We’ve learned from our mistakes and can repeat them exactly

Published by Charlie Hulme on

Preview of a NEW IFC SESSION, led by you…

Nothing better sums up our sector than a line from a sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore: Peter Cook

Dud: Would you say you’ve learned from your mistakes?

Pete: Oh certainly, certainly. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I am sure I can repeat them exactly!

Last week saw the biggest overhaul of fundraising in the UK that’s ever been seen. The proposed changes could have enormous consequences on the sector’s ability to raise money.

But nothing’s changed.

All the right noises are made publically. But back at the office it’s business as usual. Here’s a true story about an enormous charity that happened just last week. Names have been changed to protect the innocent from the guilty.

‘Too Big to Notice or Care UK’ used to do their telephone fundraising with an agency that closed down after media allegations of bad practise. They moved to a new agency. Last week they scolded that agency for only converting ‘data’ (notice they don’t even say ‘donors’?!) at 7%, when the one that shut down for bad practise was doing so at 9%!

No one denies bad practise was (is) the norm. But there’s huge denial as to why it happens. It is the height of hypocrisy to publically condemn bad practise whilst simultaneously causing the conditions that create it.

Then there’s the complacent attitude many fundraisers have about the proposed Fundraising Preference Service. The consensus seems to be most people won’t get round to signing up. Which is more than likely true. But are they really going to take apathy for approval?!

It’s not like there’s been a huge public outcry in our defence. In fact a new BBC poll revealed over half the people giving monthly felt ‘pressured to increase their donations.’

And just yesterday (at time of writing) the biggest charity in the UK walked right into the age old attack about ‘admin costs’ by accepting, and perpetuating, the premise of an accusation we all know to be wrong.

It’s the same old mistakes again and again.

And let’s not forget things were lousy long before all this. Over a decade without growth, horrendous donor retention and public trust officially lower than in any other sector.

This year at IFC we have, amongst other perennials, sessions on loyalty, innovation, storytelling, and behavioural science. Much like we did the year before, and the year before, and the year before that. In fact I bet if you took the programme from the very first conference and compared it with this year’s they’d be almost identical.

No doubt every session was excellent. There’s also no doubt nothing changed. Why? we've always done it this way

That’s what we want your help with. We all know what the longstanding problems are. How many conferences have you sat through about silos, lack of investment in fundraising, risk aversion and so on? How many times has the antithesis been presented as the solution, as though it was just that easy?

But there are two major problems we’ve never addressed:

  1. If the solutions are so obvious why can they not be (or have never been) implemented?
  2. While the above is largely beyond our control, there’s plenty we could change if only we knew how.

These are the questions that we’ll address this year at IFC. And we’ll do it together.

Full credit must go to the Resource Alliance for taking the lead on this. They want to create an alliance of fundraisers who want to do more than repeat mistakes, a.k.a. adhere to ‘best’ practise, and resource them to do so.

Recently they gathered a group of fundraisers*, all with proven track records of being successful by doing things differently, to frankly identify what the root problems are and what the solutions need to be.

Their list isn’t complete – for that we need you. And it doesn’t stop there. Once we agree, as one sector, what the challenges are and where we need to go, we’ll work together to take the next steps.

First we need to understand why the problems are what they are so we can make a case for change to the forces creating them. It’s not enough to say, for example, ‘we shouldn’t work in silo’s and fundraisers should be better represented at board level’ without knowing why we do and why we aren’t.

If we can’t answer the ‘why’ question all we can do is moan about it. It’s not our responsibility if we’re given seemingly impossible targets. It is our responsibility if we don’t speak out. So let’s use this session to collectively agree what we need to say.  question

Second we need to get real about what we can do, and how we can do it. It’s painfully obvious we’re working with a broken model beyond our control. Yet there’s much we directly control, and could start work on tomorrow, if only we knew how. So let’s use this session to share experience of where we’ve made change happen.

This session will be led by you. Come and share what you can about what’s wrong and why, and about what can change and how. Join the alliance, resource it and learn how not to repeat mistakes.

*The team gathered by the Resource Alliance to begin the work were Paul Amadi, David Conway, Laura Croudace, Bethan Francis, Lucy Gower, Rachel Hunneybun, Charlie Hulme, Joe Jenkins, Craig Linton and Giles Pegram.

To end the work they need you!

IFC-2015-logoThis post is part of the 2015 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress for the 4th year!


Charlie Hulme

Charlie Hulme

Charlie is MD of Donor Voice. He helps charities uncover what, of all the things they do, cause relationship strength and what is harmful. Partners see a massive improvement in performance, value and retention. Voted top speaker at the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention in 2013, he writes frequently for SOFII, 101 Fundraising, the Institute of Fundraising and many others.


Richard Radcliffe · September 30, 2015 at 04:24

Can’t wait for the session. 10 years ago at the IFC I ran a debate. My argument was that “relationship fundraising” was intrinsically wrong. Donors in the main do not want a relationship . They just want to give and fund solutions. I still stand by my argument

Tim Kitchin · September 30, 2015 at 11:16

Hi Charlie, this sounds, of course, like very important stuff. Can you possibly add a link to the post to help people know how to participate? Tim

    Charlie Hulme · September 30, 2015 at 13:11

    Hi Tim – all you need to do is show up. There’s no homework to do (in as much as your daily work life is all the prep you’ll need!)

    The sessions being added to the program Thu morning. We’ll make sure to slip something in delegate pack to make sure everyone knows it’s on.

    We’d really welcome your participation!

Di Flatt · October 2, 2015 at 22:08

Looking forward to this session Charlie !

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