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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

The secrets of the charity fundraiser

This feature is almost 9 years old

With fundraising under scrutiny like never before, Graham Martin spoke to people involved in the industry – and uncovered a world of hustling and high pressure in the quest for cash

Fundraising in the UK is a cut throat industry driven by sex, the hard sell and a relentless drive to hit targets.

Charities might benefit from the cash brought in by people pounding the streets or hitting the phones on their behalf – but it is a business underpinned by a race to the bottom in pursuit of profits.

Ethics is often the first thing to go as fundraisers operate an unwritten “don’t see, don’t tell” policy in the chase for cash.

A Third Force News investigation lifts the lid on the tactics employed by fundraisers on the streets, in call centres and on gruelling door-to-door shifts.

Fundraisers are trained to steamroller people into signing up – even when they know people are agreeing so they can have a quiet life

And it reveals the toll exacted on the industry’s own workers, who are subjected to terrible pressures and who have almost no job security.

We interviewed a range of people who have worked in the sector – all of whom have been employed by private firms contracted by big, household name charities to bring in income.

Fundraising methods have come under scrutiny like never before in recent weeks, following the death of 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke.

Her body was found in the Avon Gorge near her home in Bristol at the beginning of May – and her friends said she had been hounded by demands for cash from charities in the run up to her death.

The scandal prompted an intervention by Prime Minister David Cameron – and an investigation by the Fundraising Standards Board.

It has called for a tightening of a whole tranche of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Practice – the guidelines which fundraisers are meant to adhere to.

There was further disquiet when Oxfam was forced to deny that fundraisers working for it target 98-year-olds following allegations about pressure tactics used by call-centre fundraising firm Listen Ltd. The charity suspended its work with the company and the Shelter-run Street Academy, which does face-to-face street fundraising, following suggestions that call centre staff are encouraged to target pensioners and put pressure on people who claim to not be able to afford donations.

Fundraisers themselves told TFN of the pressures they are under to get results. They said that while companies are careful to cover themselves by staying on the right side of decent practice, a blind eye is often turned if it gets results.

They also revealed that flirting with members of the public is considered a legitimate tactic – and one said he and his pals regularly used it to pick people up.

All of the people TFN talked to wanted to remain anonymous, but they have worked across the three key areas of fundraising – door-to-door, telesales and on-street.

They painted a picture of an industry where intense levels of competition exist, where the fundraisers themselves are one bad week – or even day – away from the sack.

Stress and burnout are endemic and workers regularly have to put up with abuse from the public, with little or no after-care from management.

Training in ethics is minimal – and is done primarily to cover the private company’s back.

Fundraisers are trained to “steamroller” people into signing up – even when they know people are agreeing so they can have a “quiet life”.

However, all of the fundraisers TFN spoke to described modern fundraising practices as a form of necessary evil – at a time of budget cuts and when charities are under increasing pressure to provide what were previously state services, do charities have much of a choice?



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over 7 years ago
A - Always B - Be C - ClosingAlways Be Closing
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