How Martin Brookes could actually try and help UK fundraising

by Stephen Tall on May 4, 2011

Martin Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital, has been stirring it up again: Fundraising in the UK is ‘not very good’, Martin Brookes tells MPs, reports Third Sector.

Back in February, I chaired an Institute of Fundraising conference on major donor fundraising at which Martin delivered the closing plenary speech. His message then was pretty much the same: that the charitable sector in the UK is hopeless at major gift fundraising.

As so often with Martin, there’s a sizeable grain of truth in the observation which is unfortunately obscured by the typical sweeping assertions that get so many people’s backs up (but which do so much to garner the headlines which get him listened to).

There are some charities which fully comprehend the importance of major gift fundraising, and are doing it fantastically well on a scale at least as successful as some US charities. And there are a number of charities which are lagging behind, which haven’t yet caught up with the personalised, donor-focused approach that makes for successful major gifts fundraising.

The truth is major gift fundraising is a young profession, and that the demand from charities for skilled face-to-face fundraisers vastly outstrips the supply. I would be slightly more impressed by Martin’s approach if he would come up with practical ideas to help address the problem (beyond the consultancy services NCP hires out), instead of simply projecting the problem with the heavy implication that charities are incompetent.

Instead of lumping all charities together and labelling them ‘hopeless’, Martin could recognise the superb best practice major gifts fundraising that occurs, and encourage those charities (and their trustees) to aim for that level; rather than blithely castigate an entire sector.

It’s not as easy an approach as blasting the charity sector as a whole. But it would be fairer and more likely to create genuine long-lasting impact.