House of Lords Report: So much to welcome, but where’s the fundraising ask?

House of Lords

Mike Smith | 27 March 2017

The House of Lords Committee 'Stronger Charities' Report makes some insightful and very welcome recommendations to support the work of charities into the future. But where is the fundraising ask?

I found myself repeatedly apologising to my wife on Sunday. Not because of a failure to pick up underwear from the bathroom floor, but because on Mother’s Day I kept checking the IoF Twitter account and updating our website with an initial response to the 100 conclusions and 40-odd recommendations from the House of Lords Committee ‘Stronger Charities’ report.

Household tensions aside – in general this is an excellent, thorough and insightful report. The first line reads, ‘Charities are the eyes, ears and conscience of society’. Hear, hear! The recommendations are mostly framed to support smaller charities, which is right as we know that this is where the greatest stress and volatility exists. Strong recommendations about the role of charities in the devolution agenda and improving grants and contracts for smaller charities are among those that stand out as big opportunities on the funding challenges we face.  

And yet, something was missing from this welcome, detailed and extensive report. For a paper about the future of the charity sector, there was very little to say about the largest, and I would argue most fundamental, income stream for many charities – fundraising. This is especially remiss when we consider that the report’s focus was on smaller charities, which would arguably benefit the most from support and investment in their fundraising capacity.

And yet, as recent figures from Local Giving highlight, fewer than one in four local charities and groups feel that they have the skills necessary to run a successful fundraising campaign, and 83% say that they would benefit from support with online fundraising. Surely, in this context, more should be done to help smaller charities to fundraise and provide the long-term infrastructure to help them do so.

But there’s a more fundamental reason that the Committee should have had more to say about supporting and encouraging fundraising and giving. The charity sector is rooted in people coming together to address the issues that they care about. For many people, this is done through their donation to a cause they support. In addition, fundraising – whether through public donations, corporate or major gifts, or earned income – involves communicating the importance of a need and raising awareness of the issue a charity works on. If charities are the ‘eye, ears and conscience of society’ one of the biggest ways in which they communicate this is through fundraising activity.

None of these points should detract from a report that has highlighted some important issues facing the charity sector, and made clear and helpful recommendations about how to address these. But it is essential also that in taking these recommendations forward the government, funders, infrastructure bodies, and charities themselves also look at the best ways to support fundraising, especially for smaller charities which stand to benefit the most. The Institute of Fundraising will be making recommendations on how to achieve this in the near future.

Watch this space…

Mike Smith, Head of External Affairs, Institute of Fundraising


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