We do not work on a commission basis.

Nor do any fundraisers registered with our professional body, the Institute of Fundraising, who do not encourage such payment structures for any type of fundraising. There are many reasons for this:

  • the incentive for fundraisers to apply undue pressure to potential donors is too great
  • the charity loses out – only the money-making bit of the work is done, and if done well costs the charity a lot more than paying a salary
  • when using the services of a third party (freelancer for instance) then it is a legal requirement that s/he declares how s/he is paid at the point of solicitation. I have asked many trustees of trusts and they have all said they would not award a grant if payment was made on that basis
  • we struggle enough as a sector with donor misconceptions about administration costs and fundraising costs – this makes that situation worse

Overwhelmingly, however, the reason that Money Tree Fundraising doesn’t operate in this way is because this approach ignores how high-value fundraising works:

  1. no fundraising is about a quick win but major giving in particular is about building relationships with donors in order to build a sustainable income-generating future for organisations
  2. We know that if we put a commission basis into our legally-required solicitation then almost all donors would say no – so a lose-lose
  3. Our fundraising efforts reap rewards a long way into the future – it can take 12 months to hear from a trust we applied to, three years for a major donor to be ready to make that commitment. How would we monitor that?
  4. we all need to work together for success – trustees, staff, freelancers, consultants, suppliers. To put all of the pressure on one part of this group is as unfair as to offer a financial reward to just one part of this group.

I know an inexperienced fundraiser who has taken a commission-only trust fundraising job because s/he has been unable to get salaried work in the same role. There are reasons for this lack of paid work – s/he has no experience and yet is looking for a role that is not entry-level, s/he has no track record and therefore cannot prove that s/he knows what s/he is doing, s/he was desperate for work and was coming across as such. The contract included lots of non-fundraising activity around the development of the service: work that was done entirely for free as the only payment was commission for the fundraising income. This fundraiser is now trapped: working long hours in a job without a lot of reward that in essentially unpaid labour for those aspects that cannot earn commission, not gaining experience and track record and without supervision, mentoring, training or support – so no way to get better and move on to a salaried role.

If this was the private sector employing those on benefits without paying them, justifying it that these people were gaining valuable work experience to help them get paid work, we would be up in arms.

I recognise the difficulty organisations face in not having regular, dependable income; our sector is full of organisations like this. This is one of the reasons that Money Tree Fundraising exists – to support organisations to set up and grow their income from trusts, companies and major donors, in as cost-effective a method as possible. We offer a number of services that are used by organisations in this situation. We can deliver applications to trusts for relatively modest budgets or could work alongside staff for just a few days per month to provide them with the skills to undertake the fundraising work themselves, successfully.