Saturday 25 June 2011

Fund Raising Magician.

British Waterways has hired the appropriately named Ms Ruderham to steer the Leviathan that is British Waterways into the maelstrom of raising charitable donations for the waterways. I hope she was a pupil at Hogwarts, because Ruth is going to have to be a fund raising magician.

Presenting BW as a charity to the public will be as difficult as selling sand to the Arab nations.  The perception of BW is as a Quango and everyone and their pet cat has a dislike of the old Quangos. That's why the government wanted to disband them - It appeals to the public perception that they are a thing of the past. Not to be resurrected and re branded as a charity, wearing the kings new clothes. Everyone can see through that one with the exception of the highly paid and pension privileged few at the top.

According to the Tax Payers Alliance "In the year 2006-07, tax payers funded 1,162 Quangos at a cost of nearly £64bn the equivalent to £2,550 per household. Since the coalition government was formed over 80 public bodies funded by government have been abolished under plans to reduce the size of the public sector, as a route to reducing the overall budget deficit. However about a thousand still remain."

A recent document from the government suggests that another 177 public bodies could also face abolition. The focus this time has been on bodies that facilitate arts, health, business, education, policing and the environment. I wonder how many of these ex quangos will be going cap in hand looking to the public for charitable donations.

I know that BW has had a hard time with critics. However, to its credit BW is very supportive of the critics, by giving them so much to choose from.

This started me thinking about who is actually going to donate money to British Waterways and why they would want to do it. The problem is I can't think of anyone who would want to throw good money after bad. In the main because BW gets such a large amount of stick from the waterways users.
Charitable fund raisers in the UK are already deeply concerned about the fund raising issues in the present financial climate.

You have to be seen to be a worthwhile charity, to get people to put their hands in their pockets. Donations given to charities like Cancer Research has a feel good factor for the donor and something of a ring to it. People on the street generally would contribute to such a worthy cause. British Waterways the charity does not have a feel good factor about it. Quite the opposite.

The public perception is one of the government quietly euthanizing quango's to save money. If the change to charity status for BW was to take place, it should have been done twenty years ago. You could not pick a better time as a charity to crash and burn in flames than now.

So the first big hurdle is to overcome is the piss poor perception of BW in the public mindset. If you approached the average Joe in the street and said, would you like to give a donation to help support and run the canals systems in the UK. The answer would be very sharp and not so sweet No, Nada.

Corporate Donations. I don't have an opinion on corporate giving, other than it is going to have to fill a huge hole. Plus, what is in it exactly for the corporates anyway? They could get equal if not more kudos from supporting any other charity that has a proven track record. BW as no track record that anyone would want to hang their corporate hat onto. Sucking up to the corporates would be one way, which allows them to purchase a great deal of influence. I can see it now, on the charity website. BW is proud to be sponsored by Incontinence Knickers "R" Us.

Other charities such as the RSPB have a membership. I pay about £60 a year for our family membership. I am happy to do that because I can see the outcome, as more and more reserves and conservation areas come on line. I can read about their positive outcomes in the quarterly magazine. I can see a large number of volunteers doing their bit to keep the wheels running. If you ask a volunteer in the RSPB why they do it, one common answer will be to make the charitable donations go further.

Would I be prepared to pay anything like £60 pounds a year membership fee to the "BW the charity" or alternatively would I work as a "BW volunteer", I don't think so.

In the first place I would want to be able to see real tangible evidence that the donation was being spent in such a way that, I as a boater (who is already giving a couple of thousand a year into the pot) had confidence that significant improvements were being made. I will not put any money into a existing black hole. I need to know that a sensible business plan for improvement of the canals and rivers is actually in place and I need to know that it is working. I also want full accountability and not to have to go via the FoI act to get the clarity.

A second reason why I would not contribute is because of the high pay and pension provision for the top people. I feel that the inflated terms and conditions are beyond the pale. The pay regime would have to undergo drastic realignment for me to spend my hard earned money.

The third reason is a lack of confidence that the transition to charity team will make the correct choices. I see three of the old BW senior management siting in the transition team and my sphincter tightens. This is a bit lower down that the more usual gut feeling, but could be an indication of where we are soon going to be. 

But there are other big chasms on the horizon. The Treasury Select Committee has re-opened its investigation into the proposed abolition of all bank cheques by 2018.

nfpSynergy said "Loss of income, particularly from valued older donors. Increased admin costs and poorer procedural transparency. Lack of payment alternatives; and lack of research into whether donors would indeed use any available alternatives come 2018. Concern that changes are being done primarily for the benefit of the banks - at a cost to charities and other parts of the economy. Loss of the personalised ‘feel-good factor’ arguably unique to writing cheques."

Joe Saxton former chair of the Institute of Fundraising - comments: “Cheques have a different role in raising money for charities than in most business models. When somebody makes a donation to a charity there is no greatly desired or needed ‘product’ to buy, by whatever method the producer deems necessary. So, if the mechanism through which a donation must be made is too difficult, donors may simply not bother at all. The vast majority of charities are saying that over 50% of income comes from new and existing donors via cheque.

Charities are already being hit by a sluggish economy and government spending cuts. So any abolition of cheques would be a triple whammy indeed, were it to happen. Fundraisers expect high levels of income to still be coming from cheques in 2018. So, if that deadline is to be kept, then the charity sector will need far more support than they presently get in converting donors to other payment mechanisms, to avert a potentially catastrophic resultant slump in revenue and just as we enter an era of undoubted increased charitable need.”

The biggest chasm of all, is going to be the competition around charity fundraising.

There is a finite amount of charitable money available. Many charities that previously did not actively seek funding, are going to join the ever growing throng. Many charities that have been around for years have their "regulars" who give frequent donations. On a significant number of occasions long term donors leave large amounts of money in their wills to their favourite charity. Small charities who are feeling the pinch will only have to raise relatively small amounts to continue their activities. BW the charity is huge, it dwarfs all other the other charities who will be scrabbling in the pile for new donors.

Ruth Ruderham herself says her new role presents an unusual opportunity. "It's not often a new charity of this size and status is born. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a fundraiser to have a start-up charity that's not tiny. The organisation has an ambitious fundraising target: it wants to become one of the top 100 charities by voluntary income within the next decade, which would involve raising £13m a year. It [BW] has been working with Think Consulting Solutions to achieve this goal.

Now, I have one big concern with the above. The £13 million one can only assume is a target, it has not yet been achieved as a goal. So why the need to "big it up" as an achievement! I will put that down to new girl exuberance. Being able to set a target is not in my opinion an achievement, now meeting the target is a different thing.

Ruderham says "The launch will provide a critical fundraising moment. You're new only once, she says. We've got an amazing opportunity. Individual fundraising will be the main focus initially. British Waterways will attempt to build a strong supporter base, either through membership or by asking people to give by direct debit."

Trainee volunteer
donation collectors
If you don't have the right mindset to start with, I see troubles ahead.

Carla Miller said " I'm always disappointed to see charities express their goals in terms of comparisons to other charities eg British Waterways aiming to be one of the top 100 charities by voluntary income in the next decade. It seems like a slightly soulless goal to me. Personally I'd rather raise funds for, and donate to, charities which express their goals in terms of their purpose, passion and the difference they plan to make. Let's stop talking about being the leading, top, biggest or best charity in our field and focus on communicating about the ways we change lives and the world and how donors can be part of that."

I wonder if BW have a "Purpose, passion and a difference they plan to make."
Ah! The penny has dropped, you will have to be a member of the charity to get a licence for your boat. So that will be £60 a pop for each boater, and plastic please as we don't do cheques.
Rather than paying out to Think Consulting Solutions, BW should just download the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List. Target the 1000 wealthiest people in the country. Nip round in the van and shake the collection tin under their noses, they are after all collectively worth about £400 billion.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Folks,

    This is Dave on NB Shiralee.

    Some time ago, back in the mists of time, you kindly offered suggestions about housing our pooch while we're gallivanting around visiting folks.

    Sadly, since we have only been at Mercia for the one winter season, we don't know enough people to ask. Equally sadly, most people who have dogs of their own, really wouldn't want our JRT on board with it, and those who don't have dogs, wouldn't want one anyway.

    Sorry for the dealy in responding but, having gone through Blogger Help about replying to comments, which wasn't a lot of help, I finally found my own way of doing so.

    Now all I have to do is find out how to follow blogs, you folks seem to have it well sewn up and no mistake.

    Kind regards



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