UK Fundraising Professional Sian Newton on the Value of Earning a Fundraising Certification

Sian Newton became a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in early 2020 and has had a two-decade career fundraising in the UK.

The CFRE certification is the only globally-recognised, accredited certification for fundraising professionals. By holding the CFRE, each certificant shows they have demonstrated their understanding of globally-accepted best practice fundraising principles.

Sian has worked for some of the UK’s most well-known charities, including the British Red Cross. Here, she shares her insights on the value of consultants holding their CFRE and why seasoned professionals can benefit from earning a fundraising certification.

How did you enter the world of fundraising?
I left university knowing I wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector. I did a research internship for a charity and also some fundraising volunteering and decided that fundraising was right for me!

What is your favorite part about being a fundraising professional?
Working with people from all walks of life to make charitable giving happen. After more than 20 years, it still gives me a great buzz.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Be tenacious and persistent.

What is your personal philosophy about investing in yourself and staying active in your professional development?
I’ve always been proud to be a fundraiser, it’s something I take seriously. One of my favorite phrases is: Onwards and upwards!

How did you first hear about the CFRE certification and what made you decide to pursue it?
I heard about CFRE through my fellow Directors at Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants. There’s a real emphasis on professional standards and excellence and all the other Directors have been through the CFRE process. So, when I became a Director, I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps. It was a personal challenge.

You’re currently a fundraising consultant. Why do you think it is valuable for consultants to hold an accredited fundraising certification?
Clients come to you for your expertise, knowledge, and experience. Having the certification is another way to demonstrate both the breadth of your knowledge and that it reflects up-to-date best practice.

There are two parts to the CFRE process: an application and exam. When you passed your CFRE exam, how did you feel?
Relieved and very proud.

You earned your CFRE after more than 20 years in the sector. Sometimes professionals believe that with that much experience they don’t need a certification. What advice would you have for fundraising professionals who have been in the sector for years and are on the fence about whether or not to pursue their CFRE?
Learning is a life-long thing. You can build on the knowledge and experience you already have. Go for it!

Remember as an AFC member you receive substantial reductions of fees for CFRE examinations and recertification.

The environment remains tough for charities but raising funds is still key

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis charities have been squeezed. In fact, austerity delivered a double whammy to the sector. Just as central and local government grants were being cut, public organizations were also reducing the level of services they provide to groups such as the homeless, disabled, children, domestic abuse victims or families needing extra support. Charities were then expected to step in and take up the slack.

Volunteers are being put off by the increasing legislative burden such as safeguarding, data protection and GDPR, accounting rules and paperwork.

Politicians now jockey for position as a General Election approaches and claim that austerity is over. Unfortunately, there’s been a lag between promises of more money and delivery. In fact, councils are still having to find savings and introducing new charges for some services to make ends meet. This is why fundraising is still so critical to all charities.

Stefan Lipa, head of Stefan Lipa Consultancy, provides some helpful tips on how a charity can continue to keep funds flowing in his latest blog ‘ The environment remains tough for charities but raising funds is still key’.

Solidifying your fundraising knowledge with a credential

Do you value doing a job properly, thoroughly, and without shortcuts?

If you’re a fundraising professional, this means you’re likely to be the team member consistently adhering to the highest professional standards. You show up to work each day with a commitment to go above and beyond—grounding yourself in donor-centric fundraising principles that help your donor achieve her philanthropic goals.

Since 1981, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential has stood for confidence, ethics, and professionalism in fundraising. It is a natural choice for fundraising professionals who consistently strive for excellence in all aspects of their work.

“The CFRE is the only globally-recognized, accredited certification for professional fundraisers,” says Eva Aldrich, Ph.D., CAE, (CFRE 2001-2016), President and CEO of CFRE International.  “For those working in the UK, holding your CFRE signifies you have proven your understanding of best practices that apply nationally and internationally.”

Currently, there are more than 6,600 CFREs in over 20 countries.

The CFRE journey

The online CFRE application is the first step. There are three sets of criteria you must meet and document on the application:

1) Education: Need to have participated in 80 hours of continuing education in the most recent five years (hours can be a combination of attending education and presenting sessions, as well as authoring fundraising articles). Points can also be awarded for university degrees earned in any year in any field of study.

2) Professional Practice: Need to have worked a minimum of 36 months in a paid professional fundraising role in the last five years.

3) Professional Performance: Need to have 55 points in this category. 1 point = USD$25,000 raised by your fundraising team. Fundraising professionals in the UK can convert the funds they’re raised in GBP to U.S. dollars at https://www1.oanda.com/currency/converter/. Points can also be earned for communications and management projects.

Demonstrating your fundraising knowledge

Once your CFRE application is approved, you will have one year to sit for the 200-question multiple-choice CFRE exam at any of the Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe.  There are 30 testing centers in the UK.

On average, CFRE candidates study 40 – 60 hours and tell us they learned practical information in the process that they then began applying to their jobs straight away. If studying might feel like a dreaded task you haven’t had to tackle since university, flip that thinking so you view it as an opportunity to upskill and verify your knowledge.

Upon passing the exam, you are a CFRE! Recertification is due every three years but does not require sitting for the exam again.

Cost

The initial application fee for first-time certificants is US$875. As a CFRE Participating Organization, members of AFC save 20% and enjoy a rate of US$700. Recertification is US$510 at the standard rate or US$408 for AFC members.  

Over half of CFREs report that their employer covers part or all of the cost of CFRE certification.

Get started

More than 93% of CFREs say they have gained increased recognition from peers by earning their certification, so why wait to get started?

There is no cost to begin your application. Once you start it, you’re welcome to log in and out of it as many times as you need to input your details. You only pay when you are ready to submit it.  

Begin your CFRE application at https://cfre.secure.force.com/siteregister.

Learn more about becoming a CFRE at http://www.cfre.org/certification/initial/.

How can charities expand and diversify their income?

Guest Blog – Written by Stefan Lipa Consultancy

 

Ensuring a healthy income stream is a key function for any charity that wishes to achieve its aims. All too often, charities facing a cash crisis have allowed old income streams to fall away or haven’t considered all options for new ones.

Diversifying income streams does require a deal of work, but relying on a few, dwindling sources of money is not a sustainable plan. Diversifying can make all the difference to your charity’s survival and will empower it to achieve, or even expand, its stated goals.

Step one: Refreshing current income streams

At Stefan Lipa Consultancy the first thing we do when we’re invited to carry out a fundraising audit for a charity is to review what they’re already doing, to make sure it’s up to date and efficient. Our principle is that our clients shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel, so we look at all possibilities to realise the potential within their current range of activities.

Quite often, clients may have a number of income streams which they developed a while ago but they just assume it continues and they don’t maintain it. Clients say “Yes, we already do that,” but the people or organisations at the other end of the donation get forgotten and drop away and so the income decays over time. This should be the starting point.

A case in point is a parish church we support; 20 years ago they had a push to sign up members who would contribute regularly. But over years they hadn’t updated their campaign or added new people, so the number of donors was down to single figures and income was dropping off. The church council thought there was no more potential from that method of funding and assumed that the decline was just the way of the world, but all it took was a fresh effort to expand that income again.

Step two: new sources

Once we’ve optimised existing income streams we look at identifying new sources. These can come in a variety of shapes including:

  • Individuals
  • Businesses
  • Trusts
  • Grant-making organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Social media crowdfunding

When we start work with a charity, they often say “Oh, we don’t know anyone we can ask for a donation,” but when we drill down into the issue, we usually find many more connections or potential donors than they realise they had.

Gift Aid

Sometimes we suggest to clients something they’ve overlooked which may be as basic as applying for Gift Aid. This is a scheme whereby registered charities can reclaim from HMRC 25p on every £1 donated by a UK taxpayer. It effectively allows you to boost your income from donations by 25%.

All registered charities are entitled to join the scheme but you do have to register; some of our clients haven’t done this because they think it’s too much hassle.

There are strict rules about what you can and can’t claim for, but they’re explained on the HMRC website and it’s certainly worth investigating as a new income source. And you can go back four years to claim in arrears.

External fundraising advice

If you have a professional problem you may go to a solicitor or an accountant for advice and they will usually come up with suggestions, often simple ones, which you had never considered.

All too often, struggling charities are simply reacting to events and can get into a bit of a bind and it doesn’t occur to them that a fundraising consultant can also widen their vision.

Bringing in an external consultant will introduce fresh ideas, and that’s as true for fundraising consultants as it is for any other professional. We bring an external objectivity to focus on the problem and come up with new answers for expanding and diversifying income.

Stefan Lipa Consultancy helps charities to diversify their income

Stefan Lipa Consultancy helps charities to achieve their fundraising goals. We work in areas including heritage, religion, education, youth, culture, museums, the theatre, music, health and community services.

We offer bespoke, impartial and honest advice with consultancy and management services for capital campaigns and revenue fundraising.

We work on projects with targets from £100k to millions of pounds, mainly in Hampshire, the Midlands and the South of England, providing accurate, impartial and frank assessments, every step of the way.

Free initial consultation

Contact Stefan Lipa Consultancy or ring us on 01256 698090 to arrange a meeting for discussing your particular circumstances and the services we offer. This meeting is completely free of charge, with no obligation on either side.

 

Winning Business as a Consultant

Fundraising consultancy is a competitive market. There are several agencies competing for the same business; not to mention numerous sole traders, ranging from highly experienced consultants who have been working in the field for many years, to relative newcomers, either supplementing their day-job, or trying to establish themselves for the first time. Standing out and winning business is not easy. Below are my top tips for increasing your chances of success.

  1. Specialise – No-one can be an expert in everything, so what is it you are good at? Is it Trust applications, Major Donors, Digital Campaigns, corporate partnerships or something else entirely. You need to be clear about what service you can offer, so you can meet the needs of those coming to you. There is often the temptation to say you can do everything, but unless you can surround yourself with a team of staff or associates who can bring other skills and experience, being specific about what you offer is important.
  2. Decide on your market – Do you want to work with education institutes? In the Arts and Culture sector? International Development? Are you trying to attract small charities, or the big international NGO’s? Again, without a large team of experts to call upon, forging a niche for yourself in a specific area could be a benefit. It will also help with the next step.
  3. Prove your credentials – Why should a client choose you rather than a competitor? How do they know they are going to get a top-notch service? Reassuring them that you know what you are talking about is crucial to turning interest into business. Testimonials from past clients and examples of work you have done can be extremely helpful. Of course, I would also recommend membership of the AFC, which vets all its members for quality and therefore offers clients a unique level of confidence.
  4. Marketing, marketing, marketing – How will potential clients know you exist to ask for your help? For some, all their marketing is focused on networking and word of mouth. For others, speaking opportunities and sponsorships are equally important way of getting your name known (did you spot the IFC-branded Volunteer T-shirts at Fundraising convention this year?) Either way, you need to be clear about who you are trying to target and what you want to say. As someone whose preference is to spend their time working directly with clients, marketing can be easy for me to side-line, but it is essential.
  5. Understand what clients are asking for and respond in kind. –Sometimes clients are very clear about what they need (they are also often wrong – but that is for another blog!) and present a detailed Call for Proposals. Other times they are unsure; just knowing they need help. In either case, nothing substitutes for spending time getting to know them, meeting with them in person – where possible – and really getting to the bottom of what their issues are. Only then can you tailor a proposal appropriately, which addresses their areas of concern, and demonstrates how you can help them solve their problems.

And finally

  1. Be very good at what you do. – Do what you say you will. Deliver on your promises. There is nothing more important to a consultant than their reputation!

Winning Business as a Consultant

Written by Bill King MInstF (Dip) – CEO – International Fundraising Consultancy

 

 

 

Why Leadership is important to a successful fundraising campaign.

All leaders need to have a clarity of purpose, buy in to the vision and, most importantly, make their own well-thought through personal gift to the fundraising efforts early in the process.  Their leadership by example will set the bar high and define the outcome of the campaign.  As Albert Schweitzer said: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing”.

Certainly, if leadership of the organisation and the campaign is weak, negative and fragmented it will ensure that any fundraising ambition is doomed and risks damaging important relationships that have often taken years to build.

It is important that the internal leadership is tested before a campaign starts (often through a confidential feasibility study).  If there is not a universal commitment then to proceed with a campaign would be foolhardy.

Time and careful consideration needs to be taken to build the voluntary leadership board.   It provides the ‘heartbeat’ to a campaign and drives success. A board is made up of brave, bold individuals associated with the organisation who are successful in their chosen careers.   When asked to join the board, their first instinct is to say, “I’m far too busy to get involved”.  But they do get involved because they care passionately about the organisation and its vision and they are always people who ‘make things happen’ in their day to day lives.   They are people who have great integrity, are inspiring, flexible and, above all, have the ability to listen and embrace opinions of all around them.

With strong leadership campaigns rarely fail – the right leaders simply would not let that happen!

 

Is fundraising consultancy a profession and how can charities make sure they receive a professional service? Five questions you should ask.

Stefan Lipa from Stefan Lipa Fundraising Consultancy – I’ve been a fundraising consultant for nearly 30 years and, during this time, I’m proud to say that I’ve helped many charities achieve their fundraising goals and thus enhance the support they offer their beneficiaries. However, according to a recent discussion paper by a fundraising think tank1, fundraising is not a ‘profession’– an assertion which of course I take issue with!

Fundraising consultants provide services, solutions and expert advice to the fundraising sector and I believe that there is a clear distinction between the need for professionalism and the formal professionalization of fundraising consultants.

As with any profession, there are fundraising consultants who are leaders in their field; who set the bar high by offering invaluable skills and experience – promoting best practice and making a tangible difference to charities, their beneficiaries and wider society. I believe that every fundraising consultant should take a genuine interest in the long-term success of their clients and that nobody should be in the profession if their main objective is to make a quick buck.

Maintaining high overall professional standards within the fundraising consultancy sector is ongoing but the large majority of us are effective and offer great value and support to our clients. It is vital that charities base their fundraising consultant recruitment decisions on clear evidence of a consultant’s knowledge, skills and experience rather than relying on letters after their name.

At present, fundraising is governed by requirements in the Charities Acts and the Fundraising Regulator sets and enforces professional standards and a code of practice. In addition, the Association of Fundraising Consultants (AFC) gives accreditation to the highest professional standards available in the EU for fundraising consultants. The AFC’s Code of Practice works in tandem with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Practice. Therefore choosing a fundraising consultant who is a member of AFC will provide confidence to the ‘buyer’ of a certain level of professional standards maintained by the fundraising consultant.

In previous opinion pieces, I have talked to some extent about the roles that fundraising consultants can fulfil and the results that we can help achieve [add links to website]. In this article I have summarised some of the questions you might wish to consider when choosing a fundraising consultant and to make sure they have the relevant skills and experience, as well as the professional approach we would all expect from a fundraising consultant.

  1. Does the fundraising consultant take a holistic view of your charity?

Make sure your consultant appreciates how charities operate. Check that they understand how the fundraising project fits into your charity’s overall strategy; how different departments or components within the charity operate; and that they have a genuine interest and understanding of your charity and beneficiary needs.

  1. Do their proposals provide a fresh perspective and are they realistic?

Ensure your consultant provides a clear, costed, proposal about the work they will undertake and that the proposal has been well-researched to ensure it will deliver on your brief.

Avoid consultants that work on a commission basis, which can be a disincentive to donors and it can lead to conflict and practices that are detrimental to the charity, donor and fundraising consultant. (Click here to read my article on The problem with commission-based fundraising) [add link]

Be careful of consultants that rush in and promise the world based on very little understanding of your charity’s circumstances and objectives. Make sure you are confident that your consultant will deliver; their proposals are researched and well articulated and the outcomes are realistic; they will put your charity’s interests first and use the best fundraising practices.

  1. Do they have the knowledge and experience you are looking for?

Look beyond a fundraising consultant’s qualifications, client list and achievements to understand if they have the right expertise to either complement or plug skill gaps in your charity. Do your due diligence – has the fundraising consultant delivered similar projects in the past? Does he/she have experience in the sector you work in or with charities of a similar size or with similar strategic goals?

Understand how they operate and go about achieving results and their budget and resource parameters. Ask for them to talk you through case studies and past achievements.

  1. How do they work and what is their approach to client work?

Make sure you share the same work ethic. Take references. Don’t just take the consultants word for it, speak to their current and past clients about how the consultant embeds themselves in client work/the client’s organisation.

Ask the consultant about their personal involvement in the sector – do they practice what they preach? For example, I consider fundraising consultancy to be part of who I am. In my spare time I’m a school governor for the Godolphin School in Salisbury (Wiltshire), I’ve previously been a Chair and Board member of the AFC, and I was the founder trustee and chair of the Friends of the Dean Garnier Garden at Winchester Cathedral.

  1. Are they prepared to give constructive advice?

Nobody likes to be told that their strategy is wrong or their plans won’t work. However, it’s important that you are not just told what you want to hear but that your consultant can demonstrate how he/she uses his/her expertise and knowledge to help coach and navigate your charity through change in order to achieve the desired results.

 

If you’re about to embark on a new fundraising challenge or need some additional support with your fundraising plans, why not get in touch to find out a bit more about how we can help you? Please click here to contact us. 

 Less than my job’s worth: Is fundraising a profession? And does it matter if it isn’t?, June 2017, Rogare

Stefan Lipa Consult for Funds for Norwich Cathedral

The Association of Fundraising Consultants’ Code of Practice: self-regulation and safeguarding organisations that employ fundraising consultants – By Stefan Lipa, Stefan Lipa Fundraising Consultancy

Members of the Association of Fundraising Consultants (AFC) are seen as professionals who give the best possible advice to charities seeking funds to support the work of their cause and beneficiaries. The maintenance of high professional standards is crucial to the future of providing much-needed support to charities.

The AFC’s Code of Practice, which works in tandem with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Practice, reflects the purpose of the AFC and describes the standards that AFC members have agreed to observe. In this article, Stefan Lipa, from Stefan Lipa Fundraising Consultancy, looks at each of the 10 components of the AFC’s Code of Conduct, what the Code means in practical terms for AFC members and how it helps safeguard charities and not-for-profit organisations.

“Members and employees and sub-contracted consultants engaged by members agree to abide by this Code of Practice and its complaints procedure, are committed to the ideals of charitable giving and seek to bring credit to the profession through their conduct. Members will reaffirm their compliance with the Code of Practice each year.”

All members of the AFC are required to abide by the Code of Practice. The Code of Practice is enforced by a complaints procedure by which any relevant person or organization can raise an alleged breach of the Code of Practice. This will be investigated by the AFC with an intention to resolve the issue either by satisfaction of the complainant or by a sanction on the member concerned.

Every few years, the AFC seeks information about practitioner members from several of their respective clients (past and present) to assess their commitment to the ideals of charitable giving and the quality of professional services. Members must sign a document agreeing to abide by the Code of Practice every year when renewing their membership of the AFC.

“Members will make only those claims to experience, qualifications and achievements that can be shown to be genuine and will neither guarantee results nor promise to raise sums that are unrealistic.”

While the first part of this statement appears self-evident, there are nuances that need to be observed. For example, let us assume that a capital campaign with a target of £10 million, achieves its target. A statement by a fundraising consultant saying ‘We raised £10 million’ would likely be untrue. A statement which says: ‘We helped charity x raise £10 million’ would probably be more accurate.

It is impossible for a fundraising consultant to guarantee results truthfully. The outcome of a fundraising campaign cannot be guaranteed and it is influenced by many factors outside the control of the fundraising consultant. This will include:

  • The reputation of the client organisation undertaking the project and its existing relationship with potential donors.
  • The emotive appeal of the project.
  • The commitment of the client organisation to the fundraising campaign.
  • The quality of campaign leadership and the campaign ambassadors.
  • The quality of the potential donors.
  • The quality of the relationship between each campaign ambassador and the potential donor approached by that campaign ambassador.
  • The willingness of each campaign ambassador to make personal approaches
  • The response of potential donors.

If the fundraising consultant avoids guarantees he/she is less likely to promise to raise sums that are unrealistic. In any event, it is not the fundraising consultant who raises the sums of money.

“Members will acquire clients by fair means only, will not offer inducements to prospective clients or apply undue pressure in order to secure assignments.”

The facts of each situation will determine whether a client has been acquired by fair means. This does not prohibit negotiation on price or range of service. Organizations seeking fundraising advice can often be under stress, needing to raise money but having few resources to do so. It is imperative that during negotiations, no undue pressure is applied which takes advantage of an organization’s possibly vulnerable situation.

“Members will serve only those not-for-profit organisations that to the best of their knowledge have aims that are worthy and intentions that are honourable.”

A good start is to ascertain that a charity is registered with the Charity Commission and to read the relevant information about the charity online. Although a fundraising consultant does not need to be a member or supporter of a charity (in fact it could be argued that being too close to the charity might make it difficult for the fundraising consultant to provide objective advice), it will be beneficial to the relationship if the fundraising consultant considers the charity to have worthy aims and honourable intentions. If the fundraising consultant feels that the opposite is true then it is unlikely that he or she would be able to provide the best possible service to the charity.

“Members will promote or employ only those fundraising practices that are not harmful to the public or likely to bring the profession into disrepute.”

Recent history has shown that there are some fundraising practices that are either harmful to the public or perceived to be so. Examples include bombarding potential donors by post or email and harassing people on the streets.

AFC members are expected to be very careful about the advice they give to clients and they should advise against practices that are harmful to the public. In any event, such practices will be detrimental to the charity concerned and will limit its ability to help beneficiaries.

Any practices that are harmful to the public or to charities and their beneficiaries are also detrimental to the fundraising profession and, consequently, could bring the profession into disrepute.

“Employees and sub-contracted consultants engaged by members will have a record of relevant professional experience, and will be managed by experienced practitioners.”

When a charity retains a member of the AFC, the charity is entitled to expect a ‘gold standard’ in fundraising advice – as should be expected from a member of AFC. However, AFC membership is made up of firms which employ individual practitioners who are not themselves members of the AFC (although they may belong to other organizations such as the Institute of Fundraising).

Fundraising practitioners have a wide range of relevant experience and expertise. Relevant professional experience also depends on the degree and quality of supervision and management of the fundraising professional who is in situ.

“Members will deliver professional services based on an agreed letter of appointment that details all the terms of engagement including the service to be provided; the duration of the service; the professional fee and related expenses to be charged; the method of payment, as well as arrangements for review and termination of the appointment.”

This document may be:

  • a formal agreement signed by both parties;
  • terms and conditions of the AFC member (assented to in writing by the charity); or
  • a letter or email from the AFC member agreed to by the charity by letter or email. This document is required by the AFC whether or not a firm is required to enter an agreement under the Charities Act 2006.

The agreement should outline what services will be provided by an AFC member or it may simply refer to a proposal and the date of that proposal issued previously. Often a termination date is specified, with the proviso that the parties can agree a renewal. Sometimes the agreement is stated as being in force until terminated by either party.

The agreement should set out the fee; sometimes an hourly, daily or other rate; or alternatively a set fee for a specific task. All expenses for which a consultant proposes to charge should be included in the document. This would include where appropriate: a mileage rate, travel, accommodation and subsistence etc. The document should specify when fee and expenses payments are due, and how they should be paid.

The document should also provide for:

  • A regular review meeting.
  • An ability for either party to require a review.
  • A provision to terminate a contract in addition to the termination date described above. This should allow both the consultant and the charity to terminate an agreement with a reasonable period of notice, and also an ability to terminate where the consultant is not able to provide the service (e.g. staff problems) and where fees are not being paid on time.

“Professional fees payable for services rendered by members will not be calculated as a percentage of the amount raised, either on a commission or contingency fee basis. This commercial approach is a disincentive to giving, does not properly reflect the value of the service provided and encourages opportunistic and damaging fundraising practices.”

Many potential clients often ask us if it is possible for fees to be paid on a commission or contingency basis – calculated as a percentage of the amount raised. This query is understandable, particularly where a charity is strapped for cash.

If a fundraising consultant is paid as a percentage of an amount given by a donor, it increases the chances of a donor having a negative reaction – he or she may feel they are paying the salary of a fundraising consultant without reference to the value of that service. However if a fundraising consultant is paid on the basis of hours of input and of expertise, it is more likely to be seen as a normal professional cost in the same way as the fees of other professionals engaged by the charity.

It is almost impossible to value the input of a consultant by commission. A donation may be the result of the long-term teamwork of many people within the charity rather than specifically the fundraising consultant. The task of a fundraising consultant is not to ask for money, but to structure a campaign that the charity can implement successfully. The only fair method for the consultant, the charity and the donor, is for an agreed fee to be paid to the fundraising consultant based on their input.

Payment by commission can easily be interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as excessive remuneration. Paying a consultant by commission can also lead to internal dispute and tension involving trustees, officers and volunteers of the charity. If a consultant is paid by commission where trustees and volunteers are fundraising without payment, there is potential for ill-feeling. However if a fundraising consultant is paid for the number of hours of input, on the same basis as officers and other consultants and suppliers, there is less room for problems to arise.

Payment by commission could also encourage bad practice involving advice given under pressure or incorrect advice, putting personal gain ahead of the charitable interests of the donors, the charity and the beneficiaries.

“Members will honour the confidentiality of information to which they are privy when serving clients.”

A fundraising consultant comes into contact with a lot of information about a client. This does not just apply to tangible issues such as finance, future planning, trustees, staff etc., but also the intangible such as internal tensions and politics.

Maintaining confidentiality can be a practical problem for a fundraising consultant when issues arise between the fundraising consultant and the client. At all times, the fundraising consultant must bear in mind the need for a professional approach.

Pursuing a policy of confidentiality is vital to client confidence, not only the current client, but also future clients, who will expect the same treatment, and would be disconcerted by any rumour or publicity which indicates that a fundraising consultant has breached confidentiality.

“Members will take care to avoid any conflict of interest in the provision of service to clients.  All financial relationships between Members and their clients and other involved parties shall at all times be transparent to those involved. Members, who are providing advice to their clients about the purchase of goods and services and recommend particular suppliers, will not accept payment from those suppliers for being so recommended.”

This seems to be an obvious statement, but its application is not always straightforward.

One factor that needs to be taken into account is whether by acting for a particular client, the fundraising consultant is creating a potential problem for another of his or her clients. For example, the fundraising consultant may be advising two churches, schools, museums or theatres in the same area; or there may be two similar clients at opposite ends of the country, both of which might apply to the same very restricted source of potential funding.

The best course of action is transparency. Both the existing client and the potential new client should be given full information about the fundraising consultant’s role with the other relevant clients at the earliest possible opportunity. If either objects, the fundraising consultant needs to think again.

Fundraising consultants are often asked for advice about possible suppliers. It is perfectly reasonable for a client to ask, and part of the fundraising consultant’s professional role is to answer to the best of their ability based on knowledge acquired while advising other clients.

Any advice must clearly be based on previous experience – and no pressure should be applied. It may be helpful if the client considers not only the consultant’s recommendation but also looks at other alternatives. In all cases, the fundraising consultant must not accept payment from any suppliers in return for any recommendation.

If you have any comments about this article, or would like to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Stefan Lipa at Stefan Lipa Fundraising Consultancy on 01256 698090 and enquiries@stefanlipa.co.uk or visit www.stefanlipa.co.uk. You can also follow us on Twitter @StefanLipa and LinkedIn.

AFC Code of Practice

The Association of Fundraising Consultants’ Code of Practice: self-regulation and safeguarding organisations that employ fundraising consultants – By Stefan Lipa, Stefan Lipa Fundraising Consultancy