The fundraising techniques used by some charities has come under a lot of scrutiny over the last 12 months. The storm began last summer but the problems have been bubbling away for some time. The issue hit the news again recently with a parliamentary report into the possibility of replacing the self governing body with statutory regulation. Well our Head of Operations and former Chief Fundraiser, Richard Turner, has a few words he’d like to share with you.
Here at SolarAid we we like to do things differently to the rest – like setting up and supporting a social enterprise to sell solar lights in Africa and build long-term sustainable markets. Over the years this innovative approach has ensured we’ve picked up a host of awards and got to know some of the best supporters in the business (that means you!).
But if you live in the UK you’ve probably noticed the bad press that many charities have been getting for their fundraising recently. And whether you live in the UK – or are one of our increasing number of supporters elsewhere in the world – we’d like to take this opportunity to make a special commitment to you.
For starters we won’t send you lots of letters in the post asking you for money – at present we send no more than two postal appeals a year. And when we do send them we will do our best to make the most of your support, such as getting a funder to match your gift as we’ve done through UKAid and through donors like the amazing Honnold and Mohamed S. Farsi Foundations. So we only try to contact you when we’ve got a very good reason.
We won’t waste any of your hard earned money. You know already that a donation to SolarAid stretches pretty far – thanks to a nice dose of sustainable business your gift will keep on getting recycled back into our work. But more than that, we will ensure all our communications come with a very light touch. You won’t see any gimmicks thrown in with us – no pens, no coasters, no diaries, no notepads. Just a letter. We will offer to send you a solar light if you give a donation over £60 however, as we find it’s a brilliant way to inspire you to share our story – seeing first hand how amazing these lights really are.
We will never use guilt tactics. We love a good positive story, and our archives are full of them. We hear from so many inspirational people starting their own businesses with the money they’ve saved from investing in a solar light – it wouldn’t feel right to use a sob story even if the experts predict you will give more money as a result. In our experience Africa is a continent full of entrepreneurs and bright, inspirational people. We want to share these stories with you and fill you with happy positive vibes. Like this feedback we had this week :
“A card from SolarAid arrived this morning thanking me for my recent donation. The card was bright, cheerful, informative and could be read without ploughing through sob stories. I’m well aware of such stories – that’s why I donated in the first place – and I don’t need more of the same! Thank you for an innovative and imaginative card. I’ll be donating again sometime.” SolarAid supporter
If you don’t want any communications by post, phone calls or emails then just say, or just tell us which you’d prefer. We will be happy to stop contacting you. Although you might miss out on some inspiring stories and great feedback. I recall how we spent a few days calling to thank people who donated to us once we reached the extraordinary milestone of 1 million lights. We wanted to share the news with people who had donated in the past to help us achieve it and simply say thank you in person. One lady I called even put me on a speaker phone and asked me to repeat what I said so the rest of her family could hear.
And we will never pass your details onto another organisation. We don’t use third party call centres or marketing agencies, because we want to get as close to you as possible to understand what inspires you and not put a layer in between. We’re not about trying to wring every penny out of you we can get either. We want to inspire you to be someone who will talk about us with their friends and tell them of all the amazing things that a little solar light can help achieve.
Of course sometimes we get it wrong. We try not to, but sometimes you may receive a letter AND an email. Or you may be contacted when you asked us not to. We are after all human. But if we do, please let us know so we can do our best to put it right and learn from our mistakes.
We do like to update you on the impact of your support and will do our best to let you know what your donation will achieve. I still find it amazing the impact of just one solar light over a three year usage: over 1,000 hours extra study, $200 in savings and 1 tonne of CO2 averted from no longer using a kerosene lamp.
And it’s truly heartening to hear what our customers in Africa say about having clean safe affordable solar light. My all time favourite is from a lady called Sithembile from Malawi who said“We live a happy life now when darkness comes because we are able to light our home for a long time”.
And we love to hear from you – especially the reasons why you support SolarAid. Because you can make us feel good about the work we do too. So don’t be shy and feel free to drop us an email or send us a tweet. Here are some of the messages we’ve had recently:
Revolutions are needed towards a sustainable world and solar provides the way for energy access everywhere in the world. Keep up to good work SolarAid. Have a nice day! 🙂
Solar is clearly the way to reduce climate change and pollution, all it needs is a bit more of a nudge to become unstoppable. This is a small nudge that can help alleviate some of the inequality in the world. Thank you Jeremy for the huge effort you and solar aid are making, the planet and the many thousands of people you help thank you.
This was a birthday gift requested by a friend, and I also think the work you’re doing to eradicate kerosene lamps is fantastic.
Very hopeful and positive approach to economic development.
We decided not to send Christmas cards this year and saw this and thought it was worthwhile.
We had power cuts over Christmas and the solar lamp you sent me was invaluable.
I believe in fighting global poverty and climate change, and I like that you’re working on both at once.
So if you feel we are getting it right please tell others (including the media) that there are charities, like SolarAid, who are doing their best so people like you support us in a way that works for you. Because you are so important – and if it works for you it works for us too.