What are your plans for 2014

What are your plans for 2014

I originally wrote this in 2011 after writing What are your plans for 2011 for Socialize Your Cause which was more about what plans charities and non-profits could be doing to help them plan for 2011.

I’ve updated this as the New Year fast approaches. Let’s look at what we as individuals are planning, or could do this year to help others in the community.

There’s many options for us when it comes to charity giving, in New Zealand alone we close on 27,000 registered charities looking for support; this doesn’t count the number of community organisations not registered with Charities Services that are also looking for support. But, being Kiwis we are generous and support many activities, people and organisations in the community.

So, where do we begin when looking at who, what and when to support? I guess one of the things we could do is look at why we support

Perhaps we should look at Not-for-profit – Giving Survey Results and how we handle charity requests both of which give an insight into what and why we support.

If you’re working with/for a non-profit, it’s important to have your plans laid out – spend the time, see it as an investment.

For those in the community that support non-profits, it’s not a bad idea to spend time thinking about your contributions, who and what you give to, the frequency, the amount of money or time given; are there things you want to do differently?

There have been stories over the years of families who sit down, and as a group decide what non-profit/s they will support, how they will do it. Some opt to give any money they would spend as a family on a holiday to a cause in their local community; others will put any money normally spent on children’s birthday parties to causes that benefit children.

No matter what or how you’re able to give – as part of your planning for the year ahead, grab a pad and pen and note what you’re wanting to achieve through your charitable giving.

We plan almost everything in our lives, so why not our giving?

Who or what will you support in 2014?

How will you support organizations in your community?

What if anything are your expectations in return for the support you give?

As a company will you involve your staff in the decision making of what causes/s the company will support?

Can you introduce the cause/s you support to others in your family, circle of friends, business or community associations?

All these and more questions will help you with your charity giving plans for the coming year … so, pick up that pen and paper and start your planning now!

Bequeathed Items

A supporter leaves you something special in their Will, the gift is from the heart with the supporter wanting to leave something to perhaps remember them by, or something that will be meaningful to your organization.

But, what do you do down the track when you relocate, renovate or simply want a new look?

Do you store the item or relocate it when you upgrade facilities; or do you sell it?

Maybe it depends on the gift, the legal side of the gifting – was it something left for a specific purpose.

Perhaps the donor wanted to leave a lasting legacy, and wanted what they gifted to be a lasting legacy to you and the work of the organization.

If your organization can, would it contact family of the donor to discuss what would be the best thing to do, or would it simply do what it wanted without any thought for the meaning behind the gift?

From people I’ve spoken with it seems most would do what they saw fit, many said “a gift is a gift and we can do what we want”, is this the view your organization has? 

More Openness and Accountability Needed

Again, we’re hearing stories about one NZ organization which appears to have not used funds in the way donors had intended. If this is truly the case, and I have no evidence either way other than what I (like you may have read, or heard in the media); then perhaps Charity Services need to look at some random auditing process.

A random auditing process may help stop organizations from using funds for purposes for which they weren’t intended.

One of the ideas behind the Charities Commission, now Charity Services, was to help register and monitor the sector, and an offshoot of this was to help build public confidence in the sector; a sector that generates around billion of dollars annually.

When people hear about things such as the Wellington foodbank it doesn’t foster confidence in the sector and, not only relates to the one organization but, the flow on effect can impact on continued support and giving for other organizations.

In October 2012 I posted Public trust and confidence in charities – survey results, it found “ … that 44% of respondents had a high level of trust and confidence in charities, down by 11% since 2010, and 14% since 2008”, confidence and trust in organizations, knowing that organizations are doing what they set out to do are reasons why people support.

When the public read about funds not getting to where they were intended, or about high overheads, high cost of campaigns etc; it can (and does) turn people away.

Do we, all of us working within the sector owe it to ourselves, and the sector as a whole to look out for one another, to help ensure a high level of accountability. Or do we leave it to others?

How will do the general public know about the role of Charity Services – do the general public know that roles of Charity Services included:

  • Monitoring and investigation of registered charities, and governance and management education and support provided to charities by the Commission
  • The Charities Commission receives and responds to complaints from and about charities

And, that the Charities Register contains the details of all registered charities, including their rules, officers, contact details, and financial information, and is open for scrutiny by members of the public

We always see ads advising people how to make a complaint about something they’ve seen on TV, heard on the radio or in the papers – but, when was the last time you saw how people can make complaints or raise issues with the “governing body” when it comes to charities?

Everyone working in the sector needs to help build and maintain its reputation, perhaps individual members in the sector could as a sign of openness have content on the website or other collateral of how people can ask questions and lay complaints should an organization appear not to be fulfilling its duties and responsibilities.

What are your thoughts?

Personal Information – Given for One Reason, Used for Another

You walk down the street and get confronted by an organization asking you to sign their petition; you do so only to find out down the track that they have used your information for other purposes – how do you feel?

Recently an organization was “outed” for using names and contact information to add to their calling or mailing list; and when the organization was asked about this practice they simply said something on the lines of ‘people know there’ll be communication from us’.

Is this right? Remember you only gave your contact information so as to sign a petition, you didn’t, or most likely didn’t do it to be added to a phone or mailing list.

Is this another form of “chugging”?

When the NZ Privacy Office says people who give their information it is reasonable to assume they would be used to contact you, one has to wonder if this is the right attitude from a body set up to protect people’s privacy and to ensure information supplied is used for the purposes for which it is given.

In signing a petition, name, address etc are given mainly for the purposes of ensuring all names collected are bona fide.

If an organization then uses this information for other than what you supplied them for, from a personal perspective this surely must be in breach of the Privacy Act.

If you were to receive letters, emails or phone calls from an organization through this practice, would it put you off supporting them further?

Product Donations

It often happens a charity makes a request to a business for a donation and instead of cash, they are offered product; anything from books, kitchenware to vouchers for services can often be offered.

The dilemma some charities face is what to do with the items – some don’t have the resources to convert these items into cash. What can they do with them?

In general I’d suggest any charity being offered product instead of cash, should where possible accept it. It could be seen as being uncharitable to turn items down, if you say no today, will they offer anything else in the future. Are you willing to take the gamble? I’d suggest accept the items in– you will find a use for them, you’ll likely be able to convert them to cash – all it takes is some thought and planning.

How can goods be converted/traded into cash?

Raffles and sweepstakes

Smaller items can be ‘grouped’ together and a raffle/sweepstake held to convert items into cash.

Depending on where you are these can be held with little red tape depending on the value of the prizes offered.

Get supporters to help sell tickets. Use space on the tickets to help reinforce the message of the work you do in the community.

On Sell, Garage Sale, Online Auctions

As items come in it could be worth looking at the volume and if there is a large enough number of items perhaps you could hold a garage sale.

Supporters and the wider community could help with other items to help make it worthwhile – for visitors.

As well as an opportunity to sell items, a garage sale could be an opportunity to provide some entertainment making for a family event.

This would also give you the opportunity to help educate people about the work you do.

If there are too few items to warrant a garage sale – use an online auction site to sell the goods, relatively easily converting them to cash.

This is relatively simple to do, and would only require regular attention being paid to what bids are coming in, questions about the items being asked, and arranging delivery of sold items.

Charity Auction

A gala event with a charity auction ‘attached’ can reap good rewards.

Hold a gala charity dinner, hold both silent and open auctions – as well as giving supporters the opportunity to mix and mingle, staged right they can be very successful and fun for all concerned.

Both silent and open auctions can often be a bit of fun, with competing companies competing with each other to win the auction.

Entertainment and speeches (brief) help to build the theme for the night and also gives you the opportunity to publicly thank supporters.

You can list items on TradeMe – who generally offer registered charities special offerings, there’s also a relatively new site List Buy Give which may suit your needs.

Next time you’re offered a fridge, vacuum cleaner or other item – think again before saying no. You could convert this to cash!!

What are your experiences, policies on accepting donated goods?