The tiredness of generosity - it's time to return to the gift of giving

26th February 2019 11:10am

Hugh McGouran - CEO of TVCF

Can you recall a time when you watched a charity TV advert from beginning to end and then donated or signed up?

Me neither.  But it’s not down to a lack of compassion.

With hundreds of TV channels now streaming 24/7 and the cost of TV advertising so much more affordable and accessible, charities could be forgiven for thinking it’s a reasonable punt to reach a massive audience.  

Today, if you’re planning on settling down to watch a 60 minute programme on a commercial TV network, the chances are 15 minutes of that will be adverts and around half those will involve organisations trying to sentimentally engage you by explaining (some might say exploiting) someone or some beings bad situation. 

But is being asked to consider eradicating cruelty, poverty, abuse and much more in less than 60 seconds for £3 a month, in your own living room, logical? Especially when our social conscience is being battered from so many angles these days?

Social media is awash with emotive appeals, videos that play automatically as you scroll - images you can’t unsee coupled with ‘do not look away’ subtitles that almost second-guess/bully you into watching. 

And if you do decide to look away or get up and put the kettle on instead, the chances are, when you next hit the check-out at your petrol station or supermarket, you might be asked to give 25p to a charity as you make your card payment.  All you have to do is press ‘yes’ or ‘no’.... 

What barriers are there to giving 25p?  I have no doubt studies will illustrate that there’s a certain amount most people can make a snap decision to donate and 25p is it... 

So, in that very moment, there may be very few reasons for saying no - and as a volume model, it will likely prove very lucrative for the fundraiser.  

Over time the cumulative effect of all these demands, the lack of connection and the concern that the money may not be reaching its intended target is that it’s overwhelming and causes desensitisation. 

Add to the mix the Oxfam abuse scandal, or more locally the Age UK and Butterwick Hospice cases  - the most recent in a line of reputation-shredding stories to hit the headlines - proving that the third sector is no stranger to controversy and trust issues. 

Donor fatigue - or the tiredness of generosity as I call it - is nothing new in the world of charity but it has reached an all time high.  WHat used to be a straightforward decision about what and who you give to, is no longer the case.

It’s staggering to learn that of the 170,000 charities in the UK - 150,000 of them are valued at less than £5000.

It’s many of the big guns who’ve developed into transactional charities - many of whom will outsource their fundraising to private sector companies who adopt private sector sales tactics and engage creative marketing companies to develop campaigns and events such as glitzy, corporate fundraising events.   What these events raise in money can in fact sometimes be a fraction of what they cost to run - but the marketing machine has done its job, brand awareness is raised and we are hearing from people that they’re tired of it.

The loudest of the industry have moved from genuine altruism and philanthropy to transactional giving, they transact charity - when you give to them you’re buying/getting something in return. 

Here at TVCF, we’ve successfully built our organisation around the exact opposite in terms of behaviour and values.  The landscape is going to need to change - but we’re already there. 

We don’t hold fundraising events. We don’t send you reams of stuff to prick your conscience - we simply do not blur the lines between what’s marketing and what’s charitable - we know the difference.  

We understand you may feel the pressure of responsibility with donating.  We understand you want reassurance that your money WILL make a difference, that you may want direct input, that you will want feedback and that you can trust that we won’t have our hands in the till.   

We understand that you want to do something charitable and that you want something charitable to happen as a result.     

Most importantly, we will continue to champion the gift of giving being just that; a gift.  Not a transaction driven by a marketing machine. 

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