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13 Jul 2015

Change comes to UK charities

by Melanie Franklin

Change comes to UK charities through public pressure

Charities change neededIn the last couple of months high profile UK charities have been accused of using high pressure sales techniques to raise funds. All charities are likely to be affected as the government considers banning these techniques. From a change management perspective there are two interesting points about this story:

  1. Change is not something that can always be planned for and predicted. Internally driven change, identified as part of strategy creation follows a different path to change driven in response to societal, market and customer driven perceptions of the need for an organisation to behave differently.
  2. Fundraising is so integral to the business of being a charity that the changes needed cannot be confined to processes and systems. Make no mistake, this is a cultural change, a change to the way charities think about their donors, a cultural change of mindset.


Cultural Change

This cultural change must be demonstrated and championed by the top so powerfully that it permeates every level of the organisation. So what are the key actions we should be looking for if we want to assess if things are really changing?

Cultural change hits at the core beliefs of the organisation. The current beliefs will are so deeply embedded in the psyche of those who shape the organisation that they have become tacit knowledge. This means they are so obvious that they are not expressed or articulated, they are just ‘known’ and form the basis of ‘how we do things around here’.

Value of core beliefs

These core beliefs are communicated through actions, from senior management and those employees with local leadership who through their own knowledge and charisma are able to affect how other employees behave.

Bring them to the surface by holding workshops and focus groups with all employees, making sure each session has a mix of staff.  Mix up the different levels of seniority, different departments and functions and different locations.

Who is the customer?

It is only when existing beliefs are expressed that they can be challenged and re-shaped in response to the demands of the public. In this case I would encourage those involved to consider building a different relationship with their donors. Less pressure on the amount of donations and more emphasis on the importance of the sustainability of these donations. Move from the pressure to sign up to give via direct debits and more emphasis on getting involved with the charity.

If the measurable aim becomes the number of people that are active supporters then this is what will be emphasised throughout the organisation. Active supporters undertake their own fund raising efforts locally and through their work bring in yet more supporters. Isn’t this the organic growth in charitable donations that we want our charities to be involved in? Better this than cold calling and high pressure sales techniques.

Melanie Franklin
13th July 2015