In the 1980’s, Wendy’s elderly champions tore around the neighbourhood wailing, ‘Where’s the beef?’.
Looking like prime candidates for every donor list, the plaintive cry from these grey-haired, gentle-ladies has become a catchphrase in the search for substance - and should be every fundraisers earwurm.
The search for substance - the illustration of tangible results - has always been a challenge for fundraisers. Now, with declining trust in the charitable sector and the rise of technologies that facilitate direct connections between donor and beneficiary, the task before fundraisers is more daunting than ever.
Will charity follow the example set by AirBnB and Uber? If giving becomes something that happens between individuals in a virtual world, what need for charities? In this world the task will again fall to fundraisers to maintain connections to donors. We need to move beyond simply telling the story and take a more active role in ensuring the integrity of the organisations we front – demonstrating not only that there is beef, but that it is of the highest quality.
Do we even need beef?
As fundraisers, we have been working in a closed system. If you needed help or if you wanted to provide help, you needed a charity. Fundraisers provided the ‘special sauce’ to bind the flavours, while using their other hand to pass out directions to the drive-through.
Around the world access to the internet continues to grow. Even in the poorest and most remote parts of the world projects like Serval Mesh are providing communications tools where none existed previously. In nations like these, cash transfer programmes are highlighting the effectiveness of simple money transfer to alleviate extreme poverty. While in western nations, the explosion of peer to peer fundraising and crowd funding platforms has made giving personal, easy and immediate.
Technology is inviting everyone into the conversation. Donors and beneficiaries now talk, listen, ask, and thank - without fundraisers and, in more and more cases, without charities. The philanthropic world is no longer confined to the charitable drive-through.
So, where is the charity beef?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m, not saying we’re heading for world without charities. And some, like Give Directly, are already cementing their role at the heart of these new personal conversations. But as technology continues to make it easier for individuals to connect, charities and their fundraisers must work harder to prove their worth.
The role of fundraisers needs to adapt in this changing world. We cannot continue to be passive observers of our organisation. It is no longer enough to simply point out that there is beef, we must help to ensure it is of the highest quality. We have long been the donors advocate and the beneficiaries’ voice, but if we are to survive the challenges brought about by technology we need to also become our organisation’s quality controllers.
Only by insuring the value and integrity of our organisation as a whole will we be able to appropriately position them in this new world.
We have a duty to hold our organisations to account. The challenges of fundraising are manageable if, and only if, our organisations are serving the best damn burgers in town.
Carole French has spent more than 20 years as an in-charity fundraiser in small, medium and large organisations representing a wide range of causes across the New Zealand sector.