Should I donate to Unicef ​​people

Unicef ​​affair: collecting donations has long been a business for professionals

The call came from Unicef. At least that's what thought Ruth Sendler *, who kept transferring money to the UN organization for good causes. But when she was asked on the phone for a "rounded up" donation and got strange answers to her questions, it dawned on her: The call did not come from Unicef ​​at all, but from a call center. Ruth Sendler was suddenly deprived of all illusions: The employee of a fund-raising agency, a telephone acquirer and service provider, was collecting donations on behalf of Unicef. That didn't match Sendler's idea of ​​idealistically minded, honorary and full-time Unicef ​​staff: "I ended my support at the time."

The business practices of Unicef ​​no longer only irritate individual donors, they are currently bringing the entire donation industry into disrepute - especially the increasingly professional methods of collecting money, of fundraising.

The German section of the UN organization has been fighting serious allegations since November. A broker is said to have received 30,000 euros for a 500,000 euro donation from the retail group Lidl - but the man was allegedly not involved in the making of the donation. A former Unicef ​​employee allegedly received around 250,000 euros in consultancy fees in three years in addition to his pension. The expensive renovation of the German Unicef ​​headquarters in Cologne has been criticized. Likewise, the question of whether donations have fully benefited their purpose after two years. The Unicef ​​chairman Heide Simonis has since resigned, Unicef ​​managing director Dietrich Garlich resigned from his office. Last Thursday, two other board members resigned from their offices.

The hubbub at what is probably the most well-known charity organization in Germany has consequences: 27 percent of German citizens said in a survey last week that they now want to donate less. After two years with a significant decline in donations to 2.35 billion euros, many humanitarian aid workers would be hit hard. Officials are alerted accordingly. SOS Children's Villages Managing Director Wilfried Vyslozil is "very concerned": "The entire sector of donation and non-governmental organizations could suffer an extraordinarily deep loss of trust."

Vyslozil demands that the non-profit should not just watch the goings-on in Cologne, but draw conclusions as quickly as possible. On the one hand, by imposing generally binding rules on the industry, for example when dealing with donations and controlling by independent bodies. On the other hand, by putting legends aside and describing their work as it often already is: professional and oriented towards economic efficiency.

Around 2500 full-time fundraisers work for a wide variety of organizations in Germany. They organize mailing campaigns and donation dinners at theaters and schools, at the Red Cross and at Bread for the World - or even a television gala for Welthungerhilfe. They arrange sponsorships or obtain money so that the Senckenberg Museum can stuff armadillos. Greenpeace and Misereor employ specialists who encourage donors to consider the benefactors in their wills. It is also popular to acquire fines as donations - the WWF, for example, is eager to keep in touch with the courts.

The number of fundraisers will double in the next ten years, expects Silvia Starz, managing director of the German Fundraising Association in Frankfurt: "The need for professional donation collectors is increasing because the state often only pays for the bare essentials in schools and hospitals, for example." for example renovations or if a new therapist position or overnight accommodation is to be set up for parents on the children's cancer ward, this can often hardly be done without private funds.

This can no longer be achieved with volunteers alone. That is why Starz is promoting the professionalization of the profession. Professional fundraising, according to Starz, costs money, but is in the best interests of the donor, who rightly expects the donations to be handled economically.

Universities such as Bremen or Rostock offer educational opportunities for fundraisers; The fundraising association also has its own academy. There is no regulated job description. Often it is former specialists from marketing and sales who previously advertised biscuits or frying pans for companies and now want to focus on more meaningful tasks. But also lawyers, biologists, journalists and administrative specialists can be found among the fundraisers. The 51-year-old Ursula-Marie Behr-Lorenz, who collects donations for Caritas, started out as a social worker.

Fundraisers can earn between 40,000 and 55,000 euros gross per year, estimates Thomas Kreuzer, head of the Fundraising Academy. According to the industry, top executives can expect 70,000 euros. Bonuses of 10 to 15 percent of the gross salary are also possible. “Fundraisers believe in the goals of their organization,” says Starz. “Above all, they have to be able to ask others for something and also be able to withstand a no.” Sometimes they also have to withstand a lot of pressure: “The donation organizations often have too high expectations of the fundraisers. The non-profit organizations often think short-term and hope for measurable financial success after only six months. It is at least as important to first establish and develop good contacts with the donors. Financial donations will arise at some point later. ”Many fundraisers also have to make do with fixed-term contracts or fee-based contracts. Fundraisers work either directly with the humanitarian organizations or with service providers who contact donors, manage donations or organize events for Caritas or Doctors Without Borders.

Some, like GFS Fund-raising & Marketing in Bad Honnef (“If you want to fish people, put your heart on a fishing rod”) offer the whole range, including large donor recruitment and telephone campaigns via call centers. SAZ Marketing from St. Gallen in Switzerland has 500 employees at its European locations and is one of the largest mailing agencies in the donation business. Wesser GmbH in Stuttgart is constantly looking for schoolchildren and students who canvassing members in pedestrian zones and at the front door, for example for Johanniter Accident Aid and in the area of ​​environmental protection for BUND, NABU or WWF.

A dispute between the Berlin FRC Fundraising Company and SOS Children's Villages in Munich shows that even those who appear serious in this branch cannot believe every word. On its homepage, FRC advertises with well-known references such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and also SOS Children's Villages. The global donation organization, however, denies having ever cooperated with FRC and obtained assurance from FRC that the notice would be removed from the homepage. SOS Children's Villages, says managing director Vyslozil, “employ their own subsidiaries and hardly any external service providers, especially not to collect donations”. Sensitive things like inheritance acquisition (“Your last will is the happiness of the children”) is homemade at SOS Children's Villages.

But there are smaller organizations for which outsourcing can be more efficient. Vyslozil: "If an investment doesn't pay off after seven years, it is better to outsource it." But be careful: "With fundraising service providers, as in every industry, there are quality leaders and very thin boards." Burkhard Wilke, Managing Director of the German Central Institute for Social Issues in Berlin, knows “no large organization that can do without a service provider”. Some do not employ a single donation collector of their own - Ursula Kapp-Barutzki from the charity Care Germany says, for example, that hiring agencies is simply more cost-effective for smaller associations like Care.

But it is not only the dealings with fund-raising agencies that are mostly kept silent. SOS manager Vyslozil demands that the industry must put an end to "romantic ideas: the public image of our work still corresponds to the alms-making economy of the 1950s: all idealists who become social cases themselves at the end of their working lives." . Globally active organizations could "not operate with zero administrative costs". Fundraising costs money. The justified call for effective controlling also causes administrative costs, because neither our own controllers nor external auditors work for free. SOS Children's Villages spends almost half the time documenting the personal development of the 65,000 children currently living in the facilities around the world. Vyslozil: “These are administrative costs, and they are simply part of the job if you don't want to be amateurish but professional and sustainable. We are idealists, but with a sense of reality. "

Association managing director Starz pleads for more transparency: "In Germany, unlike in the USA, where large organizations even publish the salaries of bosses, there is no obligation to disclose the figures." In Germany, Starz believes, even more people would donate if you can “understand exactly what is happening with your money”.

So far, only 230 donation organizations in Germany are allowed to use the DZI donation seal, they reveal how much of the donations goes into projects and how much the administration needs. But that's not even ten percent of all organizations looking for donations across Germany - a total of an estimated 3000 graze the field.

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