Are we being honest when we ask for money?

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Okay a bit of a provocative title (and blog) today (including lots of clarifying asides).

I have noticed a growing gap between best practice in community development (what I hope most of us are working towards) and our public fronts/how we present ourselves.  I think this is particularly true when appealing for public donations.

I’m not pointing specific fingers here- I can see this happening from child sponsorship programs to local winter blanket appeals.

I remember doing an organisational review for one agency and suggesting that perhaps it was time to move away from crisis relief which no longer melded with the agencies communicated mission, aims and purposes.  I was met with the response:

“But if we give that up then we will lose a big donor base.”

The truth is that guilt and need are very good at getting people to reach for their wallets.  Show me a picture of a hungry child and tell me you will feed her or him and what other reaction can I have?

Ps. I’m not saying we throw out crisis relief services altogether… by no means!

Good community development in its smallness and upside-down power structure is more difficult to photograph.  It is harder to communicate in 100 words or less; it is messy and (as I’m known to say) much less sexy.

But are we doing people are disservice by appealing to a person’s well-meaning soul (and sense of guilt) or should we also be considering broader community education on WHY we’re doing things differently now than how we did them in 1865 (with all due respect to Catherine and William Booth!).

This is part of the conversation I want to explore with a small group of people who are leaders in Community Development in local and International Agencies as we meet on February 4th (a conversation I blogged about earlier HERE)

The aim of this group is to walk alongside practitioners of asset based community development principles in Australian Churches to provide education and support for best practice in community development and engagement.

So what do you think?  

  • Are we being dishonest if we are appealing for donations using 1865-style stories while using 2014-style practices?
  • Can we really expect to educate the general population on best practice in Community Development and still have them reaching for their wallets?

Tell me I’m dreamin’

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