distance from the CRC the scandal will probably affect your organisation. So what are you going to do about it?

This won't be the last spike in cancellations you'll see. There will be another recession. There will be another scandal. There will be another January (check your calendar).

You can't always predict when these spikes are going to happen. But you can predict how you're going to react.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On-Line: Is It Fundraising's Snake Oil?

Full disclaimer: I am obsessed with the Internet. I spend too much time on Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Feedly and a bunch of other sites. If I buy stuff I research and order on-line. I donate on-line. I blog (Nobody reads it). I respond to e-mails quicker than phone calls. I love digital. I am a nerd. I want on-line to be the answer to everyone's problems...I really do.

Yes, I make my living from face-to-face fundraising and telephone Having said that, I created as a way for charities to cheaply harness on-line giving and fundraising. I believe in on-line. I believe mobile giving and a good on-line donation facility are essential. When your budget allows it, I believe on-line gives you some amazing opportunities.

But, as a charity, on-line should NOT be your priority.

Stephen Pidgeon recently summed it up nicely: "All you online enthusiasts out there should remember Blackbaud’s [U.S. 2012] research. Online revenue accounted for only 7 per cent of those charities’ incomes. And that includes people like me who receive a mailing then donate online."

The pro-online stats you are being fed are misleading. When on-line giving sites exclaim that 50% of donors come from Facebook, what they mean is that 50% of THEIR donors come from Facebook. The truth is probably less than 1% of ALL donations are coming from Facebook - and they're motivated by their friends.

Someone associated with Google and YouTube recently said "57% of Those Who Watch Nonprofit Videos Go On to Make a Donation". I wrote a whole blog post on why this statistic is baloney and why bad statistics are dangerous for charities.

And therein lies the problem and the ultimate truth.

The on-line stats you keep getting fed are forgetting that on-line is a 'facility' rather than a 'driver'. In other words, yes people are using on-line to make more donations because it's convenient and secure. But they are being driven to do it by something more personal: a conversation, an experience or good writing.

Do not confuse the 'method' of giving with the 'motivator'.

If you are a charity, especially a small one, ask yourself really if you'd be better off spending the next hour updating your social media or picking up the phone and calling 10 people.

If you have to choose, should you put thousands of Euro in to a flashy website or should you spend the money paying someone who has the confidence to network and 'ask' at your next event?

Text on a computer screen will never drum up the emotions that your passionate voice can. And we are in the business of emotions. This will not change in your lifetime.

If you find yourself considering 'Twitter or Facebook' as your fundraising strategy I would suggest you instead use that time to take a half-day and go to the cinema to watch Gravity in 3D.

Yes everything we do is on-line and the world is obsessed with on-line and we are drowning in #hashtags. But until charities' on-line income gets closer to 50% I honestly believe you are spending your money and time in the wrong place.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Can't Donate Blood? Is This A Solution?

When I turned 18 I wanted to donate blood. But I wasn't allowed - and am still not allowed - because I lived in the UK for a few years.

Years later when my Dad became sick with leukaemia I learned about 'platelets' and I decided I wanted to become a regular donor. Again, I'm not allowed to do so because I lived in England.

My girlfriend once went with 3 friends to donate blood. All of them were turned away - she had lived in England, one had just got a tattoo and two of them are gay.

I'm aware of their reasoning, but it's frustrating. With Ireland's currently blood supply running at only 3-10 days I feel there's a better way. I once suggested to the IBTS that potential blood recipients could 'opt-in' to receive my 2nd rate blood. Not entirely practical of course.

But here's my new idea...

YOU may be eligible to donate blood, but might not have the time.

So let me donate my time. To you.

Let me spend an hour or two doing one of your chores, on the condition that you use that time to go and give blood. Let me pick you up, drop you at the blood clinic, go do whatever you need done, then come back and drop you home.

Imagine a whole network of wannabe donors who aren't allowed, all willing to donate their time to the people who just can't find the time to go and give blood.

Is that a temporary solution?

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 Things You Can Do To Help Irish Fundraising Right Now

1. Attend This Free Data Protection Seminar
When something free is jointly organised by Fundraising Ireland, The Wheel and ICTR you know it's important.
The new developments in data protection are bad for Irish charities - even if it doesn't affect you yet it eventually will. I recommend attending the Data Protection Seminar so we can all keep on top of this.

2. Fill Out This Survey
Total Fundraising are running this survey with Whitebarn Consulting. By filling it out, as a non-profit, you could win €250. And the results should benefit the sector as a whole.

3. Attend Fundraising Ireland's Donor Care Seminar in Galway Next Week
Next week's Donor Care seminar should be good. Justin McDermott is, without a doubt, an excellent fundraiser and I'm really happy to be speaking with him.
I'm putting a lot of effort in to the seminar, and Fundraising Ireland are putting a lot of effort in to building the available training out West.
I hope you'll support it. Now cancelled! Well, that's a shame.

4. Sign Up To
A bit of self-promotion, but why not? By signing up your charity for free to you are helping us work towards reducing the fees again.
As the amount we processed increased the bank reduced their fee, which allowed us to reduce our fee from 5% to 4%. It's no secret that I'm working towards a 3% fee and then even lower. But I need more charities on the site. If every charity in Ireland shared a donation portal you could probably get credit card charges below 1%.

5. Vote For Your Next Fundraising Ireland Board
The elections for the next Fundraising Ireland board members take place on the 12th of December. The list of candidates is here and my profile is here.
I've been a proud member of Fundraising Ireland since October 2010 and have always tried to support the sector by sharing data, speaking at seminars and conferences, and through sponsorship. I believe I can help Fundraising Ireland continue and expand the amazing work they do.
Whether you agree or not, I hope you will take the time to cast your vote at the AGM - it is hugely important who goes forward.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Predictions For Irish Fundraising In 2014

I didn't do too badly with last year's predictions. So here we go again...Here is what I think we're going to see in 2014:

The Charity Regulator Will Disappoint Many
Not because they're doing anything wrong. In fact, I think the new charity regulator is going to be a great resource and will have a really positive impact on the sector.

But many people think the regulator will somehow reduce what CEOs earn, get rid of 'chuggers', and eliminate some of the more questionable charities. They won't - it just wouldn't make any sense. And that'll leave a few people lamenting the Charity Regulator as 'another quango'.

SMS Giving Will Get MORE Expensive
We got a quick sniff of the high-life in 2013: LikeCharity brought in 100% of SMS donations going to the charity and conversion campaigns were run as an opt-out.

The Data Commissioner put the kibosh on the opt-outs in any form which made the whole thing so much more expensive. And surely it's only a matter of time before LikeCharity give up on an overly strict Irish market or at least start charging fees to make it worthwhile. 'Tis better to have Liked and lost.

We'll See The First Notable Charity Merger
2014 will see charities began to take the idea of merging to the next level: sharing administration costs and forming one 'super' board could work in some cases. Just be prepared for a cringe-worthy rebranded name.

Negative Media Coverage
Fundraising/chugging/salaries will receive huge negative, misinformed, one-sided media coverage in February, August and October.

Changes To Tax Relief On Donations Get Big
The new tax-relief rules that came in to play were a bad thing for 2013. But they're (for the most part) good for 2014. You'll be able to claim tax relief on all €250+ donations from 2013, including self-assessed donors. That's big. Make sure you get those CHY3 forms signed.

Legacies Will Get Big
It's already started, but in 2014 we're going to really see legacy messaging drip-feeding through everything. You may as well just go update your will now and get it over with.

A Great Year For Statistics
The new regulator will give us all access to more charity finance figures, so we'll hopefully get a clearer picture of how the sector is growing.
Mix that with more research from The Wheel, Fundraising Ireland, Total Fundraising and more and we should get access to some really nice Irish fundraising stats.

More Innovation
Picture more Deal Effects, more Adtruisms, and more fundraising portals. Generally, good things. But don't get caught up in the hype. Sure, they'll help. And the more you put in, the more you'll get out. But they're not a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet. Fundraising is a long, hard slog. Always. And most of it takes place off-line.

Cost Per Acquisition Is About To Go Nuts
More and more charities are finally getting round to recruiting regular donors, which is a great thing. But it's also going to put pressure on the public, on the suppliers and on fundraisers. Combine that with stronger regulation, stricter data protection rules and more large charities bringing their face-to-face in-house and what you'll see is an increase in your cost per acquisition.

What do you think we're going to see in 2014?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Your Fundraising Litmus Test

This week I'm updating a donor care seminar and working on two messages to the general public. And I'm reminded once again: Everyone needs a fundraising litmus test.

My girlfriend is my fundraising litmus test.

She is the most loving, giving, generous and beautiful person I have ever met.

When I told her I wanted to write a charity in to my will she told me to "F*ck off."

Presumably she knows she's going to outlive me, and wants complete control of our money when I die or she kills me. More than that, I believe she wants our son to get everything. She probably doesn't take me seriously either: I requested that her sister receives €50 upon my death on the condition that she spend a night in a haunted mansion.

Today, I wrote the phrase "I encourage you as a potential donor..." and she pulled me up on it.

Firstly, because I keep forgetting to use plain English (which really is a skill).

But mainly because I used the word 'donor'. She said "What member of the public knows that they are a ‘donor’? – that’s a Fundraising term – if I hear donor I think of blood donor or organ donor."

She IS a donor. And doesn't connect herself with the word.

I don't believe radio works. But she started crying when she heard Bee For Battens on the radio and made the decision to give.

I hate incentives. But she only signed up as a monthly giver to an animal charity because they offered free micro-chipping. She cancelled a few years later because she 'couldn't be arsed' and 'wasn't getting any updates or cute photos'.

I asked her more about that and she went on to describe a different animal charity:
"The Donkey Sanctuary send me sh*t all the time because Rachel sponsored me a donkey for a year and that was years ago.  I actually must sign up to them – they are brilliant with the stuff they send. They give proper updates and loads of photos."

She donates to every single friend that asks for a donation.

She is amazing and she thinks I'm an idiot.

She is your treasured Dorothy Donor.

Who is your fundraising litmus test?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fundraising 101: A Beginner's Guide

These are my 10 favourite nuggets from my Fundraising 101 seminar. Not necessarily the most useful or most interesting...but my favourite...
  1. Fundraising is a real job and a real skill.
  2. Fundraising takes time or money. And time is money.
  3. Charities don't like any form of fundraising until they do them.
  4. The cause is always greener on the other side.
  5. You are not your target audience.
  6. Do you want Brand Awareness or Money?
  7. "If your charity is called 'Save The Whales' every once in a while you need to save a whale."
  8. If someone says, "Wouldn't it be great if..." then assume it won't happen.
  9. Your database is probably bigger than you think.
  10. If a fundraiser is bad don't give up on fundraising.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My IoF N.I. 2013 Seminar: Telephone Fundraising

Here are the slides from my Telephone Fundraising seminar at the Institute of Fundraising Northern Ireland conference, as well as what I think are the key points below:

Mystery Shop Your Own Organisation
I phoned two large Northern Irish charities to make a credit card donation and both failed to take my money. Try ringing your own reception (or get someone to do it for please!) and see if they know how to handle a donation, know how to say thank you and know what to ask you.

Have An Inbound Cheat Sheet
Write up a one-pager for anyone who may receive these donation calls so they know what to do.

CEOs and Boards Fear Telephone Unnecessarily
Everyone says they hate receiving calls from charities asking for money (including me) but that's simply not true. People are warm, friendly and open. Cancellations are rare. Complaints are even rarer. Pick up the phone and talk to your donors. They will appreciate it.

Phone Calls With No Ask Are Still Fundraising
Thank you calls, care calls, surveys, etc. are still fundraising calls because they increase the chances that the person will go on to donate to you. There is monetary valuable in them.

A 'No' On The Phone Has Value
The great thing about the phone is that even people saying 'No' allows you to get feedback.

Integrable Is A Word. Integratable Is Not.
Telephone can and should integrate with should phone your mail recipients, phone your lapsed donors, phone your fundraisers. Phone everybody.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Undue Fear Of SEPA

A few people have flagged this with me: under the SEPA scheme there will be new rules concerning direct debits, where it will now be very easy for a donor to request a refund.

Donors will now have 8 weeks to request, no questions asked, that 'Authorised' payments are refunded.

Where the charity can't prove that the donation was authorised the donor will have up to 13 months to request refunds.

A few charities have said they're worried about this: that a monthly donor could in theory come back and demand 13 months worth of donations to be refunded. And on the surface it seems like a scary prospect.

But the truth is it won't make a difference...

The reality is, if a donor contacted you today under the old scheme and requested 13 months worth of refunds, well, you'd have to do it. You wouldn't have to do it, but you'd have to do know?

No charity is going to get in to a dispute with a donor about who owns the money. You're not Sky TV. You're not Zurich. You're a nice charity that relies on the kindness of donors and if they want their money back you're going to have to give it to them.

The new rules are good. They instill confidence and, in reality, don't change how you would handle the situation.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tax Relief On 'Fundraised' Income

I did a guest blog post for Fundraising Ireland: "Can a charity claim tax relief on 'fundraised' income?" e.g. from marathon runners, trekkers, head shavers, etc.

You can read the full thing here:

Any more questions on charitable tax relief in Ireland then please feel free to ask!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Will Kill Charity Pie Charts

At the Fundraising Ireland conference this year I suggested we kill pie charts (10% admin, 90% cause) because they're oversimplified and don't encourage donors to ask more questions (eg. Is my donation actually achieving anything).

I suggested we could get really clever and uber-transparent instead by telling the donor everything their donation is being spent on, right down to "1 cent of your donation will be spent on office toilet paper...2 cent of your donation will be spent on light so we can see what we're doing."

Well, someone has done it...but it wasn't for a charity... (funded by Atlantic Philanthropies) have created the briliiant 'Where Does Your Tax Go'. You enter your income and it gives an assumed figure for how much our Government spends on Admin, Education, Foreign Affairs and more. Click on one of these and you get more detail: Someone earning €20k will see €79.50 of their money spent on 'Children'.

I love it. It instils confidence, makes steps towards showing output, and makes each cost seem somehow smaller.

Now imagine it for a charity, with more detail.

Imagine going to donate €100 and seeing that €63 will be spent on the actual food to be distributed.
€3 will be spent on transporting that food (otherwise it can't get there) - on petrol and insurance and maintenance.
€4 will go to Jimmy, Louise and Debbie - they're all fully qualified, have 23 years experience between them and work a minimum 37.5 hours a week (they get 20 holiday days per year).
60 cent will go to the receptionist Doris. She has 3 kids and is a big fan of X-Factor.
50 cent of your donation will be spent on office toilet paper. For hygiene reasons.

And the CEO's pay? Well only €1 of your donation is going to go to the CEO, and that allows her to oversee everything. To ensure your donation is used to the best of our ability and that everyone is working as hard as they can. To ensure we're actually making a difference and improving people's lives. you want to see what we're actually achieving?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Donate Directly To Those That Need It

I often hear people say they want their donation to go directly to the people that need it most - they don't want any 'wasted' on wages, overheads, etc.

Here's my artistic interpretation of money going directly to those in need:

Updated 24th March 2014:
Great to see cartoonist Richard Duszczak make the idea even prettier!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why Do The Rich Give Less?

There's a lot of research showing that the rich donate less than the poor (as a percentage of their income). I've seen statistics say the wealthiest Americans give 1.3% of their income while the poorest give 3.2% of their income. I've seen other studies claim that once your income goes over $100k the percentage of your income that you donate dives by about 3 percentage points.

[On a side note, do you see why these percentages make the One Percent Difference campaign look so unambitious?]

There's some good articles out there exploring the reasons that wealthier people are less generous (as a percentage) but I wanted to add my own two suggestions:

1. The Happiness Derived From Giving Has A Cap
I've read a few pieces of research that show money can buy happiness - to a point. In other words, as you earn more you become happier until you reach a certain threshold. I've seen that put at various amounts around €40k-€60k per year. After that your happiness levels off and it doesn't matter how much more you earn. I can believe that.

Is there a similar pattern in giving? Do you get more and more pleasure from giving away money, but only to a certain point?

If that was the case it would explain the figures. We want to give more and more, we want to give a higher amount. But once we hit a certain level there just really is nothing more in it for us and the amounts we choose to give, with pleasure, level-off.

If this is true how can we address it? How can we make giving continue to be pleasurable ad infinitum?

2. We Live In Fear Of Losing Our Lifestyle
One of the main reasons we don't give, no matter how wealthy, is not because we can't afford it but just in case we can't afford it. You may well have €10, €100 or a €1 million sitting there - and this could make a massive impact on someone else's life - but what if things go pear-shaped in the future and you need that money?

We give such a small percentage of our income because we fear being alive for another 30 or 40 more years and, if something goes wrong, we'd have to make sacrifices.

Look at Simon Cowell. He sits on a fortune of more than £200 million and earns about £50 million a year, and last week he was in the news talking about what he'd do with his money when he dies. Who can even spend that amount each year? Now if he knew for certain he would earn £50m a year for the rest of his life he would be much more willing to give away nearly everything he has right now.

Or what if the rich knew they could get their money back if they needed it?

What if the very wealthy could give all of their current wealth to a charity and should they need it in the future they could simply take it back? Think of it as prize bonds where the prize goes to someone who actually needs it. Charities could sit on the money, invest the money, even live off the interest, until that wealthy celebrity kicks their pearly bucket.

Would the wealthy give more if they knew there was no chance they'd ever have to clean their own house again?

Monday, September 2, 2013

13 Reasons It Sucks To Be A Charity In Ireland Right Now

If you set up an organisation or group whose purpose is to make the world a better place you would generally look in to calling yourself a charity. But the benefits of having the word 'charity' associated with you are really beginning to get outweighed by the drawbacks and negativity surrounding the word. You might be better off calling yourself a 'social enterprise'.

Here are 13 reasons why it sucks to be a charity in Ireland right now:

1. Nobody Cares What You're Doing
The media, the public, everybody - we just keep asking charities about their finances and their staff salaries. Or, on a more positive note, we'll sometimes talk about fundraising events and mini-marathons and pub quizzes. But nobody is talking about what charities are actually achieving and the impact they are having. Yes, good charities are providing that information - the proof of their good work...We just don't read it, share it or care about it.

2. People Want Good Governance But Nobody Is Willing To Pay For It
Everyone wants to see good governance from charities. We want to see transparency, good reporting, thorough accounting and more. But nobody wants their donation to go towards admin. CHY-22.

3. Your Staff Are Paid Less For Doing Good
If you work in the charity sector you're automatically earning 18% less than if you were doing the same job in the private sector, and that figure gets much higher in some roles. Yes, we're happy to reward you financially if you're making the world a worse place...but if you're working with the world's most vulnerable people then that should be it's own reward.
Nevertheless, the public still think charity staff are overpaid without batting an eyelid at private sector pay. Many people think charities should rely on volunteers, but people who register to volunteer on average only give about an hour a month of their time - how could any organisation run like that?

4. Changes In Tax Relief Have Cost You Money
Charitable tax relief in Ireland sucks in a lot of ways. But the latest changes to tax relief are good: charities now get the relief on donations from self-assessed individuals. However, charities won't see that relief until next year. In 2013 they just have to put up with the reduced income caused by self-assessed donors giving less (because it now costs them more).

5. City Councillors Hate You
Over 30% of Dublin City Councillors felt that no charity should financially benefit from a shop on Grafton Street. It didn't matter what you sold, what you looked like or even what consumers wanted. If a charity was going to generate income then these councillors wanted you banned.

6. You're Judged On Others' Behaviour
If a different charity has done something wrong, well you're going to be tarred with the same brush. We wouldn't dismiss 'businesses' because we had a bad experience with a business, but if a 'charity' does something rotten, well then all 'charities' are rotten.

7. The Regulator Is Going To Cost You
The Charity Regulator will finally appear next year, which is great news for everyone. Unfortunately, for the first year they're probably going to have the resources to do very little except copy and paste the list of charities registered with Revenue. Charities are going to pay an annual fee for that.

8. The Data Commissioner Is Making It Harder To Compete With Businesses
If the recent Irish Times article is to believed, the DPC has changed their interpretation of when it is and isn't acceptable for a charity to 'market' to its database, and this new interpretation does not seem to be in line with what private companies can do.

9. Charity Scratchcards Are About To Get Destroyed
When the National Lottery appeared the Government agreed to compensate charities who generated income from scratchcards. They did this because charities have an embarrassingly low limit on how much they can pay out in prize money, so can't compete. The compensation will go and these charity scratchcards will wither away and die because, frankly, why would you try to win €20k when you could win €4 million?

10. People Hate Your Most Cost-Effective Forms Of Fundraising
The most tolerated forms of fundraising (such as events, cash collections and selling stuff) are the most expensive and least efficient ways to raise money. Every form of fundraising people hate? Well, unfortunately they're much better.

11. The Most Unethical Corporate Sponsors Have The Most Money
Think of the top companies in Ireland: Alcohol, cigarettes, oil, gambling, financial investments. They're the ones with all the money. When they're not busy killing people and destroying our planet they'll sometimes donate money to charity. The really clever ones donate other people's money and take credit for it. Unfortunately, a lot of charities have to refuse this money because they have to behave ethically and, to be honest, they're trying to fix the problems these companies caused.

12. People Think There Are Too Many Charities
In fact, there are are less charities per person in Ireland than in countries like Wales, Scotland and Norway. But, assuming there were too many charities, nobody is actually able to specify which charity should or could be eliminated.

13. Large International Charities Are Pretending There Are No Admin Costs
Large well-known charities like Charity: Water have enough support from businesses and foundations to pretend that public donations will not go on 'admin'. The whole thing is meaningless and nonsense, but it gives the Irish public an unrealistic expectation that charities can operate with little or no overheads. This restricts small to medium charities and cripples their ability to grow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bad Statistics Are Dangerous For Charities

In the last week a few people on my Twitter timeline have posted (some sceptically) the results of Google's research in to how and why people donate on-line.

The conclusions from the statistics included that 75% of people start their donation research on-line, 74% of people donate because they believe in the mission, and 57% of people make a donation after watching a video.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is all complete bullshit.

Firstly, common sense - think about those numbers. Of course it's not true that more than half of people donate after watching a video. Of course it's not true that three quarters of people donate because they believe in the mission - do you even know what your favourite charity's mission is?

Secondly, let's look at the survey and trace it back.

The article I just read was this one, that exclaims that "57% of Those Who Watch Nonprofit Videos Go On to Make a Donation". Please note that the article is written by a YouTube Video Producer. I'm sure he's very good at that. But his statistic is just not true. That's not his fault...let's look where he gets it from.

He gets it from here. It's a nice article that most subsequent articles are referring to. It casually mentions that "An impressive 57% of people who watch a video for a nonprofit go on to make a donation."

But it doesn't link to the original research, which is a shame.

The original research is quite hard to find. Here it is. It is incredibly vague and unhelpful. It's also notable in the fact that the research was actually carried out by MillwardBrown association with Google.

Look a bit further and you'll find the methodology, which is almost always overlooked when we read statistics. This particular methodology really tells us very little.

But it does tell us they surveyed 982 people. I hate surveys - they are generally used by students and people trying to sell you something. The truth is when you ask people about their donation habits it is completely unreliable.

They also 'tracked donors behaviour backwards'. It is possible that they looked at donors, worked backwards and found that 57% of people had come from videos. But that certainly isn't the same thing as 57% of people make a donation after watching a video. I would assume that more than 99% of people watch a video and then do nothing. This is either really badly worded...or they're just wrong.

And the carelessness in this analysing and presentation of statistics is dangerous. I find statistics in charitable fundraising particularly dangerous.

Small, medium and even large charities are going to read these statistics and going to read articles written by very intelligent people. They're going to assume that it's correct - 57% of people who watch a video will go on to donate. And then they're going to put their fundraising budget in to making these videos. They'll put them on-line and they will do nothing. They will not generate income. They will fail. And that money will be gone.

These statistics are dangerous because it draws charities in to the belief that this is what will work for them.

It won't.

Please don't put your fundraising budget in to YouTube videos unless it is part of a bigger and more researched fundraising mix.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I Wish I'd Thought Of That: Direct Dialogue Fundraising

This is an expanded version of what I said at Fundraising Ireland's 'I Wish I'd Thought Of That' event in August 2013.

I want to talk about my favourite form of fundraising - direct dialogue, face-to-face, door-to-door, street, 'chugging'. You’ve no doubt already made your mind up about it - you use it and love it, you think it’s a necessary evil, or you hate it and you’re never going to use it.

But, I want to talk about how it changed fundraising, how it changed my life, and why I think it’s important to you whether you use it or not.

Door-to-door sales was invented shortly after the invention of door but it was around the early 70s that a charity first made a measured effort to recruit regular givers - it was the Red Cross using an agency in Germany, made up of mainly Austrian students.

And through that the concept spread back to Austria. One of the big charities to do it in Austria was Greenpeace, and one day in the hot summer of 1995 the employees of an agency named Dialog Direct were whining that there was nobody home. So they went and stood outside a public swimming pool and started talking to strangers walking by, signing them up for DD. It worked - they did it at a second swimming pool - and then shifted almost all of their door on to street.

In ‘96 the French were well into their nuclear testing - identifying some of the most beautiful places in the world and then blowing those places up - and it was thanks to this that Greenpeace really found their groove with direct recruitment.

They recruited 55,000 new direct debit donors that year through direct dialogue in Austria (a country about double our population). Some of the fundraisers involved presented it at the IFC conference - and people didn’t believe it worked. It wouldn’t work. It’s not possible. But they were wrong.

The idea was exported to Italy. Czech republic. Anywhere that could process standing orders or direct debits. Australia started using it. A telephone agency in the UK was essentially forced by Greenpeace to move out onto the street. But they knew it would be controversial, so they got the likes of Amnesty and WWF on board to help control the public opinion.

2002 or 2003-ish was about the time that the first in-house teams started to appear and about the time it arrived in Ireland.

Which brings me to 2004 - the year I started on the street for UNHCR, MSF and Forgotten Children (an Australian charity whose celebrity patron is Toadfish from Neighbours). And that changed my life.

It changed it immediately because I met amazing people, and was given amazing things on the street, and randomers would invite me to parties. I completely fell in love with the girl who trained me in and that was a disaster for about a year, and then it was really good for about 6 hours, and then it was a disaster again.
And then long-term it changed my view on ‘charity’ and realistically how we are going to change the world (Hint: it involves money). It got me working in the charity sector which is where I’ve stayed - I currently own a fundraising agency that employs nearly 100 'dialoguers'. And in a roundabout way I met my girlfriend and had a kid through it.

But why would you care about any of that?

Well, the point is that face-to-face fundraising works. And I don’t mean using an agency. I’m not necessarily talking about these large campaigns or even the fundraisers that stand on the street all day. I’m talking about you, as a fundraiser.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have gone on to work in other agencies and charities and I believe if you’ve ever worked in sales or street or door-to-door that you take this skill along with you to ask for money. A friend of mine who worked on door-to-door (as well as other jobs) made the transition to office-based fundraiser. He ended up working for a well known international charity, who had been in Ireland for nearly 10 years and they had 1 direct debit donor. He went in and started engaging with volunteers, supporters, at events, even staff. He started 'face-to-face fundraising' with everyone he met. Within about a year they had 50 DD donors.

I love technology and digital - twitter and e-mail and social media and text giving and all this fancy stuff - and I hate talking to people. But in terms of fundraising very often this technology is just making it easier for us to NOT really ask for money. We’re using the latest technology to access hundreds of thousands of people and make it really easy to ignore us. Genuinely, are you going to raise more money today by e-mailing 100,000 people or by talking to ten?

Whatever changes in the future humans will continue to give to humans. The more you sound like a human, the more you look like a human the more you will raise. You can't fully understand any form of fundraising until you've had someone say "Yes" to your face and someone say "No" to your face.

And that's why I wish I thought of Direct Dialogue fundraising.

Friday, August 23, 2013

4 Things Fundraisers Can Learn From Spanx

The infamous Mary O'Kennedy challenged me to write a blog post on Spanx and fundraising.
First of all I had to learn about Spanx - and I'll never get that time of my life back, so thank you Mary. Thankfully the history of the company is reasonably interesting. I also learned that on-line Spanx is the 'Street Fundraising' of the underwear world: people have some pretty strong opinions.

But here we go...4 Things Fundraisers Can Learn From Spanx.

You Are Not Your Target Audience
When the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, tried to get the idea off the ground, most of the [male] mill owners said they wouldn't get involved because the idea didn't make sense and would never work. It was only when one of the mill owners ran the idea by his two daughters (who loved it) that he change his mind.
That's important to remember in your fundraising - it doesn't matter what you like. What's important is what your donors and potential donors like.

Be Realistic With Your Expectations
Spanx don't make you look a size or two smaller - they'll smooth you out and can help your appearance, but they're not a miracle fix.
Like fundraising, there is no miracle fix. It takes hard work. It takes time. It takes good, solid fundraising over time to build your income. Stop looking for a quick fix because there isn't one.

Pretty Does Not Mean Good
They might not be pretty, but if it achieves what you're trying to achieve then who cares?
Some of the best forms of fundraising are ugly. Be clear on what your goal is: are you trying to raise money for amazing causes or are you trying to look pretty? Do you want little knickers riding up your butt all day or do you want your direct mail campaign to break-even in the first year?

Don't Be Afraid To Cut Out The Parts That Don't Work For You
The concept of Spanx was simply pantyhose/tights that didn't roll up when you cut the bottom off. Sara Blakely cut out (am I clutching at straws here?) the part of the product that didn't work for her.
Too often in fundraising we keep something going because we're attached to it - golf classics, annual events, membership programmes, microsites, etc. But if they're not working anymore, if they're not the best use of time and resources, then we have to have the courage to cut them out.

If you want to read more about Sara Blakely there's a good bit of detail on Spanx's website. Sara Blakely was the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge. She's an amazing person. She works hard to break down the barrier of women not having the same opportunities as men, which is still blatantly evident, even in Ireland. I would like to buy her a hot chocolate.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ask The Fundraisers #1

I wanted to try this as a semi-regular blog post - ask a bunch of my favourite fundraisers the same question and see what answers they come back here's the first "Ask The Fundraiser":

“If you joined a brand new charity on their first day of existence - no fundraising programme or staff whatsoever and little or no budget – as the person responsible for fundraising what is the first thing you would do?”

"I would try to get my head around the need – 1. The need for the organisation and 2. the need for fundraising to support us meeting the need. Then I’d go after data…I love data and am not afraid to say it."
Elley Martin, Donor Marketing Manager, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke

  1. Refine your story. Communicate with passion and emotion why the charity is needed and make the story as personal as possible about who will be helped. Recruiting (or being) a good copywriter will make a big difference to how people respond to your story. An emotive video to tell your story is probably one of the most effective things you can do.
  2. Define exactly what a gift to your charity will accomplish. Make it tangible and connected directly to the beneficiary.
  3. Treasure Mapping – This involves interviewing everyone involved with starting the charity. Ask them who they know that might be interested in helping either with money, in-kind gifts or advice. Ask for introductions and make personal visits to everyone on the list. Continue to ask each person you meet to refer you to 2 or 3 others who might be interested. Keep telling your story and make sure all the staff can tell the story.
  4. Rent a mailing list of local businesses, professionals and individuals and mail a well written, emotive letter asking for donations. Mail regularly, you have to stay in people's minds. Be prepared with Thank You letters and a very simple follow-up report on how the gifts were used (this will become your newsletter eventually).
  5. If you have a programme site invite people down to tour the programme and meet the staff. Focus tours on telling the story and building relationships.
  6. Set up a Facebook page that tells your story and directs people to a donation website to give to a particular project. (next step is a basic website)
  7. Research possible foundation grants & submit 2-3 grant applications.
  8. Don’t expect to do anything but work and sleep for the first year. Start-up is painful.
Denisa Casement, Head of Fundraising, Merchants Quay Ireland

"What I am noticing more and more at the moment is the commentary on the importance of 'real' interactions with donors to keep them engaged (and giving!).  Assuming this would be a small start-up organisation, part of my strategy would be to use my smallness as an advantage and where possible, thank donors in personal and special ways. I would also try to give my donors opportunities to interact with the beneficiaries face-to-face, so they can see what an amazing difference their money has made. I think technology is great for lots of things but not for real relationships. Ultimately - I'd have a sure-fire fundraising strategy! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!"

Ed Hurrell, Business Development Manager, Fundraising Ireland

"I'd get the list of whatever volunteers, donors or supporters there were (including board members). Pick up the phone and give them all a call to find out why they care about the charity, what the charity does well in their opinion and what it doesn't do well."

Kevin Delaney, Founder of Charity Hack and Relay For Life Coordinator, Irish Cancer Society

"I'm assuming that the charity is a small start up with no funding and that you are donating your spare time.  In my opinion, everything stems from community fundraising so that's where I would start.  By building your brand locally first, you create a strong base which can then be turned into regular donors, corporate donations, major donors etc.
I'd start by asking friends and family to donate to a specific project, something that can be used as a showpiece as to what you are about.  I'd also ask for items of value to be donated which can be sold at car boot sales or online to raise money for the charity.  I'd also talk to local businesses and the church about running collections and displaying collection boxes and I would run local fundraising events.  It would be important to get contact details from donors so you can report back to each donor to keep them interested in the charity and to show how their donation is being used to drive change.
The other thing I would do on day one is to see if there were any grants available for the organisation.  That can be a long process so it is best to start day one.
In summary, I'd go for all the traditional routes that work.  Build a strong foundation and work out from there.  Don't waste much time on social media, it rarely works and its not as productive as the traditional routes."
Mike McGuire, Corporate Partnerships Manager, UNICEF

"I believe the most important part of any fundraising plan is knowing why the charity exists and what you are raising the money for. In order to know that you need to speak to as many people involved in the work of the charity as possible. And this is the first thing I would do. Find out why the charity exists, what it is trying to achieve and its objectives. I would speak to the people who started the charity and ask them how it came to exist. I believe fundraising should be built around the output of the charity and what it is achieving. This should be the foundation of any fundraising department and strategy. When you know why you are fundraising, it will become much clearer as to how to fundraise."
David Muldoon, Fundraising Manager, Cope Galway

"The first thing I'd do would be to look at the database. I'd want to know how many donors are on there, can we contact them and how, how they give (regular gift, or one off....or both!). If you have donors there that are actively engaged and want to give (or had in the past) you have a group of people to go to with a fundraising ask."
Aoife Garvey, Direct Marketing Executive, Concern Worldwide

Hugh O'Reilly, Business Development Executive, The Wheel

Do you want to be involved in the next one?
Do you have a suggestion for the next question?
Get in touch!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More Than One Way To Skin An Annual Report

'Tis the season of charity's annual reports and I always find it interesting to see how newspapers interpret results. I'm one of the only losers in the world that actually reads these things and I'm always disappointed to see the focus firmly sit on the finances as opposed to impact, output and achievement.

I wonder, what do the press releases look like?

Take Trócaire, for example...

In their latest annual report they exclaimed that, because of their donors:
- 2,409 families in Honduras now have access to water.
- 4,000 people in Mali were provided with emergency aid.
- 20,000 victims of conflict were given food and shelter.

And much, much more.

The newspapers went with the headlines "Trocaire goes into red even after €1m donation", "Anonymous donor leaves Trocaire a bequest of €1 million" and "Over €4 million left to Trócaire in wills last year".

It's a shame...wasted, precious media space that could have been used to highlight successes or raise awareness of work still to do. What percentage of media space is wasted on celebrity gossip and wishful-scandal?

The majority of articles and comments focused on the CEO's salary. People asked how much of their donations go on salaries...despite the fact that the annual report answers this very question. Wouldn't we be better asking how many lives were saved for each donation?

It's our own fault...the media are pawns and fueled entirely by supply from the charity and demand from us   - so that's clearly what we want to read. But just in case you'd like to read further than the headlines, here are some of the highlights I took from Trócaire's financial report:
  • Trócaire had a total income of €60 million and employed 423 staff. About 0.002% of their income went to their CEO, who worked for well below the market rate to manage a huge organisation and hundreds of staff and volunteers across 27 countries.
  • None of their trustees or board received an income from their work with Trócaire. They didn't even claim any expenses - no mileage, no cups of coffee, no bus fare to get to board meetings!
    It's worth noting that most private company directors would receive an income. It's safe to say these people have Trócaire's best interests at heart, and they are the ones that determined a fare salary for their CEO. If it was reasonable to pay less they probably would have.
  • Trócaire have published their senior manager's salaries - not many organisations, businesses or charities do that. Shouldn't we appreciate their transparency instead of criticising it?
  • The income from the public stayed stable - it takes amazing supporters and an amazing fundraising team to achieve that in a recession.
  • The level of detail is incredible. For example they specifically declared a €1,000 restricted donation from the Daughters of Charity. The people that benefit from their work is reported right down to the individual number. This is incredible for an organisation with a turnover of €60 million.
  • But they put a pie chart in saying what percentage they spent on 'charitable' activity - I hate's nonsense.

Oh, and if you'd like to actually start discussing their impact and the incredible work they do, then why don't we focus on their achievements for a couple of seconds. Why don't we take a mild glance at their output before we even consider judging them?

Shouldn't that be the what annual reports are all about?

How To Say No To A Street Fundraiser

I wanted to do a post on how to say no to a street fundraiser as so many people struggle with it, which I've never understood. The big secret is to say "No thanks" or "No" or nothing and keep walking on your usual path. That works 99.9% of the time.

If that doesn't work then you need to make a complaint...I'm going to do a post on 'How To Make A Complaint' as so many people seem to struggle with that too. (Hint: the first person you need to call is someone who can do something about it)

But I've also stolen a great idea from Diarmaid O'Sullivan and built upon it. So here's a voucher/coupon for you to complete and give to street fundraisers who try to engage you:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I'm Sorry, But Charity Works

It is remarkably convenient to say that charity doesn't work.

That conclusion could save us billions in aid, allow each of us to personally save money in donations, and we could finally ban all those heartwrenching pictures we see on TV and in the post. Knowing that charity didn't work would allow us to feel helpless, remove all guilt and let us conveniently blame 'them'.

And a lot of people are telling us this.

Warren Buffett's son was the loudest most recently - he explained that "giving back" keeps the structure of inequality in place. "No charitable intervention can solve any of these problems."

And anecdotally you've probably read about a failed project, met someone who has seen a charity wasting money, or heard about a fat cat charity CEO sitting on a throne of gold human skulls. The latest charity CEO salary debate saw responses exclaiming that little or no money gets to the people that need it. That charities are not motivated to fix problems as it keeps them in employment. They're corrupt, they're inefficient, they're not transparent.

Yes, I'm sure you can find that charity (although most critics don't have any facts to back up their claims). I personally struggle with charities like the Iona Institute, those that promote homeopathy, and specific organisations I've seen managed badly.

But there are hundreds of thousands of charities who are making a difference. Charities who are transparent, will answer all your questions and will publish all of their achievements and failures. There is independent research and analysis showing projects and work that succeeds...that is working, and will continue to work as long as there is money coming in. Organisations like GiveWell are thoroughly researching charities and publishing exactly how well they are doing what they do.

And anecdotally try talking to someone who has seen the good work a charity has done or even benefitted directly from it. Try calling the Samaritans phone number or visiting an animal shelter and then saying it isn't "working". Look up how many people the Red Cross have trained in First Aid or how many wells Charity Water has built. Try talking to one of these fat cat CEOs or their staff and asking for the results.

But, as Stewart Lee said, you can prove anything with facts.

Of course they don't all work. In the same way that not all 'businesses' will succeed, not all 'politicians' are effective and not all 'scientists' are right. But you can't dismiss 'charity' because of another's failures. You wouldn't give up eating forever because you got food poisoning.

Unfortunately, it comes down to research and a little bit of trust. Research in the same way you would research the creche you leave your kids at or research a car before you buy one. And trust in the same way you have to trust that not everyone on your flight is a terrorist and not everything is a scam.

The Effective Altruism movement is the desire to make the world as good a place as it can be; the use of evidence and reason to find out how to do so; and the audacity to actually try.

Massive inequality, unethical companies and immoral governments and laws are making it more difficult to have an impact (and of course that needs to change). But that's no excuse to give up improving lives within the constraints we have.

There's no easy way to say this. You can make a difference and change the world.

But it's going to take a little work.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Is Innovation?

1. Make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
2. Introduce something new, esp. a product.
When people and charities think about innovating they think about amazing websites, viral videos and slick apps. We see Google sending up wi-fi balloons, Coke using personalised vending machines, and Apple churning out whatever shit Apple is churning out right now.

But this misinterpretation of innovation is dangerous. It's causing charities to spend money on stuff that isn't likely to work for them and using big chunks of their budget on something that really requires millions to make any kind of a dent. I'm all for taking risks...but there's a scale of risks.

One organisation's innovation is another organisation's history. There's no point trying to keep up with Google, Oxfam or Steve Jobs if you haven't even got the basics in place.

If you've never asked anyone for a donation before then that's an innovation...try it.

If you don't have a direct debit facility then that's an innovation...get it.

If you've never picked up the phone to speak to a donor then that's an it.

Here's to the kind-of-crazy ones that try something new...something that everyone else has already proved works.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Got From Charity Hack 2013

Saturday 10th of August was the first ever Charity Hack, organised by future fundraiser of the year Kevin Delaney. It brought together 5 amazing charities and a roomful of people to spend 12 solid hours coming up with a 'campaign' from scratch.

Charity Hack have done a good job at capturing the day through blog posts, twitter, photos, video and even an artist. And I wanted to add to it from my perspective...and so here is What I Got From Charity Hack:

The 'secret' to fundraising is asking
Small to medium charities always fear fundraising. Organisations are often embarrassed to ask for money because it feels like we're only 'taking'.
But it's not begging, it's not just shaking buckets, it's not one-way.
It's an opportunity. Almost everyone wants to make the world a better place and almost everyone has the money to do so. Fundraising is engaging with people and giving them the opportunity to improve their own world. Fundraising is spelling out for people how they can help and what will improve because of them.
Reducing crime, supporting the bereaved, improving our environment, educating people on their choices...these are all benefits and when you donate to charity you are buying these things in the same way you would buy any service or product.

We need to support the next generation of fundraisers
The fundraising talent is out there - individuals who are driven and clever and ready for bigger things.
And the need is out there - charities are struggling to fundraise, struggling to fill positions, and struggling to survive.
But the two aren't connecting. Why is that? Do we need more forums for junior/mid-level fundraisers? Do we need more mentoring? More support? More encouragement? Should charities take more risks on people? Spend more on training? Devote time to learning and growing?

Digital is not our saviour
It's just not. It probably never will be. It's a great facility, but it's cold.
Just because you have an amazing website and text-donate facility and a stupid App it doesn't mean people are going to use them.
People still respond to people, and the more you look and sound like a person the more people will respond.

Charities need support from the start
A new charity is formed every two days in Ireland. In some ways I understand why: the world is crap and we would all like to do something about that.
And if setting up a new charity is genuinely the best thing to do, then you need to be prepared. You know what you're trying to achieve, but you need realistic, achievable and measurable goals. You need a strategy. You need to plan.
And you need to be is irresponsible to take donations in year 1 if you're going to have to shut your doors in year 2 because you can't afford to go on.
We need to support charities from day 1, and charities need to be open to that support. Thankfully, every person at Charity Hack was open to that.

People are inherently good
Over 30 people gave up their Saturday to devote more than 12 hours to helping people they didn't know.
Sponsors paid for food, drink and random stuff because they liked the idea and wanted to help.
In my thirties, since I became a miserable bastard, I try to limit the number of new friends I make to about one per year. My rate of friend attrition is running at about 30%.
But when you put yourself in situations where you're surrounded by motivated, positive and passionate people there is a definite risk of meeting people you like.

It's safe to say it'll happen again next year... #charityhack2014

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Charity Salaries And Overheads - It's That Time Again

It comes around about 3 times a year: a leading national newspaper publishes the (publicly available) salaries of charity staff and a bunch of people flip out.

So, for convenience, here's a collection of blog posts I've written on the subject:

How Much of My Donation Is Spent On Overheads (Or Why Admin Costs Are Bullshit)
"I want you to spend my donation on your wages, on your toilet paper, the spatula on the new Rainbow Warrior, on your Xmas party. Whatever you feel it takes to change the world.

Frequently Asked Questions
"It's not wrong to make money from selling water, providing information, providing gas and electricity, producing medicine, teaching, upholding the law, being a doctor, destroying our planet, etc."

Donate Directly To Those That Need It
"Here's my artistic interpretation of money going directly to those in need."

The Problem With Dan Pallotta
"The correct argument is of course that nobody should be earning $400,000 or $232,000 or anything near that while there are still people suffering for no reason."

Why Charities Are Doomed
"Why couldn’t a charity have created Facebook, the iPod, Coke? Imagine! Instead of profits for shareholders these things were funding life changing projects?"

The Magic 100,000
"How much should they earn? Is €99,999 ok? €80k? €50k? €40k? What's the cut-off?"

The People vs. Angela Kerins
"A successful Irish business woman who is willing to work well for a salary well below the industry standard because what she is doing is good."

The Opposite Of A Careerist
"You can not possibly care about animal rights, the environment, lifting people out of poverty AND keeping children safe."

Only 67% Of People Think Advertising Is Worthwhile
"74% felt that London-based offices for businesses were a "somewhat" or "very" wasteful expenditure."

Imagine Two Organisations
"They are heralded as one of the most generous, benevolent and ethical companies in the world."

More Than One Way To Skin An Annual Report
"What percentage of media space is wasted on celebrity gossip and wishful-scandal?"

The Death of Pie
"If we keep providing this information in such a lazy format then potential donors will continue to judge us lazily."

Friday, August 2, 2013

1 Second Every Day

This isn't strictly a charity or fundraising post, but I think there could be some relevance. I've always liked Charity Water's photo of the day, but I think there's an opportunity here to trump them.

For a number of reasons I've started recording one second every day of my life, and beyond that I'm trying to avoid taking photos or recording videos.

I'd love to see a charity record one second of every day. What would it look like?

UPDATED: Here's 18 months:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Only 67% Of People Think Advertising Is Worthwhile

The excellent nfpSynergy released results of a poll today showing the public's perception of charities and how they spend their money. It's depressing reading and a stark reminder that the public have unrealistic and unfair standards for charities.

Businesses and charities are two different beasts, yes. But if it makes financial sense to advertise, if it's in the best interest of the organisation to pay good salaries, if it's practical to be based in London then shouldn't that apply to both businesses and charities?

To highlight the absurdity of it, try re-reading the article below, where I've changed the word 'charity' to 'business'.:

Almost three in four people have said that London-based offices and rebranding are a waste of money for businesses, an nfpParody poll of 1,002 adults has shown.

The poll was carried out as part of nfpParody's business Awareness Monitor, which surveys a representative sample of adults in Britain. Of those surveyed, 74% felt that London-based offices for businesses were a "somewhat" or "very" wasteful expenditure, with just 4% saying they were "fairly" worthwhile, and the rest saying they were unsure.

Rebranding recieved a similar response, with 72% of people saying it was wasteful for businesses to spend money on changing their name, logo or look, and just 9% saying they felt it was worthwhile.

More than half (62%) of those surveyed said they would feel confident that a business spends revenue well if staff did not travel in first class and 55% of respondents said they would feel confident if the organisation was mostly ran by volunteers. Of those surveyed, 51% said that if nobody in the organisation was paid more than £50,000 a year that would increasse their confidence in the business.

In addition, close to one in five (23%) said that they would have more confidence in a business if staff paid for their own Christmas party, while 9% felt that staff would need to work for free one day a month for them to feel confident in a business's spending.

Online tools and lobbying recieved a more positive response, with 70% of respondents saying they felt that spending money on a website was worthwhile and over half of those surveyed saying that lobbying government and other organisations (58%), as well as advertising (67%), were worthwhile.

In addition, 48% believed that producing a magazine to update customers on work that had been done was a worthwhile expenditure for businesses.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Read The Charities Act 2009 So You Don't Have To

With the Charities Act 2009 now in place and a regulator on its way, it's time to get your house in order. But at 82 pages the Act is not exactly a pleasant read - most of the interesting fundraising stuff comes towards the end, and I use the word 'interesting' very loosely.

The good news is that I read it so you don't have to. Here's a summary of what you, as a fundraiser, might need to consider:

  • Non-cash collection (eg. Direct Debits) is finally acknowledged as a donation so follows the same/similar rules as cash collections, eg. permit requests.
  • 'Reasonable commission, or reasonable remuneration or expenses' are permitted for fundraisers.
  • Collection boxes must display the collection permit number, and they must be sealed. It must also display the charity name and registered number.
  • Public-facing collectors must wear a 'garment' (LOL) that displays the charity name and registered number.
  • Any DD/Standing Order forms must display the charity name, registered number, bank account details and the collection permit number.
  • The Minister can make further regulations to ensure fundraising does not 'unreasonably intrude' on anyone's privacy, is not 'unreasonably persistent', does not 'result in undue pressure, and does not involve any 'false or misleading representation'.

The Register
  • If you have a CHY number you'll automatically join the register of charities (and have to pay an annual fee).
  • If you don't have a CHY number you'll need to apply to join the register within 6 months of it launching.
  • If you're applying then new information you'll need to provide includes names and addresses of all trustees, all bank accounts, financial accounts, and the manner in which you have raised or propose to raise money. You'll also need to give details of agents/consultants you work with.
  • If you're not registered it will be an offence to advertise or imply that you're a charity. Asking for donations is a big no-no.

Definition of a Charity
This changes a little bit, but not significantly. Your organisation still needs to be of public benefit under one or more of the following categories:
  • The prevention or relief of poverty of economic hardship;
  • Advancement of Education;
  • Advancement of Religion
  • Any other purpose that is of benefit to the community.

The Act & Regulator In General
  • Will be reviewed within 5 years.
  • The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltachet Affairs will appoint the first Chief Executive (Jobs for the boys!)
  • There will be a Charity Appeals Tribunal - a sort of Jedi Council if you're looking to appeal any decisions against you.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When Do You Refuse A Donation?

Would you refuse a charitable donation from a tobacco company? From a strip club? From a bank?

What about a donation from someone who made their money in the arms industry? Or a racist? Or a paedophile?

I find it a genuinely interesting hypothetical ethical (hypothethical?) discussion, but these are real decisions that real charities are making every day.

Just this week the ISPCC accepted a donation from a group of fundraisers who took part in the Pamplona bull run in Spain. They were criticised, obviously because the treatment of these bulls is ridiculous. Mary Gamble (who I love!) responded, "We desperately need every single cent we receive. We won't be refunding it, we absolutely need everything we get." An animal charity obviously wouldn't take it, but is it disrespectful to other fundraiser's peers to accept it?

One of the greatest fundraisers I know, Denisa Casement, was once approached by a strip club who wanted to hold a fundraiser for a children's charity she was representing. ("We care deeply for children and all our 'girls' have kids.") Despite it being a legal business, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who thought the two 'brands' worked well together. She made two suggestions: either they give to a charity anonymously or they start an education fund for their dancers' children so they can have a better life than their mothers. The strip club manager left in a rage.

Meanwhile in the UK, a convicted child sex offender left over £1 million in his will to three different charities. Each of them had to make the touch decision of whether or not to accept this money.

More recently, Help For Heroes rejected the fundraising efforts of the English Defence League because they did not accept 'political fundraising'. Yes, the fundraiser is clearly a racist and an asshole, but where is the line drawn? If you disagree with a donor's politics do you reject them? Is there anyone in the world whose 'politics' you would fully agree with?

The answer of course is that there is no line...or no universal line. So what is your line? What is your organisation's line?

Two of the most coveted CSR programmes in Ireland are Paddy Power and the Ryanair Calendar. Most organisations want to be involved with these because the benefits are huge. But with one promoting gambling and the other claimed to be sexist, it's clear that there are charities out there working (and fundraising) against the negativity that each of these creates.

So the question every business that donates to charity meanwhile causing problems for another charity? Why are so many of the most profitable businesses in our world the least ethical? If alcohol and tobacco companies have so much money to be giving away then are they being taxed enough?

The solution is of course anonymous donations - the companies can do lots of good and the charities don't have a dilemma on their hands. But that doesn't work, does it? Very few companies are willing to do that and if you don't want the donation on their terms...well, hey...there are plenty of charities desperate enough to take it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What The Charities Act & Regulator WILL NOT Do

Today Minister Shatter announced plans to establish an Independent Charities Regulator to become operational in 2014. For everyone in the charity sector the implementation of the Charities Act 2009 is very welcome, and judging by the public comments on-line it is universally welcome.

However, there is clearly a misunderstanding of what the Charities Act contains. The 3 areas that seem to be focused on by the public are not necessarily areas that will be affected by the new regulator. The Charities Act:

  • Will NOT have an impact on charity CEO salaries
  • Will NOT have an impact on religious organisations getting tax relief
  • Will NOT get rid of street fundraisers (sometimes referred to as chuggers)

CEO Salaries
My understanding is the Charities Act has no say on what a charity CEO should be paid, although the act does touch on persons being paid reasonably and proportionately to the service they provide.

But charities will never be regulated on how they pay their staff, in the same way businesses aren't regulated on how much they pay their staff - because it wouldn't make any sense.  Trustees/Directors will continue to decide what is appropriate to pay a CEO and their obligation/desire will continue to be getting the best possible staff at the lowest possible cost, operating in the best interests of the charity.

I know you don't want to hear this but it's still going to be up to you to determine who is worthy to donate to. If you don't like what a charity pays their CEO or they refuse to tell you then you can withhold that donation. But if you like what the charity is achieving and the impact they are having then their staff are probably doing a good job.

You can read more on my own thoughts on charity salaries in these posts:

Religious Organisations
The Charities Act specifically states that "The advancement of religion" remains a charitable purpose.

You can read more on my own thoughts on certain organisations and charitable tax relief here:

Street Fundraisers
While the Charities Act 2009 provides for certain minor changes to the requirements of cash and non-cash collections, it still specifically allows these (extremely effective) fundraising methods to continue. Thankfully an official permit system will continue on from the self-regulation of the IFFDR, and this should weed out some cowboys, but fundraisers will continue to interact with you on the street and knock on your door.

The onus will remain on the public to check if the fundraiser talking to you is legitimate and if the charity they are representing is really the best place to donate money. The charity register will make this easier, but you'll still have to do a bit of work to see if the specific charity is actually helping anyone. 

You can read more on my own thoughts on street fundraisers here: