Fundraising is not just selling something, it is changing the world for the better and a critical activity in scaling up civil society to deal with the problems that business and government cannot, or will not, solve or in many cases actually cause, whether by intent or negligence.
One of IFC’s clients is the White Helmets, who operate voluntarily in Syria. Stunningly brave and dedicated people who go where governments fear to tread and business has all but vanished. Another is London Art College, strapped for funds by an austerity-obsessed government but needing to raise capital for a new building; and a third is Sense, an international organisation based in the UK, supporting deafblind people and seeking to open up a new market for fundraising to support their work in Peru. I am proud of IFC’s achievements and there are many more case studies at IFC Group.
These are the things I think about when I write or talk about fundraising, and why I am proud to be a fundraiser. Us fundraisers are not merely doing a difficult job, which could be interchangeable with any other that paid the same – we are improving lives, even saving them, and rescuing people from lives of misery and despair.
I know that may not sound right in an English context where claiming any kind of virtue or merit is frowned upon, but if it is never said, if that territory is never claimed, then that lets the door open to such appalling statements as the person who said “Charity? Bugger off! Don’t come knocking on my door — you’re not invited. It drives me crazy…” and who compared fundraisers to “rogues and cowboys” and by the way, it wasn’t Donald Trump it was Lord Grade, Chair of the Fundraising Regulator.
Yes, of course we are not perfect, and we make mistakes like everyone else, but we deserve respect and an understanding of motives that are often noble, altruistic and at least benign. All too often when people don’t want to give they shoot the messenger that comes telling them that people need help, this is how you could help them and what that help will do for them. Instead of politely turning us down they attack us and the techniques we use, whatever they may be. Yes, some of us could shape up and I have even written a book about this called ‘Fundraising and Zombies’ which is a guide to help you survive working in charities.
As fundraisers in the UK, we are faced by the destitution unleashed on society by a Government that should be looking after its own people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable to provide a level playing field for all; but instead we have seen a progressive withdrawal of government services driving people towards the arms of civil society organisations such as the charities where we work. In particular I am appalled by the rise of food banks and homelessness in our very affluent country.
Businesses can bring huge numbers of people out of poverty as we have seen in India and China, but they are not motivated or equipped to solve the range of human and environmental problems that exist globally and appear to be getting worse if the news is to be believed.
Worldwide, however, if we look over the last say, 100 years the picture is remarkably different. Stephen Pinker, in his new book ‘Enlightenment Now’ shows quite clearly how, by almost any metric, earth’s population has made spectacular progress and is in a better state than it has ever been. There are less wars, less starvation, more democracy, people are better educated and both science and medicine have made many of our lives so much easier and more pleasant. Of course, there is much still to do: poverty, wars and global warming etc. still pose serious challenges, and not every problem has been eradicated.
This positive development has not happened by accident. It is the direct result of a number of factors. Yes, longevity has increased through multiple factors but where did the money for medical research come from, who funds the hospitals, what is the effect of development in unleashing a healthy productive workforce and what role did debt forgiveness play? Yes, literacy has increased and who helped bring girls into schools, who helped governments build the schools, who sent volunteer teachers. Yes, poverty has fallen massively and who village by village, town by town worked on the complex issues involved to allow businesses to thrive and a more affluent population take part in the consumer society?
Of course, I don’t claim that charities, pressure groups and other non-profit organisations did all of this on their own, but countless numbers of NGOs have worked for years on these, and many other, issues and that has had a profound effect. And lastly, who raised the money that built those magnificent organisations? Professional fundraisers that’s who – that’s us!
And all that is what I care about when I care about fundraising…
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