Sure no one is pointing a loaded gun to your head; but your emotions are being played. A form of emotional blackmail. 

As individuals when we’re asked to make a donation, we’re usually faced with emotional talk, stories that pull the heartstrings. Before we give in to this emotional blackmail we need to ask questions. We need to at least ask “how much does it cost?” – no, not how much they want you to give, but how much of your donation will be absorbed in the operational costs, the admin of the organisation. 

The words, images, stories used to get us to support really draw us in, we will give in, we will support those closest to our hearts – that’s why fundraisers use techniques to pull on our heartstrings to get us to open our wallets; and yes heart. 

With the prevalence of this type of ‘marketing’ of charitable organisations, we  need to be on our toes when giving to charity, and organisations need to be open about how the money they receive is managed, what it costs to raise; being an open book is important for and to everyone. 

Any reputable organisation should be happy to give you this information, those who hesitate or try to fob you off with some ‘excuse’ should be avoided. 

Don’t be afraid to ask, being asked questions is something anyone doing fundraising should be prepared for. 

Also ask the people contacting you, whether it’s by phone, letter or face to face – if they’re employed by the organisation or an external agency. Don’t let them try to hide behind some cloak of ‘privacy’ that’s just a way to fob you off to avoid answering your question. If they can’t or won’t answer – don’t give, and tell them why. 

If you feel you’re being pressured into giving, not getting the answers – end the call, toss the letter. It’s likely those who don’t like to answer questions are those who are an agency fundraising or doing member acquisition on behalf of a charity. If you’re still interested in supporting, go direct to the organisation – and as well as asking them some questions, let them know of your experience. 

There’s no denying that some organisations have to use external agents to help with the funding needs, there’s nothing wring with that, so long as everyone is being open about it. 

External organisations must remember they’re acting on behalf of their ‘client’ – the charity, so must be above board with their activities and actions. 

For organisations looking at using an external fundraiser (agency); it pays for you to ask around. Ask others in the charity sector what they do, who they use – get referrals. 

And when you’ve narrowed down who you’re likely to use, sit down with them, be prepared, ask questions. If you’re looking at a telephone campaign, ask to listen to some calls – and you want to listen to live calls, you want to hear the calls warts and all. 

Why am I raising all this? Simple, if I give $20 to an organisation I want to know that the lions share is being used for the purpose it was given and not to line someone’s pocket. 

I’ve seem some horrendous examples of agents ‘charging’ too much for what they do, yet have the firm belief they’re doing the best they can and can’t trim costs. Unfortunately for charities this can mean that they only get a small percentage of the money actually raised – money they desperately need so feel they aren’t in a position to ask questions of their agent. 

I’ve seen some examples of organisations who only charge enough to cover their immediate costs, anything  over an above their usual costs are ‘given’ as pro bono, or written off as some form of charitable/community giving. Others I’ve seen might only charge a flat percentage of the amount raised – normally around 20%. Yet I’ve seen some where it’s more like 70% of the money ‘raised’ being used to run and administer the campaign leaving only 30 or so percent to be handed to the charity for the work they do. How would you feel if you knew that the organisation you’re giving to is missing out on so much? 

Charities need to also start asking why it’s costing so much to run their campaign. 

Yes, charities are desperate for every cent they can get, and are reluctant to rock the boat, but they owe to the sector as a whole to ask questions of any fundraising agent they’re using. 

For the protection and good of the charity sector – those working in it, the people –the causes , and of course you and me, perhaps there needs to be a clean up in the sector. 

Any change will only start when donors start asking – “where does my money go?” and “what percentage does the charity get?” 



Image: DON’T SHOOT 1
Daniel Wiedemann |




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