Professionals, in Fundraising

The team at the University of Barcelona Postgraduate Certificate in Fundraising – on which I teach – have produced a new video promoting the profession of fundraiser and, yes, our course.

If you have friends or colleagues in Spain or Catalonia, pass them the link!

Thanks, Alastair

I have just had this lovely email from Alastair James, Senior Consultant at Global Philanthropic. He read my book, ‘How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe’ and wrote:

Dear Chris

I just wanted to say what a wonderful book you have written.

It is a fascinating volume, full of interesting and well-researched material, and I have learned a lot by reading it. You have approached the subject with the rigour of a true academic, but you have written it in a very engaging and accessible style.

I have come away with an overwhelmingly positive impression of philanthropy in Europe from reading your book, although you have also been very clear about the lack of information available in the sector. The fact that foundations are starting to be more open is a very good sign.

I also think that, in the current difficult climate, the book provides a lot of encouraging messages for fundraisers – not least the fact that fundraising has been going on for a long time in Europe, and will, for sure, continue to do so.

My warmest congratulations to you on this superb book.

Best wishes.

Alastair

Alastair James
Senior Consultant
Global Philanthropic
a.j@globalphilanthropic.com

 

Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press. He writes in a personal capacity.

Mind the Gap

Thank you for your comments in the Factary blog over the last few weeks. Even the ones we disagree with.

Really.

Because your comments – Adrian, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Finbar, Gareth, Jay, Jeremy, Jon, Julie, Luke, Nicola, Oliver, Peter, Philip, Sarah, Tim, – show the size of the gap between two camps.

In one camp are the people who work with philanthropists in charities, universities, theatres and museums. These people know that in order to manage a relationship with a customer – in this case, a philanthropist – we need to do what the banks, the supermarkets, the accountants, lawyers, architects and many others do. We need to be able to access public domain information in order to understand our customer, and we know that we have a legitimate interest in doing so. Sometimes we are required to do this research – for example by our supervisors at the Charity Commission.

Sometimes, we need to do this research before we have met the person. Which is why we have a range of controls, including legal controls and codes of conduct that set limits on this type of research.

In the other camp are the people who believe that precisely this type of research is an intrusion into an individual’s privacy. That searching for a named individual in Companies House fundamentally affects the rights of that person.

This is out of our hands now. The Fundraising Regulator and the Information Commissioner are putting together guidance that – we hope – will resolve this difference.

So we are closing, for now, this thread of conversation. We are not going to take any more comments in this area, for now. The debate needs much more hallowed halls than Factary can offer – it should be taking place in Parliament, or at the NCVO, not in our blog.

We have a job to do – to provide ethically sourced public domain information for our many non-profit clients, and we’d better get back to that.

The Future of Philanthropy, in 1 Question

You are at a board meeting of your charity. Board member Jane mentions her friend Peter, and says he might be interested in making a donation. Peter, she says, is the owner of a large software company.

Peter, to be clear, is NOT A CURRENT DONOR. He has not opted in or opted out or opted for anything at your charity.

Back at the office you put Peter’s name into Google. It’s in your legitimate interests to do so, and Peter would expect you to do this.

Turns out that Peter’s business is based in Newcastle.

You are in London, so there is time and travel cost to consider if you are to visit him. You use Companies House to find out about Peter’s shareholding and the company’s profits. These figures help you estimate Peter’s gift capacity. Again, it’s legitimate for a charity to estimate the size of a potential donation before it decides to spend money on a visit to Newcastle.

At an invitation-only event on the 21st of February, the Information Commissioner’s staff will tell charities and the Fundraising Regulator whether or not they can do this search.

The future of philanthropy in the UK hangs on the ICO’s reply to this one question.

Can a prospect researcher do the search outlined above?

If the answer to the question is “No”, then high-value philanthropy in the UK will change dramatically.

It will no longer be possible to use public-domain information to identify or understand potential donors. Charities, universities, museums, hospitals and theatres will have to stop, immediately, all proactive forms of reaching out to new high-value supporters.

How will high-value philanthropists react? They will give less. When charities stop asking, people of wealth will stop giving, or give less and less often.This is not just an assertion – it is demonstrated by research. In “Richer Lives: why rich people give”, Theresa Lloyd and Beth Breeze report that 69% of rich donors give ‘If I am asked by someone I know and respect.’ Charities, from cancer research to the lifeboats, will have to adapt to a dramatic cut in their income.

Some philanthropists will respond by setting up their own foundations. We know from Factary’s New Trust Update that they are already doing this in some numbers. They will manage their own projects via these foundations, meaning less money for mainstream charities.

If the answer to the question is “No”, then the ICO is taking on not just the charity sector, but pretty much every business in the UK. Because every day hundreds of thousands of secretaries, assistants and marketing people do this exact search to check up on potential customers. Can that really be the ICO’s intent?

If the answer is “Yes”, then the ICO is affirming prospect research. We CAN continue to research, understand, and evaluate potential donors and, with permission, actual donors.

We will know the future of philanthropy in the UK on the 21st of February.


Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press. He writes in a personal capacity.

Have I Mentioned…?

Have I mentioned my new book? (It’s the vain author’s constant refrain.)

Yes, I know I have. But that was pre-publication. Now I have an actual copy in my hands, so that means that the orders have started shipping from Policy Press.

This is a book for practical people. It’s about how high-value philanthropy is evolving across Europe, so practical people in fundraising, in prospect research, in social investment, in policy making and in education will all find – I hope – useful information here.

If you are a major donor fundraiser interested in why your donors keep asking about impact, you’ll find an answer here.

If you are a private banker or wealth adviser who wants to understand why your clients keep on asking about foundations in France, you’ll find out why, here.

If you are a policy maker wondering whether to recommend further tax relief for donations, then you’ll find the arguments here.

If you are a prospect researcher, wondering where to look for potential supporters in Switzerland, you’ll find some answers here.

And if you are the director of an NGO, wondering what your strategic priorities should be, you’ll find some suggestions here.

The book includes case studies, detailed research, some how-to, and a bibliography of more than 300 sources and references in (count ’em, ladies and gentlemen) seven languages. Its focus is Europe, meaning that this is not about the UK + the Continent + Ireland – it’s about the Continent + Ireland, plus the UK.

I hope you find it useful.

 

Order “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe” directly from Policy Press, here.

In Defence of the Public Domain

A university, a museum, or a charity does not raise £10m or £50m or more by accident. An alumna did not wake up one morning thinking “I must give £1m to my alma mater.”

This happened because a dedicated group of professionals managed a process that led to the alumna being asked for a very large philanthropic gift.

At the heart of that process was, and is, the prospect research team. The team used – like we all do – public domain information to identify and understand potential supporters.

But now one government agency, the Information Commissioner’s Office, wants to stop us using public domain information. In the emotionally-worded press release that accompanied the penalties for the British Heart Foundation and RSPCA, the ICO says that “companies used other information from publically [sic]-available sources to investigate income, property values, lifestyle and even friendship circles.” ICO staff members at fundraising and research conferences throughout 2016 told us that the information on directors held by Companies House is compiled for one purpose (regulation of business) and therefore cannot be used for another (prospect research.)

So perhaps we cannot use public domain information to identify and understand potential supporters.

Purposes

But think for a moment.

Why do I have my profile in LinkedIn? What is my ‘purpose’? Is it just a marketing tool, showing potential clients what a clever chap I am? No! I had all sorts of purposes in mind when I created my profile in LinkedIn. I wanted to reassure clients that I was, and am, a decent person. I am proud of what I have done and wanted – sorry folks, this gets personal – to boast a wee bit about setting up Factary, about the books I have written and the languages I speak. I wanted access to the profiles of other people with whom I might work or even play. I wanted to explain who I am and how I got here – it’s cathartic. And I wanted a useful depository for my lifeline – to remind me of exactly when I went to school or which year I started in fundraising.

I had a whole variety of ‘purposes.’

Expectations

As a result, I have a very wide variety of ‘expectations.’ This word is important, because the ICO believes that “millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened” by the news that charities targeted them for more money; in other words, this is about what people expect. With my profile in LinkedIn I expected that people would look at my personal story. I expected that Southampton Uni, my alma mater, would contact me about a donation (they did.) I expected that I would be networked to, and with (and indeed welcomed that opportunity.)

The person who has her biography in Who’s Who, or who gives a personal interview in the Times, or who is listed as the director of a company, or as the trustee of a charitable foundation has the same wide range of expectations.

The ‘purpose’ of a personal interview in the Times is to sell advertising space on the facing page of the newspaper; “All the papers that matter live off their advertisements,” said George Orwell, in Why I Write*.

But that is not the ‘purpose’ that the interviewee had in mind when she was approached by the journalist. Nor is it the ‘expectation’ of the interviewee. She knows, when she agrees to give the interview, that her warts-and-all will be exposed to public view. She expects that she will receive praise, opprobrium, investor pitches, car sales teams and an approach from a headhunter as the result of her interview.

The Public Domain

Information on company directors in Companies House – the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales – is made public for various purposes. The Registrar was created by The Joint Stock Companies Act of 1844. In the debate of the Bill that would create the Act (3rd July 1844), Mr Gladstone said “The principal object of the Bill was, that there should be established a public office, to which all parties soliciting to take part in Joint Stock Companies might repair, in order to know the real history of these companies.” Mr Gladstone was talking very clearly about corruption; “…it was most important that the Legislature should put a stop to the system that had been so long carried on of attaching the names of hon. Members, and men of importance and property, to schemes in order to entrap the unwary.”

So here again, at Companies House, we have a variety of purposes for information in the public domain. It is right and proper that prospect researchers use Companies House information to establish the “real history” of “men of importance and property”, and, 172 years after Mr Gladstone’s speech, of women of importance and property too.

All the universities that are engaged in raising funds, along with our theatres, museums and charities, manage a process that results in high-value philanthropy. At the heart of that managed process is prospect research. And alongside every prospect researcher is public domain information.

People in the public domain – in Who’s Who, or LinkedIn, the Times or Companies House – are there for a variety of ‘purposes.’ They expect that the information will be used in a variety of ways – including, yes, by people who will lead them into great philanthropic acts.

We prospect researchers do great works with public domain information. It is wholly legitimate that we use public domain information for this purpose. We must defend our right to do so.

Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press in January 2017. He writes in a personal capacity.

*The fuller quote, given here is:

“Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.”

Annus Horribilis

2016 has been my personal annus horribilis, at least in the public domain. (Privately, I’m fine thanks.)

It has been the year when two of my working-life projects have fallen apart.

First, my life as a European was cut off at a stroke by England’s vote for Brexit.

And then as an early Christmas present, the Information Commissioner decided that more or less everything that I had dedicated my working life to doing – understanding philanthropists so that charities could work better with them – was illegal, immoral and subject to multi-thousand pound fines.

The Brexit decision is too political a story for this blog. Suffice it to say that when one choses as a UK citizen to live in another EU country, learn its languages, learn and enjoy its rich cultural traditions, and feel thoroughly welcome as an immigrant, it is physically painful to know that a cabal of alt-right Ministers in Westminster are determined to throw you out.

So let’s focus on the Information Commissioner’s announcement yesterday. We would expect the Commissioner to use cautious language. She does not. She piles right into the topic by claiming that ‘millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened to learn that their generosity wasn’t enough.’

This is a clear example of evidence-based policy making. The Commissioner has evidence, we assume, that there are ‘millions of people’ who will be saddened that their generosity did not suffice. Given the paucity of information on donors in the UK, it would be so helpful if the Commissioner would share this data with the rest of us.

If the subjects gave their permission, of course.

Given that we are living in an age of austerity in which the ICO’s paymasters in government (of whichever colour) are cutting back on benefits, rights and payments, I would be utterly astonished if there were even ten donors, let alone millions, who would feel that their generosity was enough. It is never enough. Ask any of the homeless people in London if it is enough. Or the 960,000 people living in poverty in Scotland.

The Commissioner then applies the same broad brush approach to what she describes as ‘wealth screening.’ The language is purposefully vague and catches within its apparent scope almost all customer-focused, relationship-building, fundraising. It appears, on one reading of the statement, that it is somehow wrong to use information including ‘supporters’ names and addresses, dates of birth and the value and date of the last donation.’ It appears that to investigate ‘income, property values, lifestyle and even friendship circles,’ may be illegal, along with the ability to model ‘donors most likely to leave money in their wills.’

Adrian Beney has pointed out in an excellent blog that this is to do not with information or privacy, but our attitudes to money.

For me, it’s an Edwardian view of ‘charity.’ It’s a penny in an old man’s hat. Thanks guv’nor. Lord bless your little ones. It is about a one-way relationship, donor to ‘charity.’

There is a load of evidence (yes, actual evidence Commissioner) that this is not how donors want to relate to ‘charities’ (or, as we now call them, non-profits, or Social Purpose Organisations.)

Here is just one of dozens of research reports I could cite; ‘Donors respond to personalised communications from charities that they have a relationship with, and prompts from family, friends or colleagues.’ (source, Bagwell, Sally, Lucy de las Casas, Matt van Poortvliet, and Robb Abercrombie. ‘Money for Good UK: Understanding Donor Motivation and Behaviour’. London: New Philanthropy Capital, March 2013. http://www.thinknpc.org/publications/money-for-good-uk/., page 3).

And yet the Commissioner rails against non-profits that identify ‘friendship circles.’

The Commissioner has, either purposely or unwittingly, threatened the development of high-value philanthropy in the UK. By using this broad language, by focusing on an evidently outdated view of ‘charity’, and above all by fining organisations that are trying to build relationships with their supporters based on mutual understanding and knowledge, she has ensured that UK charities will step back, return to the door-knock and the ‘appeal’, never knowing (because the ICO bans such research) who is behind the door or receiving the letter.

This lack of research will drive a wrecking-ball through relationships between high-value philanthropists and non-profits. It is not coincidental that so many people of wealth are now establishing their own foundations; it is already hard enough to persuade them that they should build a relationship with an existing non-profit.

Thanks to the ICO, that job just become harder.

 

Chris Carnie is the author of ‘How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe‘, to be published by Policy Press in January 2017.

International Research – some Resources for RiF

At the Researchers in Fundraising Conference, 25th November 2016, I promised a list of the sources I mentioned. Here it is.

Bilanz 300 Die Riechsten
Type Magazine Article
URL www.bilanz.ch
Publication Bilanz
Date Annual
Language German
Abstract Annual rich list published by Swiss business and economics magazine.

CNMV – Informe anual de Remuneraciones de los Consejeros de las sociedades cotizadas
Type Report
URL http://www.cnmv.es/portal/Publicaciones/PublicacionesGN.aspx?id=46
Institution Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores
Language Spanish
Abstract Annual survey of salaries of company directors in quoted companies in Spain. Shows breakdown of average salaries, and is useful for estimating income.

FIN Association of Foundations in the Netherlands/ Vereniging van fondsen
Type Web Page
URL http://www.verenigingvanfondsen.nl/
Abstract FIN, the Vereniging van Fondsen in Nederland, is the association of leading Dutch foundations

Fondsenboek 2015 and Fondsendisk
Type Book
Author Sophie Duijts
Place Zutphen
Publisher Walburg Pers
ISBN 978-90-5730-987-8
Date 2015
Language Dutch
Abstract Directory of foundations in the Netherlands, including information on 737 foundations. €49.50 price.
# of Pages 448

Helen Brown Group
Type Web Page
URL http://www.helenbrowngroup.com/index.htm

Kamer van Koophandel
Type Web Page
URL www.kvk.nl
Abstract Legal register for all companies in the Netherlands. Includes company ownership information and accounts

Miljonair
Type Magazine
URL http://www.miljonair.nl
Language Dutch
Abstract Lifestyle magazine aimed at HNWIs in the Netherlands. Includes some profile interviews, and occasional features on philanthropy.

Moving Mainstream. The European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report
Type Report
Author Robert Wardrop
Author Bryan Zhang
Author Raghavendra Rau
Author Mia Gray
URL http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/index.php?id=6481
Place Cambridge, UK
Pages 44
Date 02/2015
Institution University of Cambridge, Judge Business School
Language English
Abstract Includes details on crowdfunding, with data on growth, with peer-to-peer fundraising

Paperjam
Type Web Page
URL http://paperjam.lu/
Abstract Business website and magazine for Luxembourg. Publish an annual “Paperjam Guide” including a business directory and biographies of company leaders.

Portal de la Transparencia
Type Web Page
URL http://transparencia.gob.es/
Language Spanish
Abstract Spanish Government website showing structure, funcion, curricula and salaries of top civil servants.

SOCIETE.COM
Type Web Page
URL http://www.societe.com/
Accessed 05/09/2013, 16:03:03
Language French
Abstract Company information from the French Registre du Commerce

Transparente ANBI
Type Web Page
URL http://www.transparante-anbi.nl/ANBI/Home/2274
Abstract Listing of ANBI including foundations in the Netherlands, following the transparency law. Searchable by foundation name.

How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe.
Type Book
Author Christopher Carnie
URL http://policypress.co.uk/how-philanthropy-is-changing-in-europe
Place Bristol
Publisher Policy Press
ISBN 978-1-4473-3110-0
Date 01/18/2017
Language English
Abstract There is a new age of philanthropy in Europe – a €50 billion plus financial market. Changing attitudes to wealth, growing social need and innovations in finance are creating a revolution in how we give, aided and sometimes abetted by governments. Mapping the changes, Christopher Carnie focuses on high-value philanthropists – people and foundations as ‘major donors’ – investing or donating €25,000 upwards.

Fundraising in the Middle East: How, Why and What?

People give.

Wherever you are, at whatever time in history, you will see people giving to help others. Poor people give, rich people give, young and old give.

Our role as professionals in fundraising is to mediate the giving, to help people find the cause that best fits their vision of how the world should be. We help people to structure and organise their giving, show how they are making a change to the lives of others, and stand as guarantors for the honesty and impact of our organisations.

That is what is happening in the Middle East and across the Arabic-speaking world. Ancient traditions of personal philanthropy – a cultural norm and a religious requirement – are evolving rapidly thanks to the work of philanthropists, governments and rulers…and fundraisers.

I’m giving a Masterclass with UNHCR’s Reem Abdelhamid on fundraising in the Middle East, at the International Fundraising Congress, 18-21 October, Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands

A LOT OF WORLD

The total population of the Arabic-speaking world – the 22 nations of the League of Arab States – is 392m people (5% of the world’s population), of whom one-third are under 15 years old. Despite the horrors of war and of the forced movements of people – the stuff we see in our news media – the region is developing the social and cultural infrastructures that allow fundraising to evolve; education, taxation, financial systems, the legal and fiscal formalisation of charities and foundations, and personal wealth.

Fundraisers get a rush of blood to the head at the phrase ‘personal wealth.’ We have stereotype pictures of fabulously rich individuals dropping millions into the hands of eager fundraisers in Europe’s leading universities and museums. But that is only a small part of the story. Because personal wealth is spreading outward into a growing middle class, who are becoming the day-to-day donors of national and international organisations.

WHAT NOT TO DO

This is the third consecutive year when we have had IFC workshops or Masterclasses on fundraising in the Arabic-speaking world. Each time, we have learned a little more about how to operate in the region – and what not to do.

NOT A CASH MACHINE

Reem Abdelhamid, UNHCR Advisor for Private Sector Partnerships in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, warned early in the series that the region is not a cash-machine. No-one should be planning to hit the streets of Jeddah or Dubai, raise lots of money, and head off.

As UNHCR and other INGOs have found, the Arabic-speaking world requires – just like any other region – careful research, planning, long-term investment and clear links between the donor and the social or environmental problem they are solving.

IT’S NOT ONE PLACE

You would not treat Europe, Latin America, or Asia as one homogeneous region. The same is true of the Arabic-speaking world, where the fundraising that you might do in Kuwait is different from that you would do in Egypt. In part this is because a significant part of the region is a historic area of transit between Europe and Asia – so there are different mixtures of cultures, religions, languages, and thus of philanthropy in different states, and even in different cities. To get a clearer idea of the variation across the region, read the publications from The John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy & Civic Engagement at the American University of Cairo.

THINK LOCAL

To make sense of the region you are going to need local help. Houssam Chahin, who has years of experience in the region first with Greenpeace then with UNHCR, stresses the importance of recruiting and developing local teams. This is no different from opening a branch in Germany or Japan; you need people who not only speak the language but who understand the culture and know the market. People who know why this Sheikha is important, and who understand why she might not want to meet you but would meet a female colleague instead. People who can cope with the contradictions that emerge in any developing market, and who can help your organisation steer its way around the legal restrictions that may appear.

POLICY MATCH

In Western Europe we are used to the idea that NGOs challenge governments – campaigning for freedoms, rights and the environment. You are not going to get a warm welcome if you enter the Arabic-speaking region on a campaign ticket. Just reverse the situation and imagine a Kuwaiti foundation opening an office in Europe to campaign against – to pick a ridiculous example – vegetarianism, and you will see why. The developing states of the region have national plans and priorities, and philanthropy, especially strategic philanthropy or ‘major donors’ is often aligned to these priorities, so your fundraising is going to be aligned that way too.

COME AND FIND OUT MORE

The Arabic-speaking world and within that, the Middle East, is a fascinating, fast-changing, challenging environment for fundraising, with huge potential. Come and join Reem Abdelhamid and me for our Masterclass on ‘Fundraising in the Middle East: How, Why and What?’ at IFC 2016, or one of our workshops that will focus on key issues in fundraising in the region.

But do it now; there are only two places left on the Masterclass!

Follow us on Twitter:

@chrisfactary
@reemgazzaz

Trusting Prospects

The UK has had a strange fundraising summer. It started in May with the suicide of an elderly lady in Bristol. That sparked a tabloid newspaper storm led by the Daily Mail. The newspapers claimed that the lady had jumped to her death as the result of pressure from telephone and direct mail appeals from charities. The inquest held in Bristol in September was told by the family that this was not the case.

But the media were not to be restrained by the mere facts of the case. They continued to ride rough-shod over charities and fundraising. And then the Government – led by the party that had espoused “Big Society” – waded in. In July the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee announced an enquiry into fundraising. NCVO was asked to report, a Fundraising Preference Service was hurriedly assembled and even the normally sanguine Information Commissioner leapt into the fray with new rules on the use of the telephone.

This has not ended yet. There is to be a NCVO Summit on the future of fundraising regulation in December, and we can expect the tabloids to continue their fundraising feeding frenzy as Christmas approaches.

How should prospect researchers react? What is the best we can do for our colleagues and, above all, the people, places or causes we work for?

We know them

We prospect researchers know our donors better than almost anyone else in our organisation. We have spent time learning about their motivations and the stuff they don’t like – their objections. These may include objections to the way we manage our relationship with them. It is time to apply that knowledge answer objections that may have been inflamed by the media firestorm.

Relationship Management

We are members of the team that is managing our relationship with our donor. Right now some of our donors will be feeling a little bruised, so it is more important than ever to engage the skills of prospect researchers in cautious relationship management. Time too to remember a primary skill in research – listening to the donor.

Institutional Memory

Researchers stay longer in post then their fundraising colleagues. So we often become the repository of our organisation’s memory. Old Mrs Smith who does not want to hear ever again from our boss – they fell out 5 years ago. Or John who is having an affair with Peter who is married to Rachel in Accounts. We can’t keep that stuff in a database but we ain’t going to forget it either.

You are a Protocologist

Prospect researchers are above all people of systems. Now is the time to ensure that our systems work… for everyone. Time to review protocols and policies to make sure that they are clear to all of our stakeholders, donors included. We can be proud of our protocols because now – in the difficult moments – is when they really will make a difference, for the good.

Just About Managing

This is a new more challenging fundraising environment. It is a time for critical decisions by management, for the creation of new strategies and new models. Those big decisions have one basic need – information. Who is best placed in the organisation to uncover, analyse and transmit that information?

Yes, the prospect researcher.

Ethical Thinking

Prospect research has always been a place for ethical debate. We have to live in the grey, foggy frontier between the donor and our organisation, a place where personal values, organisational values and sometimes the law can easily be lost. That’s why we have codes of practice, and full, frank debate in our online forums and meetings. We are decent honest people doing good and we are right to question our ethics all of the time. We can apply this careful, thoughtful process of developing ethics to help our colleagues.

Data Guardian

Data rules are probably the slipperiest part of our job. They are not evolving as fast as the Internet, and so the net is full of contradictions. Prospect researchers have a clear guardian duty on behalf of the donors and supporters whose data we hold. Now, when the use of data is being questioned (ironically, by a media that survives by selling personal data…) the steady hand of the prospect research guardian is more vital than ever.

Risk and Reputation Savers

These media and Westminster attacks on our sector represent a risk. Adrian Sargeant, in a paper published this month[1], quantifies that as £2 billion in lost income by 2020. Charity reputations are on the line. These themes of risk and reputation are central to prospect research. We know how to do reputational research. We measure risk whenever we assess a prospect. Now we have to apply those skills to help our own organisations to reduce risk and safeguard reputation.

And Research, Of Course

In these shifting sands – it is not at all clear that there is a policy behind any of these rushed reforms – your colleagues need your research skills more than ever. Not to write another profile – although that as well – but to track what is happening in the sector, in the media, and in the Government so that your organisations can be ahead of the curve. Or at least ahead of the Mail.

In the end this summer’s discontent with fundraising is about trust, as is so much in our non-profit sector. We prospect researchers can rebuild trust one donor at a time by explaining our systems and our methods with honesty and transparency. In the end that transparency and honesty will win over the sensationalism of the press and the knee-jerk tabloid policies of Westminster. Remember that according to Mori[2] research only one person in five trusts a journalist to tell the truth and just one in six trust a politician.

Prospect researchers are central in rebuilding trust in non-profits. We are a central link in the chain between a donor who wants to do good and a beneficiary who needs that help. We’ve got a job to do. Let’s do it.

[This blog is based on the talk I gave, 23rd November 2015, to the Researchers in Fundraising annual conference. My presentation is at http://prezi.com/b78cxodq30it/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share ]

 

1. Fundraisers’ perceptions of fundraising regulation reform and the Fundraising Preference Service, Results of a survey conducted by the Plymouth Charity Lab, Prof Adrian Sargeant, Rogare/Plymouth University, Nov 2015.
2. Ipsos Mori, Trust in the Professions, 2015.