A fundraising revolution

By Lucy Heady 27 April 2010

Running 26 miles, sitting in a bath full of baked beans for 5 hours, wearing jeans to work and reading a charity’s annual report—which one is the odd one out?

Yes, you guessed it, by doing any of them apart from reading the annual report I could probably get my friends, family and colleagues to contribute a few hundred pounds to the charity of my choice. I have always found sponsorship a bit of a mystery –why should I give money to a particular charity because someone else has done something arduous or silly (or something they wanted to do anyway)?

None of this is to say that I’m against sponsorship. It certainly works, raising huge amounts of money and profile for charities. It just points to how complex the reasons are for how and why we give and the challenges that a an organisation like NPC faces when it tries to convince people to think about effectiveness before giving to charity.

Perhaps one reason that the sponsorship model works is we think “if my friend is willing to walk on their hands for a week/speak in a silly voice for a day/shave off their beard (delete as appropriate) then this charity must be a really good one.” But how many people actually take the time to check that the charity they are fundraising for is effective? A quick straw poll of my friends on Sunday as we were watching the London marathon (statistically robust of course!) revealed that most people had done sponsored events for the cause the charity supports rather than whether what the charity does actually works. And then I had an idea…

My colleagues and I specialise in charity analysis—working out which charities are most effective and why. Why don’t we do a sponsored charity analysis? We could dress up in silly costumes to add the fun aspect and I don’t think that anyone would disagree that 24 hours continuous scrutinising of charity accounts and strategy documents is arduous.

Or why don’t you have a go? You can learn a lot about a charity just from its annual report (see Intelligent Giving for more details). Get your friends to sponsor you to read 100 annual reports and then the money goes to the charity you think is most effective. I think I may have just started a fundraising revolution…