Thoughts from a Critical Friend

If you are a groovy, hip, down-with-the-kids sort of guy (as I most definitely am, just ask my children) then you will know what a ‘meme’ is. I like this one. It’s a great statement and it has Jeff Goldblum in it, which immediately makes it utterly valid and relevant:

Jess Goldblum

Kind of sums up national fundraising in the UK? Explains why we’ve got to the point where, as Professor Adrian Sargeant said recently at the IoF Insight awards, we’re about to create a Fundraising Preference Service that will – at the press of a button – exclude someone from knowing about all need in their community.

Telephone fundraising showed superb results compared to direct mail – so we all piled in to get some of that action. Face-to-face and door-to-door followed – and we fell over ourselves to get to all these regular donors. Fundraising teams grew to manage the business, needing ever-higher results to keep up the ROI. So, durr, agencies became more and more desperate to get the results they needed to stay alive. And, as long as the money came in, well, everything must be OK, right?

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen talks about relationships, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

UK fundraising believed this. Raising the same as last year was a failure. None of us wanted a dead shark. Looked bad on the CV.

However with the new regulations shake out, we’re going to end up in just a different version of the same situation in a few years’ time unless we stop the arms race. We have to rebuild trust with an entire population, develop a long-term relationship with them that allows each individual to find the bit of need in their community that they’d really like to do something about – and then give them the tools to make the difference they crave.

This takes time, there are going to be many fewer ‘quick wins’. Returns on investment will be a bit lower. Fundraisers will need to remain in post longer, demonstrate longer-term success before being able to move on to the next job. In turn, of course, we’ll need our trustee boards to recognise that we’re all in a different world now and lower the pressure for constant growth.

From now on, how about we all fundraise because we should, not just because we could. Let’s cut the picture out and put it up where we’ll see it next time we’re setting budgets. Because Jeff knows. And Jeff’s watching.