How transparent is your fundraising?

18 Jan


emmanuel church appeal

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?



10 Responses to “How transparent is your fundraising?”

  1. Amy J Burton January 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    I think this is great, my only thoughts would be if there were “unnecessary” costs would transparency act as more ammunition for those against your cause. Amazing idea from your church though, I’d probably emptied out my purse for just being part of the community.


    • Zoe Amar January 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      Good question Amy. I think it depends what is deemed as unnecessary. I like the way this church have explained a significant cost element ( labelled i. in the photo). It’s detailed and open without coming across as defensive.


      • Amy J Burton January 21, 2013 at 9:15 am #

        I really like it too, they’ve been very honest. A lot of the debates I end up having with friends and the like is about promotion and staff levels….*sigh*. As long as the costs are pure in the sense without one amount it wouldn’t be able to carry on I think it could work for many charities/causes


  2. Karl Wilding (@karlwilding) January 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Zoe – I reckon we need a version of this for charities. The code is freely available I think so it might not be too difficult to do – the problem, as ever, is the data…


  3. Zoe Amar January 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Amy- glad it isn’t just me who has those conversations! And Karl, that is a great idea.


  4. Gemma March 1, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Love that Daily Bread site! My charity, Practical Action has a ‘where your money goes’ pie chart on our website, which has received a lot of positive feedback. What do you think?



  1. The Charity Catch 22 | Andrew K MacKay - April 15, 2013

    […] Transparency: Zoe Amar (@zoeamar) summed this up really well in a recent blog post.  Transparency in a charity’s income and expenditure is key to establishing the trust of […]


  2. Do you do transparency? | madlinsudn blog - May 8, 2013

    […] Zoe Amar wrote a blog post about transparency in fundraising and included a photos of a noticeboard in her local church with signs showing fundraising costs and spends. […]


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