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?

Can charities find a new way?

Too many requests for too many donations – it’s something that’s real and has a negative impact on charities. Not only do the constant calls and requests have a negative impact on amounts raised, but also on people’s attitude to charities.

In reality, from my experience, people have organisations that are close to their heart, organisations they can see are making a real purposeful difference in their own communities.

Charities do need to cast the net wide, they need a wide reach to raise the much needed funds they need to do their work; but in doing this they are catching people who are already feeling the financial pinch from increasing personal costs, housing costs, food etc. This can cause people to feel that they’re not doing their bit when an organisation contacts them for support, this can have a flow on effect with people rethinking their entire charity giving.

Is there a way charities can make better use of targeting for donations? Probably, but in reality there is likely to be added costs in doing this – costs, that many, probably all charities can’t justify.

So what’s the solution?

There probably isn’t a one size fits all solution, but as others have been talking targeted, stand alone websites are probably a way to go.

If people can see exactly where funds are going, that there’s no middle man taking a slice of the pie they’re more likely to want to give, and may well agree to a regular giving programme if it were done in a way that they weren’t burdened with more requests, constant newsletters and then the annual receipts needed to claim tax rebates.

If there was a way you could give differently, or your organisation could solicit differently to reduce costs what would it be – would you develop a standalone giving platform or engage with an non commission (fee charged) service?

One thing I know charities will say is that they need the contact details of donors to stay in touch – sure, this can be a real need, and can help reduced donor acquisition costs.

What other things could be looked at for donor engagement and increased support?

Your thoughts, ideas and comments would be great to hear.

See also

Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

Appeal Fatigue

Charity Fatigue

Go Invisible to be Visible

Also, take a look at this from TVNZ Breakfast show – The New Charities