I’m thinking this is a recipe for failure:
- Several cups of: Government that doesn’t analyze; and, eliminates any input from fundraisers.
- A couple cups of: Overly sweet NGOs with no tartness or saltiness at all.
- Add a big dose of fear.
- Add a pinch of arrogance.
- Mix well to ensure no discernible flavor.
And there you have it… Nonsensical government regulation…sour and rotten. Accompanied by very few dissident voices because fear overcomes clear thinking and the will to fight.
Damn it. This is a too-commonly baked recipe in the nonprofit sector.
Are you wondering what I’m taking about? A current British recipe resulting from the suicide of Olive Cooke. Her death is attributed to the crass fundraising strategies of ignoble nonprofits. Yes, that’s the hue and outcry from British media, and some vocal leaders of the nonprofit sector, mostly unchecked by thoughtful leaders.
What a silly, sorry accusation for an apparently lovely woman who gave time and money to charities that she cared about. How unfortunate that the nonprofit sector isn’t more respected and valued. Too sad that condemnation and threats cause so many to stay too silent.
So now there will be new regulations in the U.K. Bad new regulations that will hurt those in most need.
[A momentary aside: Despite the absurdity of “suicide due to fundraising,” it’s certainly valid to ask how NGOs and their fundraisers raise money. How we treat donors…How often we contact donors…What kind of choice we give donors…How we justify our voracious fundraising strategies with so little care for our donors…And on and on and on. Perhaps this is the wake-up call our sector needs?]
Don’t think that this can only happen in the U.K. Oh my, no! I’ve seen similar recipes in the U.S. for decades and decades. I listen to worried colleagues around the world.
Surely this entire situation – including response from the media and the sector and donors – is a useful conversation to have in your organization. What to do? Try the following:
- Assign your staff to read about Olive Cooke and the U.K. debacle. Then read Adrian Sargeant’s blog and The Agitator blog by guru Roger Craver. Now talk.
- Spend some time at an upcoming board meeting talking about the British situation. Then identify similar situations in your country. Talk about your NGO’s role in speaking out for or against public policy. Talk about how you might respond to donors who might be curious or even worried.
- Gather together some of your fundraising colleagues around your community – maybe your local fundraising association. Explore topics like: Position of the nonprofit sector, its value and respect for it… Speaking out as a sector, focusing on facts rather than hysteria and frenzy…
More recipes like this produce a weakened NGO sector. And a weakened NGO sector harms our communities, our societies, and – yes – the entire world.
So let’s get our act together. Please.