Campaign to undermine charities threatens fundraising

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SCVO chief executive warns that a UK government campaign to undermine charities threatens to alienate public donors

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22nd October 2014 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

A UK government campaign to undermine charities risks turning donors and philanthropists away from giving, a leading charity figure told fundraisers this week.

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations chief executive Martin Sime warned delegates at the Insitute of Fundraising (IoF) Scotland conference that the charity brand is being damaged by a systematic attack on the role of charities and funding cuts from the UK government.

The danger is that the public, including rich donors, will be turned off donating to charities, especially those that campaign and are considered to be controversial.

Examples of the campaign to undermine charities include former civil society minister Brooks Newmark saying that charities should stay out of politics and “stick to their knitting”.

Campaign to undermine charities threatens fundraisingMartin Sime, SCVO chief executive

If such attacks continue they risk undermining public trust in charities which will make it more difficult to raise money for good causes

Earlier in the year foodbank charity Trussell Trust said it had been warned to tone down its criticism of welfare cuts, while backbench Tory MP Conor Burns reported Oxfam to the Charity Commission over a anti-poverty campaign he claimed was “overtly political”.

Charities are barred from promoting individual political parties, however many consider campaigning for social change to be one of their core functions.

Sime said: “Ministers have recently accused us all of being left-wing, anti-business and full of Labour Party activists. This is part of an orchestrated attempt to undermine charity campaigning on behalf of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our society – the very same people who are bearing the brunt of austerity policies and the politics of division and blame.

“If such attacks continue they risk undermining public trust in charities which will make it more difficult to raise money for good causes. The daftest thing of all about this attack is that if donors retreat the government will face rising costs.”

Sime also highlighted “hostile legislation” such as the recent Lobbying Act, which some fear will impact on charities’ ability to campaign effectively in the run up to elections.

He was speaking on the second day of the IoF Scotland conference, which focused on the body’s “proud to be a fundraiser” campaign.

Speakers highlighted good practice in a range of different areas, including direct mail, communication, legacies, and major gift fundraising.

IoF Scotland committee chair John Brady argued in the closing session on Tuesday that innovation in fundraising is over-rated and that fundraisers should spend more time perfecting their core skills and learning from local successes.

“People attending conferences quite naturally want to hear about the best fundraising in the world whether from Scotland, the rest of UK, Europe or even further away,” Brady told TFN.

“But sometimes in our desire to find out what is best practice we spend so much time gazing longingly at London for inspiration, we miss the truly inspiring stuff on our own doorstep.”

Despite one session entitled RIP direct mail, both Brady and Adrian Salmon of Alumni Development at the University of Leeds argued that there is still money to be made from direct mail.

Salmon has overseen a 700% rise in income from direct mail to University of Leeds Alumni appeals since 2012. He said the trick is to know your audience and turn them into the hero.

He said: "Direct mail was less than 10% of our income in the 10 years before, and since 2012, it has increased to between 40 to 50%.

“The difference is that we started talking about what people were interested in and not what we were interested in."