Article selected by Daniel McDiarmid, Principal Consultant
By Nikki Gemmell, The Australian, 19 March 2016
Will charities lose the public trust?
Nikki Gemmell’s piece in The Australian today, Charities and the donation industry: sailing into dangerous waters says nothing new about the public’s concern about the invasive practices of major charities, and all involved a familiar with the issues are happy to ignore or justify their way back to the status quo. We should be very concerned. The Fundraising Institute Australia which was once a professional association for fundraisers has sold out in recent years to English consultants and local imitators who peddle “life-time donor value” as a reason to commit the sins of which Gemmell writes: accosting people for credit card commitments on the street, sharing donor lists, and flooding the letter boxes of supporters.”
The Australian press is unlikely to over-react as English newspapers have, but we might expect a more Australian reaction: complaints in parliament, local government prohibition on street touting, removal of charity mailing concessions. Expect some heat in the discussion of the charity exemption from “do not call” legislation.
Fundraisers in the United States often talk about operating “in the public trust.” The over-use syndrome which is leaking to our shores from England is heavy on number-crunching and light on consideration of values and consideration of charities’ reputation.
The public’s perceptions will not be logical (lower costs and greater accountability are hard to achieve at the same time) so defensible practices are not the point. Australians trust charities, but a rise of discontent can erode this trust. The latest tax figures show that Australians have donated more than ever before, but also show that fewer Australians made donations than in the year before. Perhaps some Australians feel that charities have already lost their trust.
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