The NCVO Funding Commission have produced a fascinating report on the future of funding for charities.
The section of most interest to fundraisers is 4.1, which focuses on increasing individual giving and the report sets out an ambitious target of increasing individual giving to £20 billion by 2020 (from £11.3 billion currently).
It presents the evidence in a clear and compelling way and outlines the current issues and trends, sets out potential new mechanisms for giving and gives some realistic ways in how this could be achieved e.g. a 10% increase in the number of adults giving under £100 per month (from 50% of the population to 55%) would raise an extra £8.6 billion per annum.
So far, so good and it's all very exciting, but then comes the big let down - how they propose to achieve this, which frankly is unambitious, unrealistic and not in the slightest bit credible.
They want to achieve this £8.7 billion increase in giving by spending £10 million on a 'Better Asking' campaign!
That's right they want to achieve an 870:1 return on investment by teaching fundraisers to ask for money better.
To quote the report they want to spend the £10 million on a campaign which:
"should aim to increase the confidence and the competence of all those involved in asking for funds for charities, including trustees, chief executives, paid fundraisers, volunteer fundraisers and communications staff." Page 46.
Using the report's own figures this equates to around £292* for each of the estimated 24,000 staff who have some fundraising responsibility in their role. Even worse, this figure excludes trustees, volunteers etc and wouldn't even pay for a person to attend the Institute of Fundraising Annual Conference.
After defining the problem so well it is so disappointing to read such an underwhelming proposal at the end of it.
Where is the ambition? The vision? The inspiration? The realism?
It really is worrying for fundraising if that is the best solution that a year long commission can come up with.
So, what would I do instead?
First of all I'd be realistic - if you want to increase giving by that much, then you are going to have to spend a hell of a lot more than £10 million to achieve it.
Secondly, pay more than lip service to the training and qualifications of fundraisers. Make it compulsory for fundraisers to work towards professional qualifications, start a licensing system that roots out bad fundraisers and make membership of the IoF compulsory. If the work that charitable giving pays for is so important to society (and I believe, like the report, that it is) then treat fundrasing as a profession that requires professional qualifications like accountants, solicitors, medics etc.
Thirdly, tackle the problem from both ends. As well as making fundraisers better at asking, listen to the likes of Ken Burnett, Mark Phillips, Amanda Santer and others who preach about inspiring donors and then help fundraisers put this into action.
Finally, make people feel proud of their giving, demonstrate the impact they are making and motivate them so that they want to give more and then tell others about it.
*: this is based on the £7m of the £10m which is outlined for training. The rest is on an admin and a media campaign.