Last Thursday I joined the Kaye Adams Programme on Radio Scotland to discuss charity donations. The segment came on the back of research showing a 159% increase in cold calling during the pandemic. There were concerns and anecdotal evidence (reported in the Times) that some of this increase related to charities seeking donations over the telephone and risks of this affecting older and vulnerable individuals.
The research does not appear to provide actual numbers identifying the extent to which charities have been engaging in such practices. Whatever the extent of this, the Kaye Adams Programme gave an opportunity to hear from those in the sector about the matter, to give an overview of the regulatory background and also to highlight that charities seek to positively build long term relationships with donors rather than one-off cold calling.
The discussion began with Daniel Fluskey of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising noting he would need to see further detail on the research as he would be surprised if charities were engaging in cold calling as it was not normal practice. Daniel highlighted that such behaviour would be contrary to rules and standards in fundraising. He was also unaware of increases in complaints to regulators in this regard, which would be indicative of issues. Daniel was clear any such targeting had no place in fundraising and encouraged those with concerns to contact regulators.
Kaye appreciated the pressures on the charity sector recently and the need to reposition fundraising efforts. With that, Corinne Hutton of charity, Finding Your Feet talked of the initial concerns about the impact of the pandemic on fundraising for the charity but said it never once crossed her mind to use cold calling.
Corinne said the key is to build a relationship with the public and donors. For her, creating pressure and guilt could never be part of fundraising. Instead, it was about showing the good things a charity was doing as the basis to encourage support. Following on from Kaye mentioning that charities have had to reposition fundraising in recent times, Corinne discussed the creativity that has been required recently to engage with supporters under the current restrictions, including through fundraising walks and step challenges. But definitely not cold calling! That creativity, the generosity of the supporters and hard work of two team members working on grant applications at Finding Your Feet had helped navigate the last year. Later on in the programme, Corinne said it was about showcasing what a charity does well and gave the example of Children in Need doing this very effectively.
Then it was my turn to join the programme. I started by saying fundraising is part of the overall good governance of a charity. A good governance approach to fundraising being one that builds the longer term relationship with donors. Charities will want to create effective fundraising strategies and not short fixes like cold calling, which good governance would lead a charity to shy away from. I talked about that long term relationship building being epitomised in the strength and importance of legacy giving through wills.
Kaye said there was a concerned text to the programme about correspondence found by a relative from a charity about increasing donations. I gave examples of charities proactively identifying and dealing with issues on potentially vulnerable individuals. And dealing with these situations in order to generally protect the individual such as engaging with family. I also offered a reminder of routes to raise concerns in Scotland: contact the charity; the role of the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel and OSCR.
A difficult ‘juncture’ was raised by Kaye where charity communications and updates meet placing some degree of pressure on individuals. Even where the communications were well-intentioned. In my view that brought us back to good governance and ensuring teams within charities and those helping charities with communications and marketing understood what was appropriate and acceptable. And with that good governance is the focus on trustee responsibility… trustees need to ensure fundraising practices are appropriate, including where anything is outsourced.
Adam Stachura of Age Scotland concluded things. He made the point that people are generally polite and do not want to hang up on those calling them. Adam reminded listeners that they can say ‘no’ to anyone calling them about any matter and that they can opt out of being called. On that last point, Adam also referenced the role of the Telephone Preference Service, call blocking devices and Trading Standards. All of this would help ensure people were making decisions, including supporting charities, when they had the information and time they needed to make a good decision.
At this blog, we are fans on telephone based songs. Who doesn’t like ELO? But it seems from those joining Kaye that the charity sector has been listening to Telephone by Lady Gaga (featuring Beyonce): “… eh, eh stop telephonin’ me” already appear to be watchwords on effective and appropriate fundraising.
The playback of the discussion can be found here on BBC Sounds… at 2:33:20.
For help and advice on charity law as well as maters such as powers of attorney and other legal support for vulnerable individuals, get in touch with Alan Eccles: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07470808717.
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