Tasks for the new CEO of the Institute of Fundraising

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Tasks for the new CEO of the Institute of Fundraising

Joe Saxton

There will be a new permanent CEO of the Institute of Fundraising once the recruitment process is complete. They will face a basket of challenges. Fundraising, and the wider charity sector, has had a difficult decade (to put it mildly). Yet all too often in my view, the Institute has not taken the lead when it should have done. It dragged its feet on changing the regulatory structure to put the public first. It didn’t create a culture where all fundraisers could feel safe and respected. It has failed to adapt to the way that the world of fundraising and charities are changing. And perhaps above all, it has failed to give inspiration and ideas that show fundraising can flourish, when it has been under assault from all sides. So, the Institute needs a new strategy. Here are five things that I think the new CEO should prioritise.

Make fundraising safe for everyone

Fundraising has an environment which is a fertile breeding ground for harassment and oppression: a raft of junior female fundraisers and senior male fundraisers. It’s easy to dismiss this as a stereotype, but in too many organisations it’s still the norm. Fundraising needs to change to become more of a meritocracy, but also to take proactive steps to stop a culture where sexual harassment can so easily flourish. I have no doubt things are better since I started in fundraising over 30 years ago – but they still have a long long way to go. The ongoing news about the IoF’s recent investigation into cases of sexual harassment only reinforces how important it is to get this right.

Bring diversity to the role of IoF Chair

One of the dangers of diversity is that it’s all too easy to focus on race and gender. The role of the Chair of the Institute is incredibly important. That person is the role model for fundraisers to look up to. Yet only one kind of person appears to fill that post – directors of fundraising from house-hold name charities: Macmillan, NSPCC, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Save the Children, Red Cross and a few more. Ironically because the holders have been men and women, and not all white, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security on diversity. But being a director of fundraising at a large charity gives people a very distinct and narrow view of the fundraising world – and that cannot be helpful.

Don’t get misled by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising

There is no doubt that the Institute has spent a lot of time and energy becoming Chartered. It is a significant badge of achievement. However, it makes no impact on public perceptions. nfpSynergy research with the public showed that only 4% of people strongly agreed that they could explain a Chartered organisation to a friend, and most didn’t know what it really meant. Sadly, the Institute seems to believe its own propaganda and somehow thinks being Chartered will solve all the public perception problems of fundraising. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Institute needs to make changing public perceptions at the heart of its work going forward.

Make the Institute about income generation not fundraising

According to NCVO, donations and purchasing by individuals totals about 40% of all income generated for charities. Our prediction at nfpSynergy is that this percentage will decline over the next 20 years (see below for more details on this). The danger is that the Institute has painted itself into a corner by only being about fundraising, and not about income generation. This isn’t just because fundraising is going to shrink, but also because charities want to manage and maximize all their income. Fundraising is just a portion of that. When the Directors of Comms, of Finance, of HR, of IT manage all that their organisations do in those areas, its unhelpful to have a Director of Fundraising who has the skills and mandate to only manage a portion of total income.

Give inspiration that fundraising has a buoyant future

There is hardly any part of fundraising that hasn’t been given a mauling in the last decade. Individual fundraising, and especially telephone fundraising has been battered by GDPR. Street and door to door fundraising has been battered by tighter regulation. Events, retails, and tin-rattling have been battered by Covid. While online purchases have taken off in the retail sector, they are sluggish in the charity world. There are more problems on the horizon; cash is dying, (pushed on by Covid), and cheques are ahead in the queue for the knacker’s yard. However, both still remain important channels of income for some charities.

The Institute needs to identify a path through these rocky waters. It needs to give fundraisers inspiration and optimism that as some forms of fundraising decline, others will emerge. It needs to get together the best and brightest from the fundraising world to map out the next decade or more. Above all, it needs to give charities the confidence that fundraising will continue to be a rocket fuel that makes charities able to change the world.


Submitted by Dorothy Hodgkinson (not verified) on 17 Jun 2021


I agree with your points, Joe, and would add that given approximately 97% of charities are small charities it is concerning that the lead role of the IoF will undoubtedly come from one of the big charities. The experience of fundraising is so completely different and often much more challenging within the small charity sector, but this risks not even being seen, let alone overlooked, if lead roles in this field continue to go to those from the large charities. The method, practice, pressures and challenges are so different between the two scales of charities, and the opportunities to influence lead thinkers and policy makers around funding are far more difficult for small charities to access (unlesss teamed up with the likes of Small Charities Coalition who, in my opinion, are doing an incredible job of raising the profile and voices of small charities). To have small charities reflected at the top of the IoF could make a profound difference, including in relation to all the points you raise.

Submitted by Hilary Barrrett (not verified) on 17 Jun 2021


Couldn't agree more especially about Income Generation and Fundraising. Thanks Joe

Submitted by Liz Haigh-Reeve (not verified) on 17 Jun 2021


This is a great blog - the current approach being taken by the CIOF just isn't working for anyone and the time has come for some re-imagining of what brilliant could look like. Instead of feeling battered, exhausted, confused, angry and now just plain embarassed, this passionate, committed membership should be given the chance to reinvent the stale and tired institution that is the Chartered Institure. It is a membership Organisation and should be member led and CIOF enabled and not the other way round.

Submitted by Robin Causley (not verified) on 1 Jul 2021


I'm a Funding Advisor for an infrastructure organisation and mostly work with small charities.
although I'm a member of the IOF , I've never found its work and services very relevant to such charities' , most of whom, at most, have one staff member who spends a proportion of their time on fundraising amongst a whole load of other responsibilities. IOF conferences events, speakers and agendas are mostly dominated and more relevant by those working in fundraising departments at larger charities and understanding or interest in the fundraising needs and support required by smaller charities and voluntary and community groups isn't very evident. The organisation needs to be more inclusive in this respect as currently it is unrepresentative of the greater majority of groups and organisations in the sector.

Submitted by Frank Gillender (not verified) on 6 Jul 2021


As per Robin Causley's comment above, I'm also a Funding Adviser for an infrastructure organisation (in the NE) and have also never found the IOF very helpful or relevant to the needs of the predominantly small charities I help with fundraising. I'm also in complete agreement with the other comments above - IOF is sadly out of touch, seems to live only in the highly rarified atmosphere of the major national charities & comes over as very London-centric. Love the blog Joe and please keep talking truth to power

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