To strengthen our ‘shared society’, the government should support excellent fundraising

Door to Number 10 Downing Street

Mike Smith | 9 January 2017

Theresa May’s ‘shared society’ agenda will be warmly, if cautiously, welcomed across the charity sector today.

The ambition will have struck a chord.  Tackling ‘everyday injustices’, promoting our shared responsibility, and strengthening community bonds are at the heart of what the charity sector is about, and speaks to the values held by many working and volunteering for good causes.

The sector will also be pleased that the Prime Minister wholeheartedly recognised the importance of charities in achieving this agenda. Across every walk of life we see the essential role charities play; from parents using playgroups, nurseries, and youth clubs; to the work of health charities providing care, support and research; to the financial, personal or relationship advice and support on offer; to the enriching role played by museums, libraries and sports clubs. 

But, will ‘shared society’ be just a catchy sound bite for today, or will it be able to really deliver for those ‘just getting by’? The answer lies now in identifying the best and most effective method to support the charity sector in a way that strengthens our ‘shared society’ – the responsibilities we have towards each other, our obligations as citizens, and strengthening our communities.

One of the best ways to achieve this is by doing more to help charities to effectively fundraise. The Prime Minister was of course right to talk about how poor fundraising practice needs to be stamped out. The charity sector itself recognises this and has been at the heart of ongoing action to strengthen regulation and practice. But examples of where things have gone wrong should not detract from the importance of fundraising as a whole, in particular how excellent fundraising can strengthen the ‘shared society’ agenda. 

Investment in fundraising provides an incredible return for charities - for every £1 invested in fundraising activity, around £4 is received back – but it also makes charities and civil society organisations more sustainable.  Over £9 billion is raised through individual donations from the generous public each year. As important, we know that unlike some grant or contract funding which can be cut with the stroke of a pen, building fundraising capacity within a charity will deliver sustainable resources into the longer term. The generous public stick with the charities and causes they care about.

But excellent fundraising also has other benefits for the ‘shared society’ agenda. Fundraising at its best is about highlighting an injustice, explaining how an individual or organisation’s support can make a difference, and asking them to help. It engages and informs the public and funding bodies about what charities do, and empowers them to be able to make difference for those around them.  It connects the public and donors with the causes, institutions and work they want to support. At its best, fundraising helps people realise their shared responsibilities and gives them the opportunity to take positive actions for their fellow citizens. Support excellent fundraising and you also support and strengthen our ‘shared society’.

To achieve this, the Government should make greater efforts to support and celebrate fundraising, especially for smaller charities and community groups where the need is most acute.  A survey by Local Giving recently showed that 77% of respondents felt they “have the skills to run a successful fundraising campaign”. A further 22 per cent said that, in order to do so, they would need “significant upskilling”.

The shared society speech today was an important statement of intent for how the Prime Minister Supporting charity fundraising needs to be a central part of making this ambition a reality.

Mike Smith, Head of External Affairs, Institute of Fundraising

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