This morning I took my toddler and newborn to a music class at a local church, (Emmanuel Church) in our area of North London. Whilst there I came across a great example of transparency and fundraising.
As you can see from the picture, on their noticeboard the church have displayed how much it costs to run the church each year, and then described what each individual cost element is. They’ve also said how much they need to raise each week. Beneath this (there wasn’t space to include this in the photo) they’ve explained how to donate, including regular and one off donation options.
This openness and level of detail about costs is refreshing. I’m not religious, yet I almost donated there and then. I don’t think I’ve come across any charities who are as up front about their costs. Of course all charities disclose their income and expenditure in their annual accounts, which are publically available. But isn’t there something to be said for disclosing costs as fully and frankly as this, where everyone can see them?
Contrast Emmanuel Church’s ‘ask’ with a donation box which I recently saw in a well known museum which simply said ‘donate’ and specified an amount. I appreciate that setting out the financial activities of a large charity at the point of donating might overwhelm potential donors with information. But perhaps saying what the £5 requested would help the museum do, and how it will help them achieve their mission might be more compelling?
We all know that in these tough times charities need to fight for every pound. There are some great examples of charities who say what donations will be spent on (‘Just £3 a month will help do X’ etc). What I like about the Emmanuel Church ask is the transparency and the level of involvement you feel as a donor. I can see exactly how the church spends its income, and therefore what my donation will go towards. I know there will be some charities who baulk at this approach, saying that they wouldn’t want to disclose how much they spend on , say, office premises for fear that donors would criticise an entirely reasonable expenditure. As a communicator though, I think that if you share information early on it is less likely to be a problem. The more that charities say what they spend their money on, including back office costs, the more donors will understand that charities have costs like any other organisation, and we are not just staffed by volunteers. More importantly, won’t potential donors be more likely to give, and give again, if they can see what their gift, however small, contributes towards?