22 August, 2013
Last night on Radio 4’s Four Thought, there was another chance to hear Georgie Fienberg argue that charities should strive to put themselves out of business and should radically change the way they raise and spend funds.
Fienberg, founder and international director of AfriKids, explains the principles that underpin her organisation and the way it works – and their strategic (and very public) goal to close their UK operation so their Ghana team is supporting communities directly, locally.
This is all about empowering people to help themselves long-term, not making them forever dependent on outside support. And recognising that communities know exactly what they need.
In order to work in this way, organisations (and individuals) must listen and may need to put long-held views and approaches to one side.
Just as important, says Fienberg, is applying this to fundraising. She says it’s time to move away from the pitiful, heart-wrenching appeals that emerged in the 80s (which anyway give the impression that nothing is improving) and instead show and explain to donors the positive, sustainable difference their support will make.
There is an obvious challenge here for charities for whom the default position is to stick with a fundraising approach ‘that has worked in the past’. But hats off to those who are prepared to be more open, more innovative and more willing to engage in real conversation with supporters.
In the main, Fienberg’s comments relate to international development charities. It would be interesting to know if she thinks similar change is needed among those working on issues and with communities in the UK.
Her message to supporters is clear: “Give because you’re informed, not just because you’re moved. If you don’t feel informed, just ask.” If this happens, the sector as a whole will need to get much better at articulating what it does, why and for whom.