War has been declared on the charity sector – why aren’t we fighting back?

UPDATE: The Drum picked up on my post. Read it here.

Both the national newspapers and the Government seem to have declared war on the sector. It all started with the death of Olive Cooke. Then it moved on to charities ‘hounding vulnerable people on a no-call list’ before a, seemingly, very personal attack on fundraising directors. Now charities are being told to draw up written agreements showing how vulnerable people will be protected from ‘aggressive’ fundraising tactics. And then there was this article today about how 50% of Alzheimer’s Society’s funds are spent on staff.

Wait. You mean, charity staff get paid? Well blow me down.

Thank goodness CEO, Jeremy Hughes, commented in the Guardian.

Please read it. It is excellent.

Here is a highlight:

Alzheimer’s Society employs 2,500 staff, the vast majority of whom provide services to help people with dementia live their lives as well as they can. We do spend £42m of the £84m we raise on our staff. And they are worth every penny.

Now what I’d like to know is, what are we going to do about this?

Why is the sector not putting on their war paint and digging their trenches? We should and we MUST defend our sector.

Here’s what you can do

1. Read this excellent piece by Ian MacQuillin. 2. Stand up for our sector and show your support by leaving a comment on Jeremy Hughes’s Guardian article. 3. Get involved in CharityComms’s Understanding Charities Group. 4. Contribute to the Guardian Voluntary Sector’s open thread: Charity fundraising: how do we fix this mess? These are all things that we can do as individuals in the sector but what I’d really love to see are charities coming together and not just defending their staff’s pay but also showing their impact. How much have dementia charities saved the NHS? How many lives have been saved from charity helplines? How many people or families still have their homes and food to eat because of charities like Shelter, Crisis and The Trussell Trust? How many charity sector staff would be homeless if they were volunteers and unpaid? Oh but that’s ok – there are plenty of benefits to claim and council houses to go round.

Top charity sector resources

Working in the charity sector – whatever your role – it’s important to keep up to date. Whether that’s by subscribing to blogs, reading sector articles, joining groups, attending events or following people on Twitter. *Updated July 2018*

Top charity resources

I asked the Third Sector PR and Communications Facebook network for their top charity resources and here they are (with some of my own):


Guardian Voluntary Sector


UK Fundraising – run by Howard Lake


Civil Society

Third Sector

SOFII – The showcase of fundraising innovation and inspiration

Media Trust

Small Charities Coalition 

Reason Digital



Institute of Fundraising

Beth Kanter


Rob Mansfield 

Zoe Amar

CharityChap (Matt Collins)

Madeleine Sugden

Lucy Gower

3rd Sector Mission Control (Richard Sved)

101 Fundraising

Paul de Gregorio




NFPTweetup (run by Rachel Beer)

Institute of fundraising 


Charity Meetup (run by Dawn Newton)


Third Sector PR and Communications Network (Facebook)

Digital Charities Working Group (Facebook)

CharityComms Creatives Group (LinkedIn)

Institute of Fundraising (LinkedIn)

Digital Charities (Slack)

Fundraising Chat (Facebook)

Charity Women (Facebook)

Small International Development Charities Network (Facebook)

CharityConnect (website forum)


Here are people/organisations to follow on Twitter who talk about charity, digital, comms, marketing and mobile.

If you have any others to add, please mention them in the comments.

Top tips for small charities

#FRTweets takes place every Friday on Twitter at 12 and it’s for those working in the charity sector with an emphasis on fundraising. This week’s topic was all about fundraising for small charities and as a Trustee of the Small Charities Coalition, I just had to get involved in the discussion.

There were six questions in total, the last of which needed an hour in itself to answer! I Storified the discussion and there is a list of resources at the bottom – not just for people working in small charities but for anyone who works in the sector.


Have you got any tips to offer that weren’t covered? Comment below!

What motivates me to give – an introspective blog post

Today was the last day of the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention. During today’s sessions, I got to thinking WHY I support the charities I do because a recurring theme has been about understanding people’s motivations to give to your cause. So I’m going to share with you the charities I regularly give to and why. I have monthly direct debits for both Macmillan Cancer Support and for Cancer Research UK. Supporting these charities is mostly about the cause – cancer. That (insert swearword) of a disease that has stolen far too many of my loved ones. I support Macmillan because their nurses have helped my loved ones in their last weeks, days and hours. I support Cancer Research UK because they are saving lives. But it’s not just the cause. I like the way they talk to me: Tweet from Dryathlon And I like the way they make me feel, even if it’s difficult to watch:

I support Amnesty International with a monthly direct debit because collectively we can all be very loud about injustice and my voice alone is not enough. Amnesty is brilliant at keeping you informed throughout their campaigns. They also make it easy for me to share their campaigns with my friends. Best of all, they tell me outcomes of campaigns when they happen. I don’t have to wait for a weekly or monthly newsletter or go to their Facebook page. Amnesty International Text

I sponsor a dog through Dogs Trust (it was a birthday present for my husband) and have done for about seven years. We both love dogs but we can’t have one of our own just yet so we do the next best thing and sponsor one. Our dog’s name is Shane and he is lovely. He also writes to us and sends us photos. We can even go and visit him if we like. The reason why we support Dogs Trust and why when we can have a dog we will go to our nearest rehoming centre is because they never put a healthy dog down. Our Dogs Trust dog Shane The final charity I support every month is Child’s i. Answering why for this charity is harder to explain. I have no personal connection to the cause but when I first heard their founder Lucy Buck speak, I just knew I had to help. The passion and conviction with which Lucy spoke, the stories she told of how the babies that had come to Malaika (the short term emergency care home in Uganda that they provide), how babies had thrived, how they had either been reunited with their families through the support of the charity or gone on to be placed with new, loving families – how could that not inspire me to want to help? And telling stories through video, email or even their Direct Debit text message is what they do so well.

  Child's i text message

They are not a big charity with a big budget so they make use of what they have. In fact, they are so brilliant at digital that they often present at sector conferences and events. They are a true lesson for fundraisers – be passionate about the cause you work for and tell your stories well. In fact, they inspired me so much that I started #100forChildsi and I hope this post has inspired you to join our team. So that’s who I support and why. Will you share with me the charities you support in the comments?

Small nudges, big results – Behaviour Economics in Fundraising

Day two of the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention and this post is all about Behavioural Economics and what it means for fundraising.

What is Behavioural Economics?

Paul Vanangs, Head of Public Fundraising at Oxfam, explained that it is any repeatable, mass consumer behaviour which cannot be explained by, or is contradictory to, classical economics.

And as fundraisers, this is what is fascinating. Instead of asking ‘why do you not donate to us’ we should be asking ‘what barriers are stopping you from donating to us’.

It’s not about attitude, it’s about behaviour

Christopher Nield, Creative Director at On Agency, shared how he worked with the NSPCC to incorporate legacy asks into any inbound call that was answered by the team. They drew on insights from a similar exercise, below, undertaken by the Cabinet’s ‘nudge unit’ which tested a legacy ask on Cooperative Legal Services will-writing customers.

There were two different ‘nudges’:

Would you like to leave a gift to charity in your Will

Many of our customers like to leave a charitable gift in their Will. Are there any causes you are passionate about?

The second nudge had a response rate of 15.4% as opposed to 10.4% with the first.

How did NSPCC use this?

They created a Norm and Pasha mind map so that they could feel comfortable turning any call, even a complaint, into a legacy ask.

NSPCC Mind Map

So what impact did this have?

The results were 101 conversations in the first week and a conversion rate of 46%. More interestingly, there were no complaints. So in one year, this could mean up to 5,252 conversations with 2,415 new leads. By involving the team in the mind map process, they are now confident to talk about legacies when appropriate.

How can you change behaviours?

Mike Collings from MC&C shared a structured framework for running a workshop on behavioural change. There are two questions to ask:

1. What comparisons are people making?
2. What efforts are involved?

Structured framework

** My presentation of the day award goes to Mark Phillips from Bluefrog, who presented on Reverse Innovation. **


Did you hear the one about National Convention?

Today was the first day of the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention. It was a day of many firsts for me: my first Convention, my first official blogger role, the first time I am representing JustGiving in my new job as Content and Community Manager and the first time I met some of my peers in real life. I could tell you a story about each of these ‘firsts’ but this blog post is not about me.

But it is about storytelling.

Storytelling was a recurring theme today. The plenary by Alan Clayton, Creative Director at Revolutionise, and Jayne George, Executive Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Guide Dogs, really brought storytelling to life. In fact, Guide Dogs, has invested in equipping everyone in the organisation to be able to tell a story. Why? Because real stories bring their cause to life, pulls on emotions and raises funds.

How do we tell a good story?

It’s imperative that you have an authentic voice. Alan shared the example of Jack’s story, whose family was helped by Claire House.

Jack's Story

His mother’s words demonstrate just how powerful storytelling is. So powerful that most of the audience was in tears. Give your supporters and people who use your services a voice and let them share their stories, in their own words.

Take your audience on a journey but make the story simple so that it can be understood by everyone, not just people who already know about your charity or your cause.

Make a story come to life

There’s no denying that words are powerful but in this age of sharing, stories also need to be brought to life. There are so many low cost ways to make your stories multi-dimensional, such as using Audioboo, Vine or Instagram. Look at this example from charitywater and how they’ve told a story in a few sentences with a 15 second video to illustrate their impact.

Give your story wings

Don’t just share your story with your audience, share it with your colleagues too. How many times has the fundraising or communications team created a video and then not told anyone about it? In order for your story to soar, everyone in the charity needs to hear it, read it, see it and believe it.

** My presentation of the day award has to go to Rob Mosley and James Barker’s presentation on What fundraisers can learn from rappers. **

Photo credit from Ken Burnett.

Ode to a Fundraiser

The Institute of Fundraising has launched their #ProudFundraiser campaign ahead of their National Convention. They’re encouraging people to tweet, using the hashtag, why they’re proud to be fundraisers. Seems very simple and why wouldn’t you be proud to be a fundraiser? After all, we help people right? We raise money for good causes. We provide emergency help and support. We fund research into curing diseases. We help terminally ill people fulfil a last wish. We offer support to the bereaved. But hang on… not everyone thinks we do great work. Following some charity scandals, donations are falling.

#FRTweets is a weekly chat on Twitter for fundraisers and charity people, run by Lucy Caldicott and Lesley Pinder. The last topic was on controversy surrounding charities and also whether fundraisers are proud to be fundraisers in this current climate. You can read the Storify here.

Ian MacQuillin summed it up best, for me, when he tweeted:


Today, two things central to this theme caught my eye. One (via Matt Collins) that, sadly, has shone a bad light on charities. I’ve deliberately not shown the charity’s name because this is not about naming and shaming but I think it’s safe to say that this tweet from a charity account is simply unacceptable. With such an uncharitable tweet from a charity, surely this is a further blow to how people will view the sector?


This incident made me think of this wonderful poem by Kid President. It’s called ‘A Tiny Poem to the World’ but I think it could easily be called ‘Ode to a Fundraiser’. It sums up perfectly, for me, the way the sector is viewed and how we all need to ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’. We need to remind each other that there are good days and bad days but as long as we are doing our very best for those who need us and our charity, we are making a change and we should be proud.



There’s a fundraiser in all of us

I’ve never identified myself as a fundraiser. This is because I work in communications and that’s my ‘title’.

But actually, I am a fundraiser. And I wish I’d realised it sooner.

Clayton Burnett’s Great Fundraising report by Professors’ Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, showed that great fundraising organisations are those with staff and volunteers who are proud of their fundraising, whatever their job title.

The theme for the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention this year is ‘Proud to be a fundraiser!’ and I’m really proud to be an official blogger. For three days, charity professionals will be gathering to hear from our peers about corporate fundraising, individual giving, digital fundraising, community fundraising, events, volunteers and much more.

You can join in already by tweeting why you are proud to be a fundraiser, using the hashtag #proudfundraiser, and a Proud to be a Fundraiser Toolkit will be launched at the convention.

Here’s my latest fundraising initiative for the wonderful charity Child’s i and this is why I’m doing it.


So am I a fundraiser? Yes, I believe I am and I truly believe there’s a fundraiser in all of us.

Have you got a life wish?

Life wishes. We’ve all got them right? My life wishes include: running a marathon, writing a book (would be great if it could top the Bestseller list but I can’t be TOO fussy), visiting Machu Picchu, walking the Great Wall of China, renovating an old house into something Grand Designs would be proud of and learning to speak Italian.

The thing is, if I set my mind to it, I could actually achieve all of these things. And that got me thinking… the children that Child’ s i support don’t have that luxury. Ask them what their life wishes are and you’ll hear:

‘To live with my mom again. I miss her cuddles.
‘For my parents to find work so that I can go home and they can take care of me.’
‘For someone to love me and sing me to sleep at night.’

So I decided to stop procrastinating and do something to help Child’s i raise the money they need to help trace and reunite babies and children that they provide short term emergency care for at Malaika. I want to inspire 100 people to sign up and raise £100 to do something on their ‘life wish list’. That £100 is the difference between a child growing up in an orphanage or being reunited with their family.

Now, I’m no fool. Asking you to only raise £100 to say, run a marathon, is a bit silly. But you could run a 5k. After all, you have to start somewhere……

So what will I be doing to raise £100? I’ll be writing the first chapter of that book I’ve always wanted to write. Lucy Buck, Founder of Child’s i, will be finding her inner voice by staying completely silent for 24 hours. Child’s i’s Kirsty Stephenson will be running 100 km in 100 days. What will you be doing?

Join our #100forChildsi team in four easy steps:

1. Decide on your ‘life wish’ (there are lots of ideas here)

2. Set up a JustGiving page

3. After you’ve set up your JustGiving page, add your page to our team

4. Then email kirsty@childsifoundation.org and tweet me at @LondonKirsty and we will be your personal cheering squad



If you can’t take part then please help in other ways by spreading the word on social media, sponsoring a #100forChildsi team member or you can sponsor me. I’d be ever so grateful….

How to win at transparency

There is a lot of debate around how charities spend their money. Money that is, for the most part, donated by the public. So why shouldn’t donors know how their money is spent? Charities don’t always do a good job at being transparent so when I spotted this on Oxfam’s Facebook page I was impressed.


What impressed me wasn’t necessarily the post but how Oxfam is responding to comments like this one:


Now I’m sure there will be many who may take issue with the tone of the post, particularly as it insinuates that those who believe charities spend most of their money on admin are living in la-la land and are, well, s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶  misinformed. Why this post works for me is:

1. They have used simple stats that everyone can understand. There’s no having to do the maths in your head to work out what’s spent on admin costs.

2. They are replying to comments, both positive and negative.

3. They are signing comments off with a name. An actual person. Not ‘Oxfam GB’.

4. They’re prepared. They must have known this would take off and they have factored that in and comments are being replied to in a timely fashion.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on how charities could be better at being transparent.