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Your interview: Donna Day Lafferty, Charity degree founder
8:00am Saturday 22nd March 2014 in News
Why would you need a degree to beg people for money?
DONNA DAY LAFFERTY DDL: With beggars, you see suffering, and you give someone money in the hope of addressing their suffering. That’s a wonderful human reaction to seeing someone's suffering. By donating money you are being human in a way you can get satisfaction from providing a quick fix. But when you give to a charity, you are not getting to see an immediate result - you do not get a sense of progression. Good fundraisers invite you to become part of the solution. Charities deal with disasters such as tsunamis and not only alleviate immediate suffering, they also work for a long-term solution. Good fundraisers invite people in tell them about the problem and share their vision for a solution and share the successes. You are actually being part of the solution.
You are becoming a change-maker. But some people see a problem and their role as a change-maker is to do it as a job. Other people do it by donating money. It really is a relationship and partnership between all of them, and understand the difference between a momentary need and an organisation is key.
Will this teach students how to be ‘chuggers’ (a word created from charity and mugger, a nickname for face-to-face street fundraisers)?
DDL: When I go into schools and colleges to talk to students about fundraising and about the degree, they see fundraising is: the face-to-face or the 'chugging', and the big public charity fundraisers such as Comic Relief or Sport Relief. These are massive fundraising operations and there is, of course, an awful lot of other stuff going on in the background. I worked as a charity fundraiser for 17 years and have worked with grantmakers such as governments and the European Community securing grants for charities, and there are people who make direct contact with big corporations, who organise events and sponsorship. But you could not take a degree in fundraising without talking about face-to-face fundraising. Every year in the UK £130 million is given to charities through street-to-street fundraising – that's 18% of the direct debits set up to donate to charities. A grant lasts maybe one or two years but the regular givers are the angels. Half of the people who sign up to a charity will stop it after a year, but that still means 50% of these people will become change-makers and begin a relationship with the charity – a very valuable relationship. It is the point in their life where they become a changemaker.
Why are chuggers so unpopular?
DDL: Because they make you feel uncomfortable. Someone is standing in front of you and asking you to help someone and you have to make a decision: yes or no. You are completely inclined to say no but we are nice people who want to help. However, sometimes we are not able to help with what we are being asked to help with because of our financial circumstances or we have no connection with that particular charity. Let's not be shy about what the question is: perhaps you would prefer not to be stopped in the street and asked. But the result is that you do not improve, for example, treatments for cancer sufferers.
Charities must not alienate people who support them and I hope that the University of Chichester will become involved in the ethical debates in the future.
With between 1p and 5p out of every donated pound sometimes going to the donors' intended cause, aren't most charities simply self-serving, taxdodging institutions? And does a degree course simply demonstrate how charities are predominantly selfserving businesses that donate relatively little to the worthy causes they use to pay themselves quite handsomely?
DDL: What is the reasonable return in your investment? Different types of activity have different returns: legacies are a fantastic income stream, for example. Some charities will be able to raise more money because of their cause: people donate to cancer charities because they see it as an investment in their future, and dog and donkeys are a walk in park. But what about the less well known causes?
Mental health or prisoners, for example? These have a poor return on investment because you have fewer people saying 'I want to be a changemaker'
for those causes. But charities – and there are 164,000 in this country – can be large complex organisations that need a regular, predictable income to function. It is naïve to think it is possible to staff them with volunteers – there simply aren't enough. Show me that we do have sufficient volunteers and I will celebrate. Until then, we need to attract people who are skilled and who can earn a living wage. Why do the people who need charities not deserve to have skilled people working for them?
There seems to be some aggression aimed at charity fundraisers, particularly ‘chuggers’. Will this degree course address this issue?
DDL: We teach people how to ask well and how to engage people. It is the ethical debate and I hope the university will be a centre of thinking about the ethics as we progress and we are already beginning research projects about what makes a fundraiser.
What kind of people are signing up for the course?
DDL: We have a number of school leavers, many of whom have personal life experiences of the charitable sector. We have a mature woman who wants a new career but who has already been a successful fundraiser.
And there's a chap from Zimbabwe who has been a fundraiser in his own country. Interestingly, we have people from every decade of life from their 20s onwards.
One in four people gives little or nothing to charity, according to research by the Charities Aid Foundation, which has called the 24% of people who do little or nothing for charity “zero givers”. Is there a stigma attached to those who don't give either time or money?
DDL: I don't know that any research has been carried out about that. In the UK we have a dilemma: we are very sensitive people and we do not like to pry or to be intrusive so we would not ask people about it or brag about it. Maybe we should. Maybe we should celebrate givers more. I would like to see, for example, The Argus doing more to recognise people who donate by following up on stories about people raising money for charity, asking how much money did they raise and what happened as a result of that. The donor's story is an unheard story.
How generous are Sussex people when it comes to giving to charity?
DDL: Proportionally, people who are less well off donate more of their disposable income to charity than richer people. According to the Community Foundation, which encourages philanthropy, the South East's endowment fund – where gifts to the foundation are invested in an endowment and the return applied to charitable causes – is worth £19 million. We should cheer that. In London, where some of the world's wealthiest people, it stands at £500,000. London, you should hang your head in shame. Contrast that with the North East: their endowment fund is £42 million. So in Sussex, we are not bad – but we could do better.
The UK is one of the most charitable in the world, sixth in the World Giving Index 2013 and top of the developed world for giving money to charity – 76% of Britons giving to good causes in a typical month. Volunteering levels rose from 26% to 29% in 2013. Why should they be asked to give more by professional fundraisers?
DDL: Why do you think our 36,000 fundraisers are asking people to give more? The reason we are giving the money is because they are intelligent and creative people who are making giving worthwhile. Take fundraisers out of the equation and what do you have?
We have to really understand why the donor wants to do this and make it rewarding for them. Giving is an emotional thing and fundraisers are a kind of intermediary who make it easy to give and offers incentives. That is what fundraisers do. Some people are good at other things, for example looking after someone who is so depressed they are suicidal, and so they donate in a different way. One of the things the degree is trying to do is avoid people stumbling into fundraising by accident but instead to see it as a job. And it is so rewarding.
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