Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Do Fundraisers raise funds?

This week's Third Sector magazine (10 Jan 2007) has an interesting edtorial by Nick Cater, which is highly critical of professional fundraisers. It led me to dig out an old draft of a blog I wrote, back last summer, but never published, so here it is:

A fundraiser is a person who raises funds, q.e.d. And very often the persons best able to do that are staff involved with programme implementation and delivery, as well as volunteers. In my experience -- which stretches back well over thirty years -- almost every pound spent on a professional fundraiser would have been more cost-effective if spent on PR. If what a charity is doing is worth while, provided your target audience knows about it (hence the PR) then the funds will generally come in. And as far as writing applications to foundations generally, with a modicum of training, the programme managers can do it far more effectively than a professional fundraiser .

Like all generalisations, this is of course far too simplistic. But within the charity fundraising world there an almost cultlike dependency on fundraisers. And now that it is institutionalised, barriers and regulations have been established to ensure the sustainability of the fundraising industry. While I am not saying that all fundraisers are a waste of money, I am saying that they are not always the most cost effective way of raising funds. In other word "caveat emptor" -- anyone seeking to raise funds should be aware that professional fundraisers have a vested interest in promoting their profession -- which is, like the Emperor's clothes, relatively new.

It is of course almost impossible to prove claims such as I have just made, one way or the other. But, certainly PR has always achieved far more than fundraisers for the WLT. And in other parts of the charity trade press there are some scary examples of how professional fundraisers have ripped off charities -- raising £800,000 but only £50,000 going to the charity for example.

1 comment:

  1. This week's Third Sector has a letter I wrote on this topic -- actually awarded the £25 for Letter of the Week (which will save another Acre).