The reputation challenge at the heart of fundraising

Posted on 05/07/2017

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Almost a quarter of the public (23%) feel “emotionally blackmailed” by charities, according to new research from the Commission on the Donor Experience.

No wonder then that as well as seeking to define good practice, the Commission has also put building the reputation of charities at the centre of its recommendations.

The Commission was launched in March 2016 in response to media scrutiny of fundraising practice.

The blue print which has been developed by the Commissioners and the volunteer experts suggests that public relations pros working in charities and other not-for-profits must be at the top table when it comes to decision making about fundraising strategy.

As the experts from Kantar set out in a series of blog posts for the PRCA last year, reputation matters in setting the context that potential donors receive any fundraising messages. Therefore, it makes sense that those that build and protect the reputation of charities need to be consulted by fundraisers from the outset of any campaign.

This points to a wider issue that will be vital in the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations: fundraising and communications outputs must be seen as part of the same donor experience.

The recommendations for media teams set out in the Commission’s final report, by the late Tim Kitchin, serve as a positive legacy to this great man’s talent and passion for the charity sector.

Tim summarised six key principles for fundraisers to follow when engaging the public via the media and should be implemented by all charity PRs which all communications pros to read: As a starting point, there isn’t a word to be challenged in his work.

The challenge will not just be in the implementation of this by PR professionals, but on the closer working of these principles into wider fundraising / communications teams.

All of the Commission’s 6Ps – the overriding recommendations in the report – have implications for PR and Communications staff. From communicating the purpose of charities more effectively to ensuring the promises made to ensuring broader calls to action to supporters are delivered as part of the donor experience, the need for integrated charity communications is a clear outtake from the Commission’s evidence.

Ultimately this may mean some difficult decisions for leaders of fundraising organisations – will we see the rise of the donor experience director in charities taking on an all encompassing role overseeing marketing, comms, data and fundraising?

At the very least it will mean that professionals working in these areas will need to learn more from their colleagues.