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Can effective fundraising ever be unethical?

08/08/2013

Does the end always justify the means?  Does innovation always lead to an improvement?  Today’s blog is an open question around a service I’m sure many of you have come across this year – as I have recently.  Here’s the story…

A few entrepreneurial groups have started to work with funeral directors across the UK to look after some of the administration around in-memoriam giving.  The companies engage directly with funeral directors to take moneys collected at services or in lieu of flowers and promise to deal directly with the charities concerned, saving the funeral directors time.

There is no charge to the funeral directors for this service so it’s relatively simple to see the appeal of passing all of the administration around dealing with charities to a third party.

The companies then contact the charities concerned and offer to send the money collected minus a fee – some offering gift aid services (although I’m not sure how this is achieved given the anonymous nature of funeral donations) and suggesting that the fee comes out of that extra amount.

The charity can’t send a thank you and receipts to the family (as they would with direct relationships with funeral directors) or manage their records efficiently for future activity because the money arrives anonymously.  There is also no direct link to the funeral directors or the families so no idea of exactly how much has been collected.

Perhaps the key factor is that the donor doesn’t know their donation is reaching the desired charity minus a fee.  Perhaps this doesn’t matter to some, but I wonder…

In one instance related to me by a practising fundraiser, the charity was told that they would pretty much have to deal with this particular organisation as they had hundreds of funeral directors signed up with more to follow.

So, the ROI is great.  The administration burden on charities is low and the funeral directors have perhaps a more simple process for handing over collections.  But is it ethical for this innovation to hide from donors that their donation isn’t going to the cause in its entirety?

Do please register your thoughts on the poll and we’ll share the findings with our readers.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 13/08/2013 3:23 pm

    I don’t know about ethical, but it’s problematic for sure! I don’t have a problem with a third party handling the donations per se, but it should be much more transparent than this example. The charities need to know who the money is in memory of, so that they can send thank you’s. And the companies handling donations need to be transparent so they can be checked up on. Donors need to be sure that money goes where money is intended. I don’t really have a problem with a fee being deducted either (after all, when you do a job you should get paid for it), as it saves all parties time, and time is money. But it needs to be proportionate, and it needs to be communicated to donors in advance. So a yes/no there from me 😉

    • 13/08/2013 5:21 pm

      Good points Beate and I agree in general – especially with the donors’ money ending up where it should be. And this is my biggest concern with these operations. Donations aren’t making it to the charities in full and donors don’t know this fact. I wonder too if funerals aren’t just the wrong place and the wrong time for commercial innovation in this way?

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