The Budget: It was about the stories & the impact

Yesterday was budget day in Ireland. (I dont want to even talk about the mess we are in!)

I actually listened to a lot of radio shows, watched a lot of news and read a lot of online commentary and through it all I noticed two things…..It was all about the stories & the impact

Each commentary talked about people who would be affected and how they would be affected. In fact people themselves were texting radio stations and telling their stories and the impact the budget would have on them. Things like:

  • The money we lose would have bought shoes for our kids for the year
  • The money we lose is equal to a weekly shop every month

This allows you picture the impact on a family or individual. I just reminded me of the importance of telling stories and demonstrating impact.

The Wheel have published a response to the budget here if you are interested on reading it click here

The negative approach

Is one, that anyone who reads this blog will know, I am just not a fan of. So I was a little frustrated the other day when I was sent a press release and asked to post about it when the headline read one in ten to reduce charitable giving.

My initial reaction was…what about the other 9 in ten that arent planning on reducing charitable giving.

Information and press releases like these are so damaging. They do nothing to encourage giving and I think as a donor I would be a bit miffed at the fact that those that are planning on not giving (for probably great reasons) are the ones we, as a sector talk about. What about the other 9, shouldn’t we celebrate them and their giving and focus on that.

Maybe not surprsingly (to a cynic like me) this wonderful piece of research and spin was created by a company trying to flog their wares to the charity sector!

As it happens I applaud what this crowd (giveonthemobile) are trying to do, they want to provide a mobile based donation platform that is secure and simple to use. It also aims to allow charities to claim back gift aid, and anything that makes that easier has to be a good thing. They also seem to already have some very happy clients (make a wish, christain aid)

It is another mobile giving application, and I have posted about some before, but am yet to be convinced that someone would download a giving app to their phone (trust me I want to be proved wrong).

Anyway, my rant is almost over! I understand everything isn’t rosey out there (trust me!) and I know that not everyone is able to give as they used to, but I think as a sector we shouldnt accept, allow and promote the kind of headlines that giveonthemobile sent out. Its negative and does nothing to help.

(note: i had this discussion over email with giveonthemobile and explained I would be posting in this context about their release, and fair play they didnt ask me not to, I also wished them well, and still do, with this venture)


New Report on Charitable Fundraising


Irish Charities Tax Research and The Ireland Funds collaborated with the Centre for Nonprofit Management, Trinity College to conduct research to explore how nonprofits in Ireland are experiencing the impact of constrained economic circumstances. This research, which was carried out in February 2009, targeted CEOs, Financial Directors and Heads of Fundraising in order to examine how they are managing their voluntary income and their donor relationships. It also looked at how nonprofits are responding to the challenge in adjusting their strategies for 2009 and beyond. A total of 267 organisations participated in the study by completing an on-line survey.

I wonder will this report replicated later in the year, or at least a comparison done, as the information available in February would have been limited and would have mostly been projections of expected income levels. It would be great to see the projected V’s actual.

Today the results were released and I think it generally reflects what we have seen already, decrease in income, decrease in state funding (which I think is an important factor, did it affect results?), increase in demand, here are some highlights:

  • Three-quarters (74.9%) of 267 responding charities believed demand for their services would increase this year.
  • Almost two thirds (64%) expected a decrease in overall income in 2009.
  • Almost half (46.4%) of those who had volunteers working in their organisation stated that volunteer numbers had increased in the past two year.
  • Despite the Recession only a tiny fraction (6.7%) believed that volunteer numbers would decrease.  
  • 85% of responding organisations believed their organisations were threatened by the economic downturn, including the possibility that organisations would “either downsize or cease to exist as a result of the economic situation.”
  • The majority of organisations are planning to increase their fundraising activities in 2009, of which running fundraising events is the most popular choice, a case of more effort being required in order to stand still,

I like the part of this quote that says there are opportunities

“Charities clearly see difficult challenges ahead and whilst some believe that new opportunities may arise most are concerned that they will be unable to meet the new demands facing them in the current economic climate,” the Report states.

Here are what people saw as the opportunities:


I would agree about the need for charities having to be even more creative (let’s face it they can be pretty creative places0. The Report says …Charities “are going to have to become more creative and find new ways of dealing with increased demand for services on the one hand and declining income and staff numbers on the other,”

Download the Full Report Here

A seminar, Charitable Fundraising in an Economic Downturn, to present the findings of the survey and consider the implications for charities and explore possible responses, is being held by the Centre for Nonprofit Management in Trinity College Dublin, on Thursday, May 28th. Email for details

Sunday Times Rich List 2009


You probably know that The Rich List was published in today’s Sunday Times. 


Everyone likes to look at the list. They like to read about people, whose names they recognise, and see what they are really worth and how others, who we may not have heard of, have made their millions. Im sure a lot of professions look at the list and wonder how they can engage these wealthy individals and families in their business. It is no different for the charity sector. I imagine nearly every fundraiser in the UK and Ireland has gone out today to buy the list and is thinking … can we get them engaged in our organisation! Its a good question to ask but bear in mind every other fundraiser in the country is asking it! Aside from being a good read it is a useful resource to have and worth having.

The list is going to be online on Tuesday, you can check it out here.

Once again it is great to see they have written about Philanthropy. And while the data in the report relates to financial year ending on April 5, 2008 , it makes for good reading. Here is some of what they had to say:

  • the talk in the economy is on providing ‘fiscal stimulus’ those in the list seem to have taken a similar approach to their charitable activities
  • the top 100 philanthropists have brought their charitable spend up 8% on 2008
  • The top 30 givers have donated at least 4.5% of their wealth
  • Dr. John Low of CAF says “Poeple value charity more in a severe downturn”
  • Low also remarks that while income may fall in some areas but “mechanisms such as trust funds will keep the flow of cash going”
  • Mark Evans, head of Philanthropy at Coutts & Co. makes an important point, he says “I have been bullish about the state of philanthropy through the recession. People might be worth less now than before, but they still want to give”
  • Karin Jestin of Lombard Odier believes there will be a shift in focus away from the arts and culture and more towards causes that address human and social needs

My favourite quote in the whole article comes from Dr. John Low of CAF. I couldnt agree more with him so I am going to end with it:

“It is important that charities do not talk themselves into recession”

Original reporting from Sunday Times by Alastair McCall

“I’d say it must be tough doing what you do”

I dont know how many times I have heard this over the past couple of months. People who know me and know what I do telling me that I must be seeing less and less people donating to charity.

I think, in part, we have ourselves to blame. Im not living in some sort of bubble where I can’t recognise that the economy is in the toilet, I too am one of those people (in Ireland) who will lose a months salary thanks to the budget.

The reality is though we need to stop people thinking like this. We need to stop people thinking…oh Id say you arent getting anyone donating to you. Because perception is reality and that is a reality that we cant live with.

So get out there and tell people the good news.

Rant over!

52% US donors plan no decrease in donations

Most of us have seen the Headline Article in Third Sector about the research by RapiData that the Number of donors cancelling their direct debits has ‘skyrocketed’ since start of credit crunch. It is an interesting piece and yes we should pay attention to it. I had hoped to post about it but with my travel schedule this last week I wasnt able to and I’ve missed the boat!

Here is another article that we should also pay attention to though. It is by Caroline Preston and is in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Here is the full text….

Their investment portfolios may be slumping and their jobs less secure, but a majority of Americans who give to charity still plan to donate as much this year as they have in the past, according to a new survey.

More than 52 percent of donors said their gifts would be on par with 2008, while just 17.5 percent planned to give less.

But many Americans are still undecided about their plans for giving this year: Thirty percent of respondents said it was too soon for them to know how much they would give.

That leaves a great deal of room for the economic climate, as well as the effectiveness of fund raisers, to shape donors’ giving patterns this year.

Conducted in January by Cygnus Applied Research, the survey polled 17,365 people who had given in the past to charity. The respondents donated an average of $11,490 last year.

Most people in the survey said they had been touched in some way by the recession. More than 40 percent had lost their jobs or taken a hit in their income, while nearly 60 percent had seen their investments decrease in value.

On the whole, they were relatively pessimistic about the economy’s outlook. The largest share of respondents (39 percent) said they thought it would be at least three years before the economy recovered, while 23.4 percent felt the economy would rebound in less than two years.

But the respondents were prepared to make sacrifices to sustain their philanthropy. Of those who planned to give at least as much in 2009, 50 percent said they were willing to make compromises in other areas of their life to do so.

Most people said the recession would not affect their previous charitable commitments. Of those who were committed to a multi-year gift, 87 percent said they would pay the donations on time.

Meanwhile, donors who were forced to make cuts preferred to give smaller donations, rather than halting their support altogether.

Giving to New Groups

While a recession may not seem like the ideal time to seek out new donors, many people in the survey (42.5 percent) said they would give to a charity they had not supported in the past if someone they knew was seeking the gift. Many donors (40.3 percent) said they were also willing to give for the first time if the charity was working directly to help people hurt by the recession.

Sixteen percent said they would not consider supporting a new organization.
The study also explored whether donors would give again to nonprofit groups that were suffering significant fund-raising woes. People were more likely to make another donation for charities that were alleviating needs aggravated by the recession than they were to other kinds of charities.

Nearly 8 percent of respondents said they would not support a social-service organization if it cut services because of budget problems, while nearly 15 percent said they would stop giving to other types of charities.

Donors in the study said that, even before the recession, they were beginning to make some changes to how they gave.

For many, frequent solicitations were a big turnoff. Forty-one percent said they had stopped donating to at least one nonprofit group in the past five years because they felt overwhelmed by appeal letters, while more than a third said they were concerned organizations spent too much on fund raising.

Donors also said they were giving more to fewer causes (28.6 percent), being more thoughtful about their donations (29.4 percent), and donating more to local charities rather than national or umbrella organizations.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • During the recession, online gifts and product donations are expected to become more popular, while telemarketing, door-to-door canvassing, and direct-mail appeals may be less successful.
  • Starting a new capital campaign during the recession may be a challenge, as just 2.7 percent of respondents said they would give more for this type of project, while 14.6 percent said they would give less.
  • Donors cited matching gifts as a big motivator to give, more so than the opportunity to participate in a monthly giving program or the chance to avoid taxes on the value of a gift by donating through an IRA.

Copies of the study, “Philanthropy in a Turbulent Economy,” will be available soon and can be ordered from, e-mailing, or calling Patricia Sinka at