How guilty are you of indifference – and do you care either way?

Thinking about the consequences of our actions before we commit them is something we’re taught from childhood – or at least should be. The lesson less often learned is about the consequences of inaction, which can cause just as much damage, says Ollie’s dad Ron…

Ron was on his knees in church, not praying, but cleaning. He was helping out a family friend with a conservation project, removing more than a century of grime from paintwork.

“Hard to imagine that paint can become as dirty as this, when people have been inside the church probably every day since it was new,” he said. “I suppose it was a case of familiarity; the paintwork got just a tiny bit dirtier every day, with the change so small as to be imperceptible. And if no-one noticed, no-one saw a need to do anything about it, and that’s why we’ve come to this point. It’s only when you clean it that you can see how it was supposed to look.”

Levering himself upright, he turned to the Vicar, who’d been watching him work. “It’s much the same with my knees, you know. A tiny bit creakier every day…”

Glossing over Ron’s creaky knees, the Vicar agreed, adding: “Supporting charity is much the same. We keep reminding people of the need to help others, but if we stop asking, then they don’t donate. People soon forget what a difference their help can make, and that the need for it never goes away,” she said. “That means there’s a fine line between being effective at fundraising and being a nuisance.”

The business model
Ron nodded, and settled into a pew with his packed lunch. “I suppose the trouble is that people are all busy getting on with their own lives, and who knows what problems of their own they’re having to face. But that doesn’t change the fact that someone, somewhere, is probably worse off than they are. It’s probably your business model that’s wrong,” he said, jabbing at the air with a ham sandwich to reinforce his point.

The Vicar frowned. “We don’t have a business model. Why would we need one? We’re a church, and we raise money for charity,” she said.

“Ah,” said Ron, hand over his mouth as he rushed to chew the sandwich. “Your charity fundraising isn’t a business, but money’s changing hands, so you’d probably be more effective change makers if you had a business model. For a start, are you asking the right people for help?”

“We’ll take help from anywhere,” said the Vicar, sitting down beside him. “Is that wrong?”

A different approach to giving
“We’ll it’s not necessarily wrong, but it still might not be the right approach,” said Ron. “At the moment you’re asking for donations from everyone because you want to ‘help a good cause’. That’s laudable, but it’s a one-way transaction. From the point of view of the donor, what’s in it for them? Some will keep giving you money because they share your view about the need to help; they understand the ‘one random act of kindness’ concept – but that’s not everyone. Others will give once, and then might cross the road to avoid you the next time. The consequence of their inaction is hardship for someone, somewhere, even if they don’t realise it.”

It was at that point that Ron explained the Solo Expenses approach, of regularly giving money to a selection of charities supported people suffering enormous hardship through the cruel hand they’d been dealt by fate. You can read about them here.

“The owners of Solo Expenses give everyone the chance to be change makers. A regular donation from company profits doesn’t make the company any less successful, but it secures giving from every customer – maybe even just a few pennies, but they all add up. And because the donations are regular, the charities have a source of income they can rely on.”

What’s in it for customers
“And what’s in it for the Solo Expenses customers?” the Vicar wanted to know. “CSR,” said Ron triumphantly. “And PR. Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations. Good companies recognise that they don’t operate in isolation, and senior people like to be able to talk about their good works in the community. You need to tap into that.

“Big companies make thousands. Bigger ones make millions. They won’t notice a few hundred every month, but it would be a massive boost to your fundraising, wouldn’t it, Vicar? Ask a few senior people in a few big companies in the area to help; impress on them the value to their standing in the community, especially in the eyes of shareholders. Shake the senior management tree a bit, and see what falls out. You have nothing to lose by asking, and if you can dent that shell of indifference even a little bit, you’ll be doing a power of long-term good.…”