Are solicitation statements truly necessary for transparency?
Solicitation statements were introduced to help donors make informed decisions. In her latest blog, Di Flatt questions whether they are really necessary for transparency and whether they engender more distrust than trust.
This article was first published in the FRSB 2012 annual report.
As a member of the FRSB Advisory Forum I support the need for transparency, high standards and regulation. But I find solicitation statements are often confusing and non standard. I can’t help but wonder, are they truly necessary for transparency? Do they engender more distrust than trust?
Charities don’t hide the fact people are paid nor that fundraising costs money. It’s all detailed in our annual accounts and reviews – public documents.
So do we need solicitation statements? Yes it costs money to raise money, but I believe it is my responsibility as the charity to deliver this message. Why should it be made the responsibility of the individual fundraiser? Whether they are on my staff or whether I have employed them via an agency, they are a fundraiser doing a job my charity has employed them to do.
Far better for the fundraiser to be telling the donor of the good that will be achieved because of their generosity in becoming a committed giver.
We tell ourselves all the time that one of our key roles is to ensure the donor is able to feel great about their decision to generously support a good cause. As a donor I know I prefer to hear about the impact my gift will have and the difference I am going to make!
Solicitation statements push the donor towards focusing on the cost of a campaign. The very need to make such a statement feels a rather disingenuous way to give information. Far better I am sure to deliver transparency in a more intelligent way and show the great good that will be achieved.
I don’t have all the answers but these are my thoughts.
I’m about to undertake a door to door test campaign. It will generate a return of almost 300% over five years. And that’s without calculating income that will continue beyond five years.
Or, I could invest the money I’m going to spend, in our high interest account for five years. It would give me a 4% return.
So with the same money I could have a return of 4% or 300% to deliver services. As a businesswoman this for me is an easy choice. And I choose to invest the money we have in gaining the best return to benefit our beneficiaries.
I believe this is the kind of intelligent reasoning, transparency and integrity my donors want me to employ. And I think it should be my responsibility as the charity to tell them this.
Yes we may presently have to use solicitation statements. But please, no more talk of charity mugging and high costs. Let’s seek better ways to talk intelligently about our donors’ investment into the future.
And let’s remember to thank our fundraisers for doing a fantastic job - doing exactly what they do best - engaging with tomorrow’s donor!
Di Flatt has 15 years experience as a director of fundraising: 11 years in London, and now four years leading the fast growing fundraising department at Epilepsy Action. Di is Chair of IoF Yorkshire, and a member of the FRSB’s Advisory Group.