07 May 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday April 25, 2007

Competing for sympathy and money


There is a mistaken belief that charities must always be run by volunteers, but there is no such thing as a full-time volunteer.

RECENTLY an article appeared in this paper commenting on the rise in the numbers of professional fundraisers for charities. Much justifiable tut-tutting was done at the very idea that fundraising for charity could have a commercial element.

But what was interesting to me was the reaction by several people who e-mailed me, saying they thought that the article would be very detrimental to genuine charities because people would simply become even more cynical about donating.

It will be good to put the whole issue of fundraising in this country in context. Despite the constant stream of news of people donating money to various causes, fundraising is still a difficult thing to do for individual charities.

For one thing, it takes a lot of time, and unless you have people dedicated to just doing this, fundraising can distract from doing actual work. Anyone who runs an orphanage or shelter knows that there are daily issues to deal with, which leaves very little time to go out and look for money.

Secondly, fundraising is competitive. You have to “compete” for the sympathy, and therefore the wallets, of companies who get dozens of appeals every year, with bigger better-known charities, politically-favoured causes and with unexpected natural disasters.

Nobody is saying that the tsunami, for instance, was an undeserving cause, but it did sweep up a lot of money, leaving very little for others. At least that’s what many companies said.

In this type of environment, it is no wonder that charities find

professional fundraising tempting. It guarantees you some money and it frees you from the hassle of actually having to go out and raise funds.

Basically, if a charity agrees

with the fundraiser on what they expect to get, then that is their business.

The question is really about the public’s perception of this. In some ways, the public view of charity has not evolved with the times. Often, charity means giving money directly to someone in need, which is fine for individual cases.

But a charity that is providing a service for people in need also needs money to run itself. Without the ability to pay for the right people to run homes or do counselling, they cannot provide the service. Yet this is often what people refuse to pay for.

There is a mistaken belief that charities must always be run by volunteers, but there is no such thing as a full-time volunteer. Unless the person is a very wealthy person already, charities are run by professionals.

Rather than condemning professional fundraisers outright, there should be some sort of regulatory action instead.

There has to be, first, some way of ensuring that all genuine charities get funding in an equitable manner. This will stop the dependence on VIPs as patrons, because those who have no access to such VIPs will obviously be disadvantaged.

Second, all charities should be required to be accountable for the money given to them, whether by the Government or the private sector. There is a need to develop the capacities of smaller charities to keep accounts and reports properly.

Third, there should be a way of defining and regulating professional fundraisers. There are many people who offer to raise funds for charity as a way of getting round some tax regulations.

Some charities are so pleased to be beneficiaries that they allow their names to be used in such a way, and receive very little for it. It would be up to the charities themselves to ensure that they are not exploited.

What I find most disturbing is the more ad hoc fundraising by organisations that people know very little about. I often see young people hanging around banks and restaurants in my neighbourhood asking for donations and showing supposed letters of support from so-called VIPs.

Often they can tell you nothing about either the cause, the organisation or the VIP. You can never know whether the money gets to the people it is purportedly for, because you will never see anything that confirms that.

But the people most exploited are these so-called volunteers. Some of them receive a “commission” for each donation they get.

But that commission is a pittance. They have to put up with the humiliation of having to stand on street corners to appeal for donations.

The public is often sceptical, not least because the volunteers often cannot explain the cause they are supposedly raising money for. This is not surprising; they are not “volunteers” for the cause, they are “volunteers” for the fundraiser.

It is this exploitation of young people in need of a job that should be stopped. But mostly, there is a need to stop the factors that cause cynicism about charity.

Ensuring causes are genuine would be a good start.