With so much change occurring in the not-for-profit world and in fundraising in particular, it’s a battle just to keep up. Wayne Clarke steps out into the cyclone.

With so much change occurring in the not-for-profit world and in fundraising in particular, it’s a battle just to keep up. Wayne Clarke steps out into the cyclone.

Within the last ten years the not-for-profit sector and fundraising environment have evolved in ways no one could have anticipated. Technology, changing population demographics, legislation, and different methods of solicitation have all played their part.

Fundamental to this change has been the emergence of a new class of “charities” such as universities, hospitals, environmental groups, and the many hundreds of small community and sporting organisations. The growth of the sector has been incredible.

And growth inevitably attracts government attention. In the last five years especially, various federal, state and local governments have bombarded the sector with an unending stream of legislation that is imposing enormous additional costs and responsibility on organisations.

First there was the introduction of GST, accompanied by the enabling legislation that included registration as an Income Tax Exempt Charity or Deductible Gift Recipient.

Many organisations have now become collectors of income tax through their special events, charitable auctions and the sale of various items; all of which has to be accounted for in systems recognised by the Australian Tax Office.

Then came the legislation surrounding privacy, which affected such things as the electoral roll, the use of telephone data etc. This is just beginning to have significant impact on the way fundraisers acquire new donors, check their present donor details and perhaps the way we communicate with donors in the future.

Governments are also preoccupied with regulating such areas as: how much money can be spent on administration; the cost of an appeal and regulations that control the day particular organisations can collect and where they can stand in a street or knock on a door.

The practice of fundraising itself has modified to meet new demands and trends. While direct mail is still one of the most cost effective methods of approaching donors it is often only one part of the total approach.

Tele-fundraising for many organisations is perhaps the biggest growth in income and this may or may not be associated with gaming products or even marketing of products.

Special events which include red noses, bike rides and readathons continue to grow. Similarly the increasing use of technology such as fax, sms and the Internet are all now well entrenched in the sector.

Perhaps the greatest growth has been in the area of face-to-face fundraising. This has not only increased public awareness of fundraising, but in many ways has changed the demographics of donors.

Professional fundraisers have traditionally aimed their appeals at people over 55 years old. However, today’s evidence suggests there is a population of 20-30 year olds (Generation Y) who are prepared to donate to many traditional charities.

The question is, are they prepared to donate to the full range of charitable organisations? Perhaps much of this new trend is related to the changing patterns of wealth in Australia, perhaps it’s due to education, or more importantly, is it due to a changing attitude towards philanthropy?

Compared to some countries like the US we are certainly behind when it comes to giving. Research shows that each Australian gives on average about half as much as people in the US. Fundraising from all sources, has been estimated at $5 billion a year in Australia.

As a nation we do not have an ethos of giving. We are certainly very responsive to appeals for floods and bushfires and famines, but somehow our culture does not maintain that sense of giving. For most Australians fundraising is local, supporting the local club or organisation. It is not committing oneself to a particular cause and making substantial and frequent gifts.

Our role as professional fundraisers, however, is to encourage our donors and potential donors to become passionate about their cause and to become the advocates of fundraising.

Wayne Clarke PhD CFRE is the immediate-past chief executive of the FIA and is the 2005 FIA conference organiser.