Why is it so hard for charities like BHT to raise funds from the public?

Last week we undertook a review of BHT’s fundraising and publicity activities. One of the Board members present expressed surprise at how little we raise through individual giving compared to the size of the organisation. what is raised is essential for the running of First Base Day Centre, and without this support First Base could not continue operating.

But our Board memberis right. The sums raise are not in the hundreds of thousands, let alone a million. It is our ambition to raise £100,000 per annum from supporters and events, but we have some way to go yet.

It is not easy. There are many reasons why our donor income is relatively modest. Here are three:

  • We are not one of the Big Three C’s for charity giving – cats, children or cancer.
  • We are having to counter the ‘benefit scrounger’ narrative that is turning public sympathy away from those who aren’t included in the ‘hard-working families’ mantra.
  • There is a growing mistrust of charities. In the last year, according to research published by nfpSynergy in June, the number of people saying they trust charities has fallen from 66% to 56%.

There is nothing we can do about the three C’s. We can continue to tell the stories of our clients to counter the negative spin of some politicians and sectors of the media. My experience is that the overwhelming majority of people on benefit wish to move forward with their lives. Let’s not forget that last year 92% of new claims for housing benefit were made by people in low paid employment.

As for trust in charities, we have no right to automatically expect trust and support. We need to earn and maintain it. Like many charities we publish our accounts on our website and they are also published by the Charity Commission. But perhaps charities should be more transparent about their affairs.

Perhaps we could publish, amongst other things, how much we spend on fundraising activities. But therein lies a further problem. Are we comparing like with like? When asked for a report to be published in September how much they spend on fundraising as a proportion of income raised, some big charities answered as follows:

  •  Save the Children: 10%
  •  Cancer Research UK: 22%
  •  Arts Council: 0%
  •  Macmillan Cancer Care: 39%
  •  Oxfam: 18%
  •  British Red Cross: 33%

On the surface it looks like Macmillan and the British Red Cross are either inefficient or unsuccessful. I think that the reality is that they are being the most honest! Fundraising is expensive and it might help to build public trust if there was an agreed methodology is establishing the ratio between spend and income.

A question I have of givers is do you give to a charity or to a cause? If it is a cause, BHT is up against 32 other charities working with homeless men and women in Brighton and Hove and national organisations like Shelter and Crisis who spend, literally, millions on fundraising and publicity activities.

If people give to a charity, we have our work cut out in competing against excellent local charities (who I have supported) such as Rockinghorse and the very wonderful Martlets Hospice.

These matters do trouble me and keep me awake at night. If you wish to ease my troubled mind and help me to get a good night’s sleep, you could always make a very generous donation to BHT’s First Base Day Centre, c/o 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH or online here!.

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One thought on “Why is it so hard for charities like BHT to raise funds from the public?

  1. Is fundraising expensive? – Andy Winter's BHT Blog

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