Money for nothing – thanks goodness we’re not alone


Charlotte Bray believes more and more companies are targeting charities in the hope of making a quick buck

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5th December 2017 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

TFN warned us recently of a company that has identified non-profits as a "lucrative market".

Charities were told they were nominated for an award and offered a free ticket to the (presumably glitzy) ceremony. The catch – further tickets were £75 each. A further catch – no one knows anything about these awards. We assume they’ve been set up purely to make money out of us. And when TFN asked, that turned out to be the case. 

As our sector becomes larger, more professional and higher profile, there will be some who think we're an easy target.

Charlotte Bray

Charlotte Bray

An award ceremony or too good to be true offer of support or expertise can be tempting for a charity or fundraiser striving for recognition and struggling for support

I am increasingly contacted by companies trying to sell me so-called essential products that will transform my fundraising. It can be tricky to differentiate between the 'please transfer all your money to a Nigerian bank account’ type frauds and those providing a genuine service.

Fundraising Chat is a Facebook group that can be helpful in these situations. Recently, I was offered substantial free funding to upgrade our website. Regular calls urged me to take advantage of this fab opportunity. I looked the gift horse straight in the mouth (via Fundraising Chat) and yes, there was a catch. Get your site upgraded but commit to a year of hefty support costs. I said nah you’re alright thanks. The calls ended abruptly. 

Some organisations are purely after our money. They jump on the buzz words (digital giving, relationship fundraising, GDPR) and offer services that are vital, will boost your performance, result in fountains of donations etc. Often it turns out they have less experience in these areas than I have in, say, plumbing. I once fixed my loo flush with a bent coat hanger – I’ll sort your sink for a tenner…

This makes it even more important for charities to be able to identify and take advantage of genuine bargains. With stripped back budgets, it can be tempting to try to get everything free of charge. I’m studying for an MBA (apparently I don’t like having too much spare time) and am struck by the differing attitude to investment in the for-profit sector. They too have tight budgets, but aren’t afraid to pay for services that will build their future. OK, they have greater resources, but it’s worth thinking about.

My experience has been largely with smaller charities. I start with a wish list budget before whittling it down to: can I least have a computer? Having to consider the return on investment on every penny is a good discipline. There are some resources that I believe are essential and which I will fight to have included in my budget.

Sometimes the providers of these essential services, which were created to provide basic support to those with small budgets, become very popular and, again, an opportunity is seized. They are taken over by bigger companies and suddenly the basic level CRM you were enjoying has whistles and bells and is priced out of your range. 

There are two sides to this. Companies who are genuinely keen to support the sector need to recognise the broad spectrum of budgets. We don't all have big fundraising departments, a sliding scale of services can help us grow together in a long-term partnership.

In turn, we as charities need to fight for the things we really need and to be honest about what’s just nice to have.

The sad thing about some of these questionable companies is they prey on our weaknesses. The I love you email virus several years ago was effective because it tapped into a basic need. An award ceremony or too good to be true offer of support or expertise can be tempting for a charity or fundraiser striving for recognition and struggling for support. That is where networks like SCVO, Fundraising Chat or the Institute of Fundraising, can help us navigate the money minefield.

Thank goodness, we're not alone! 

12th December 2017 by Darren

Charlotte,Lots of good points here.I've used the Fundraising Chat facebook group to get help with a wide variety of challenges and every time I am grateful to work in such a supportive profession.I'd highly recommend readers to join the group if it is appropriate for your role.Darren