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Charity Fundraising – How Much Do They Get?


In the good old days some scarily thin person would come round the office with a piece of paper collecting sponsorship for a feat of endurance and endeavour. They would get sponsored either by the mile or for completing the challenge. If their achilles gave out on Tower Bridge only a harsh person wouldn’t cough up the full amount in the weeks to follow. They would pay the cash into the bank, write out a cheque for the same amount and post it to the charity without deducting any fees for the envelope, the stamp, travel to the event location, any applicable entry fee, meals before or after or overnight accommodation. Gift Aid didn’t enter into it.

Then the charities got involved directly. In the case of the London Marathon they pay £300 to the organisers for a place and runners are expected to raise amounts well north of £1,000. Of that £300 the organisers pay a percentage to The London Marathon Charitable Trust. Recent reports have said 25%, whatever the percentage it is £300 that doesn’t go to the charity you are raising funds for. For Golden Bond places the charities have to pay considerably more than that and the fundraising minimum targets reflect this. In addition these charities often offer pre-race breakfasts, post-race massages, meals, T shirts and much more besides. Who pays for this differs from charity to charity, some will get donations of food, labour and materials. Suffice to say the more there is on offer the greater the likelihood that the charity’s ultimate beneficiaries will benefit less. If the participant benefits are donated then this is goodwill the charity has that isn’t going to the ultimate beneficiaries of the charity. The biggest advantage of this method is that the most effective fund raisers can do their good work every year, rather than depend on the 20% possibility of getting in via the self-funded ballot.

Some time towards the late 90s JustGiving came on the scene to help people raise money on the web. I had several email discussions with the founder on the UKRunning email list I had set up. Some runners were very hostile towards them but I saw it as an opportunity to spread the catchment area beyond the office, friends and family. One of the key advantages was that they handled all of the money and they reclaimed Gift Aid. You felt safe sponsoring people you wouldn’t necessarily want to hand cash to and they raised more through Gift Aid. Since then Virgin Money Giving have arrived on the scene. Using the comparisons here http://www.justgiving.com/about-us/what-it-costs and here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving/about-us/fees.jsp the amount raised is increased by 19.2% using JustGiving and 24.7% using Virgin Money Giving.

Then along came fundraising for an endeavour abroad, walking The Great Wall Of China, mountain biking in The Andes, the kind of thing I would happily pay for a holiday to participate in. But in this case if you raised enough money it was either completely free or subject to a small registration fee compared to the actual cost of the jaunt, sorry, fundraising trip. So the donors would pay for the flight, transfers, meals, accommodation, sightseeing, equipment used, guides and for the participant it would save on food and electricity/gas if they stayed at home. Genius! Where do I sign up? The endeavours never appear to be particularly arduous and the pleasure involved in seeing an exotic place would likely make up for this. This is why other people are willing to pay for these trips 100% out of their own money and call them adventure holidays.

Since the rise of Twitter and Facebook the number of “opportunities” to sponsor your friends and acquaintances is much greater. I have no argument with people doing, say, a sponsored parachute jump and having the cost paid for by the sponsors who can negotiate substantial discounts. Charity fundraising shouldn’t just be the domain of the well-heeled who can easily afford such things and the more dare-devil the task the more likely it is to raise larger amounts for the cause. I wouldn’t sleep well for days before hurling myself out of a plane, but a free trip abroad, beautiful landscapes and a thoroughly enjoyable adventure would only trouble my sleep counting down the days.

So how do they compare? Let’s use £1,750 in donations being the minimum for the holiday in 4 below.

  1. The old way, with a piece of paper and pledges collected after the event completely funded by the participant £1,750.
  2. New style using Virgin, again self-funded and with the hard to measure advantage of being able to post, Tweet or email your link £1,750 x 1.247 = £2,182.25.
  3. Using a charity provided place, otherwise self-funded, using the London Marathon minimum charity place fee and assuming those meals, showers, rubs, T shirts and so on don’t actually cost the charity anything £1,750 x 1.247 – £300 = £1,882.25.
  4. For the foreign jaunt we will ignore South America for now where the costs before the charity gets anything are enormous and take this more modest example recently doing the rounds on Twitter http://www.globaladventurechallenges.com/international/sahara.htm# based on the self-funded cost. There may be charity discounts but they are not revealed. We will ignore any environmental costs on the flight abroad and the potential damage to World Heritage Sites £1,750 x 1.247 – £799 = £1,383.25.

So the self-funded options raises 57% more for the cause and you don’t feel like you’ve paid for somebody else’s holiday!

In these times where the government are cutting down on many essential services should the amount of Gift Aid funded by you and me not be related to the actual amount raised after costs? Gift Aid is increasingly being used to pay for flights, airport taxes, overseas guides, hotels and meals. There are many tour operators at home who would be glad of the extra revenue but more importantly there are people in all areas suffering from government cut backs who could put this Gift Aid rebate from the general taxation pool to far greater use.

Please keep giving but be sure you are aware how effective your giving is.

N.B. If anybody spots any mistakes I will be happy to correct them and give full credit.

  1. 10/11/2010 at 7:28 pm

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with
    your blog.

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