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#19 Being caught jaywalking on your first day in Sydney

“We’re committed to doing it, but we’re not committed to how we do it.” These were the words of the CEO from one of my recent clients.

They know that they need a regular giving product, and are aware that face-to-face is the channel that provides the industry’s biggest volume of this funding, but they are not married to a certain ideology, they do not want to dictate how it is done. They simply want help finding the best agencies, running the most efficient campaign, having the highest standards and lowest risk version of the channel. In short, music to my ears.

On a side note, their work and partnerships allow for an amazing proposition, unique materials, and, fingers crossed, a whole lot of free premium locations around Australia.

The CEO was in the room because The Telegraph had printed an article about how the industry is strewn with deceptive behaviour and how massive penalties need to be imposed as a deterrent for this conduct. The CEO and board were worried that they were getting themselves into a high-risk channel that could end up with them being plastered all over the media or receiving fines.

I’m not going to pass judgement on the body imposing these fines, I’ll leave the PFRA and FIA to work together to get the correct outcome for everyone.

My advice to any charity or agency fundraising manager who is worried about these measures is simple. Gone are the days of the ‘forgiveness is better than permission’ attitude and building expected fines into the budget and passing them on to the charity. It is time to tighten up because the world is watching.

Charities and peak bodies need to understand that most fundraisers care deeply about their charity. They spend seven hours per day inspiring donors to jump on board and take such pride and joy when someone says ‘yes’. No one in the world spends more time talking about your cause than them, and no one puts up with so much negativity when sharing your message. These people are Cheroes.

Most deceptive behaviour does not come maliciously from these people, it comes from their managers being under pressure. They know that lower SES areas have a higher sign-up rate, so, in their minds, sending a team to work outside Centrelink is a way to hit their targets. Sadly, it is also a sign that they are not good enough at their job to get high quality sign-ups, and importantly, the manager probably doesn’t understand the negative impact this has on your cause.

I’ve heard fundraisers tell donors that it is just a one-off donation when they know it is ongoing. They do not do this because they think it will harm the cause, they do it because they think some money is better than no money. The fundraiser doesn’t realise how much the agency gets paid per pledge, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t repeat that deceptive line.

Ignorance is no defence. If you get caught jaywalking when you first arrive in Sydney you still pay the fine, and there is no doubt that fundraising behaviours need to change for the better.

These behaviours can be solved with better and more frequent training, more realistic targets, and closer management. Agencies can invest in management and better HR practices, whilst charities can continue to push out messaging around donation longevity, pledge fees and legislation around the tax-deductible gift.

If you are a charity or agency manager and you are unsure whether this is happening, you can invest in some mystery shoppers to set the record straight.

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