“People give what they can, why ask for more?”

Our head of public liaison, Sarah Zissler, was invited onto BBC Tees to talk about the impact of changes to the way charities are allowed to communicate with supporters.

The changes came into force this week with the establishment of the Fundraising Preference Service, which was introduced to give the public more control over the kinds of communications they receive from charities. Here is what Sarah said in her interview with the BBC’s Mike Parr. 

How do you play it then if somebody is generous enough to make a donation to your charity, do you then go back and ask for more?

We don’t, that’s something we’ve never done. So we’re actually in quite a fortunate position, as opposed to some of the charities that were guilty of fundraising with aggressive techniques in the past, we haven’t actually had to change our approach, regardless of the introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service. We’re very respectful of our supporters and always listen to them and how they want to hear from us, so that’s not something we’re changing. We don’t bombard our supporters. When somebody signs up to give money on a regular basis or on a one off, it’s not polite to ask again but it’s more than that – we also understand people give as much as they are able to give, so why go back and ask for more? I do believe the Fundraising Preference Service is the right thing to do, but luckily we’re already carrying out those good practices.

So do you think it will work? Because obviously it relies on all the charities signing up to this doesn’t it? 

It does, I think it will work, I think there’s been a big shift in charities having to look at themselves, going back to 2015 where things had seemingly gotten out of control in some quarters. It was just a handful of charities, as we now know, that were practicing in those ways but unfortunately the approach that has been taken to correct that has been a blanket approach that all charities are having to comply with. But it is for the good, the public want it and I think we need to give the public what they want.

So is it likely to be the bigger charities that constantly pester?

I’m not sure, I think without naming other charities I think it has been larger charities, but each individual charity, whatever their size, have different strategies. We’ve never practiced aggressive fundraising behaviors, we don’t try to guilt trip our supporters and we also don’t use agencies, which I think has been part of the problem. All of our fundraisers are directly employed and we have a very small team of staff that fundraise for the charity and also a lot of volunteers that support. This means we have a lot more control over how we train our fundraisers and we rely on the public to fundraise for us, and they’ve got our best interests at heart. So we give a lot of training on dealing with people in vulnerable circumstances and understanding why people would want to give to charity and when best to ask and when not to ask.

It must be very tempting though Sarah, if you’ve got a big thing coming up, I don’t know, it might be a raffle for example, you need to let people know don’t you, that those tickets are on sale.

We do it’s really important, we actually only carry out one annual direct mail campaign which is our car raffle actually and it’s been very successful in the past and I think that’s because we haven’t bombarded our supporters, and our supporters are loyal to the charity and they understand that we don’t repeatedly ask and when we do ask we do really need that support. Unfortunately, because of the changes, our raffle has seen a drop this year, in actual fact our mailing list this year because of the changes we’ve had to adhere to, is about 10,000 people less so we are feeling the effects on that and we’re having to look at different fundraising approaches. We’re looking at businesses supporting our campaign and them selling behalf of us as well so people can walk into the local shop and buy tickets, which is changing the way we work but it is fundraising – we’ve always got to adapt to changes in society.

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