After ten years looking at "Remember a Charity" from the outside, Andrew Cates explains why SOS Children UK is on the brink of joining this charity legacy coalition.
"Remember a Charity" is a coalition of charities formed about ten years ago to highlight reasons why British folk should remember charities in their wills. Obviously, as charitable legacies are an important part of our income (roughly 10%), we are interested in ensuring people understand how much difference they can make to the lives of orphaned children after they have died.
But we have hesitated for a decade and are only now starting to fill in the forms. It seems a good time to review and ask "Why did we hesitate?"
First, as an entity Remember a Charity is part of the "Institute of Fundraising". We are not "out and out" admirers of the Institute of Fundraising, which seems to be part way between a trade union for charity workers and a lobby group for some direct mail charities. It is hard to pin down the exact issue with the IoF but we feel in some ways it is possible for fundraising to be too professional, hard nosed and business-like (versus volunteer and respectful to donors) and we are not always comfortable when we hear rather clinical comments about donors, direct mail and so on. It would be a bit odd to pay (with donors contributions) to join an organisation which pushes for higher salaries for fundraisers, when we try so hard to keep our fundraising costs low. Sometimes the IoF seem to miss the point as when they responded so negatively to our no deductions for Haiti pledge... they said "people generally realise that investing in additional appeals is rightly funded by donations" which is rather cutely worded. Our view would be more along the lines of "people expect charities to use their donations for the purposes for which they said the funds were for ".
Recently, however, we have seen signs of improvement in the Institute of Fundraising. Another of their spin offs, the "Fundraising Standards Board" which started off defending the indefensible practices of some mailing house charities, and even engaging in dubious practices themselves has more recently shown some teeth and actually started calling a spade a spade. We praised them and joined them once they did this.
Secondly, we work very hard to keep our fundraising costs down. We do not run TV adverts ourselves, or cold direct mail, or canvas people in the streets, or phone people at home and our print and online ads are very minimal. We are pretty happy with how low cost and efficient we are. We rely heavily on people who know about us telling others (especially online) and we certainly grow that way because we are "a secret often shared". Joining Remember a Charity comes with a serious price tag (nearly £7000 a year for a charity like us which raises around £5m a year in the UK). £7000 would otherwise pay for a huge amount of love and care for children alone in the developing world. And the price tag is our share of the cost of a TV campaign when we probably would never accept the cost of that kind of fundraising method ourselves. Our charity's work is a very good fit for legacies (providing for a child growing up after our death is a natural human instinct) so we are confident the children we help will get additional legacies from the campaign. But I don't think we would do it if it was just taking legacies off other charities, however much we (inevitably) think our cause and work is best and most important. In the end it is our share of the cost of bringing charitable legacies to the forefront of people's minds and it seems like the right thing to do.
Do you disagree with the decision? If you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) I will think about your view and we may even ask your permission to post it here too.