Trust your staff and give them room to shine
No-one goes in to fundraising because they are looking for a career in ripping people off and annoying them. Fundraisers are good people who want to change the world. Give them the room to come up with good, realistic plans and they will find a way to raise money that addresses the needs of your beneficiaries as well as being kind to donors.
It's not new research. Employees who are trusted, (who experience "collective felt trust") perform better. Their levels of customer service improve, their sales go up. This is taken from Trust that binds - Sabrina Deutsch Saloman 2003.
And yet in this last year, with all the press attention on charities, there has been no strong voice saying. "Wait a minute. These people know what they are doing. Let's see what they suggest."
In my 15 years' fundraising management experience, I have never line-managed someone who wanted to misrepresent the truth or hassle donors or prospects. Most of the training which I have received or given has been along the lines of teaching people that asking is good, because people like to be asked. People do like to be asked, if you get it right. But you can only get it right if you take the time to find out about them, find out what motivates them and approach them in an appropriate way which reflects their values and choices.
Obviously in the world of individual giving, where thousands of letters are sent out, this degree of personalisation is hard to do. It takes time and effort to record the individual preferences of donors and to make sure that you adhere to those when you are selecting your mailing lists for particular campaigns.
I have twice put in new databases in order to be able to record this type of information, but each time had to ensure that donors and prospects were only receiving information on those topics they had previously expressed interest in. In a smallish charity, fundraisers often know this information about people - who likes to do social fundraisers e.g. pub quizzes and who likes to do sporting ones. Who likes to send a cheque for £30 from time to time and who always sells the raffle tickets every year. It's how we capture this information and use it that is important. If we can do this well - and your fundraisers want to do it well (they don't like being accused of being money-grubbing heartless beasts either!), then we can make donors happy as well as charity trustees, by avoiding any of the needless upset and nasty press coverage of recent months.
So fundraisers aren't the bad guys here really. Try asking your team "If you wanted to be a better fundraiser, and by that I mean, make people feel more appreciated, thanked, and cherished as donors, what changes would you make?"
You may be surprised by some of the answers. There may be some fantastic ideas which emerge. I certainly know from my own experience that trusted staff who feel supported perform much better and are much more likely to keep donors happy than staff who are feeling under attack.
I know fundraisers want to make donors feel special. We want to have the stories at our fingertips of how their money and their support has changed people's lives. To be good fundraisers, we need that information, those stories, those impact measures to share with the world.
If we have these wonderful stories of change, the money will keep flowing and the goodwill will return.