Update: March 11: A relatively tame sequel was published by Jonathan Marshall. Brett remained unquoted despit na chat with the journalist in question - proof positive that good media training can equal gaining coverage – or avoiding it. The article does provide one lesson though – media loves conflict. A story with two differing opinions has double the chance of running. If JM had not found a dissenting voice it’s doubtful that there woud have been a story.
Update March 9: Since the original post, the reporter behind the story Jonathan Marshall contacted Brett de Hoedt for comment. Brett being Brett gave comment. We’ll see what results this Sunday. We thinks JM found more controversy in other speakers.
99% of nonprofit CEOs we’ve met fear an unscrupulous, unfair, unexpected media hikacking. Only 1% ever experience such a thing. One such CEO is Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Rob Edwards.
The organisation he leads was roundly and royally done over by Jonathan Marshall of the Sunday Telegraph whose work is deliberately misleading and hurts anyone who raises money in Australia. Marshall; shame on you for so willingly taking comments out of context to mislead and panic your readers.
Read this story if you fundraise, lead any nonprofit or industry group. Then read our thoughts.
What is particularly galling is that Marshall knows very well how people of any industry joke among themselves. Would his News Limited colleagues jokingly wish that flagging circulation be boosted by a terrorist attack? Yep. Do they really wish it? No. Would their comments look bad in writing? Yep. Would it fair to print them? No. He’s treating his readers like idiots. Of course many of them are.
If you feel like responding Jonathan Marshall, feel free. We may even present your comments unedited and in context.
Jonathan is clearly on a roll – this is his “special investigation” from two weeks ago into face to face fundraisers. (Hootville has worked on preparing F2F fundraisers for this sort of coverage before.)
Some unsolicited advice to FIA and nonprofits on facing such a crisis:
Decision #1: how do we respond to our members?
Do we write something on our website? eNewsletter? Twitter? Yes – all of the above and fast. Drop everything and handle this. Your Sunday tweet was great – open and communicative.
These communications channels can’t be suddenly ramped up. If you haven’t spent time and energy building up followers, fans and visitors you will be less effective.
Tell members and sympathisers to directly contact Marshall and his boss – not for the FIA’s sake, but for theirs. Not just electronically – calls are much more effective. Anyone have his direct numbers? Distribute them.
Decision #2; do we seek media coverage to respond?
Yep – and fast - with mature, fair media outlets with which you have existing relationships. Place trained spokespeople alongside experienced fundraisers and offer them to media. We recommend highly sympathetic fundraisers challenge the string of broad misconceptions in the article more so than the FIA brass. Don’t offer the session presenter mentioned in the story – offer Australians who raise money for kids, dogs and scholarships for a living. Again, it’s very late to find FIA members willing to join the fray now. Case studies and media talent need to be sorted before crisis hits. Media relationships cannot be forged now.
Also – get some elderly and “vulnerable” bequestors to address the condescending tone of the article. And PLEASE don’t tell us that you can’t arrange one such person due to privacy reasons.
Decision#3 do we go legal?
It’s not often we recommend legal action but we do here. Start by contacting the newspaper’s editor but don’t expect any joy. Get your facts straight and your story sorted and try Media Watch, then the Press Council. Create some headaches for Marshall. Consult a solicitor for more serious action.
We generally detest jointly signed letters but imagine how many charities – household names among them – could sign such a public document organised by the FIA? It needs to be deftly written and hastily assembled. One page, unapologetic and confident. Don’t go vanilla.
The nonprofit sector can only expect more of this in future. Aparently it’s OK for corporations to seek your money through any means possible in exchange for a bet on a horse, a bottle of beer, an ineffective health supplement, yet it is an outrage to encourage donations to charity.
Here’s something we all have to consider: in this lobbying age if authorities don’t fear you, they don’t listen to you. That’s why mining and gambling lobbies get precedence over animal welfare and foster carers groups.
Be sure to leave at least Jonathan Marshall in no doubt as to his conduct by the end of the week or he will continue to make copy from your industry. He is already planning his next angle. Believe us – journos know which issues are likely to create the most post-publication feedback / headaches and self-censor accordingly. Be feared.
Hootville has published several articles in the FIA magazine, spoken at a handful of FIA functions (all for $0) and did some very minor paid consulting to FIA at six years and two CEOs ago. We ain’t on their books. We didn’t speak to the FIA before posting this and we doubt that Rob Edwards even knows who we are.
We don’t back up nonprofits without some thought. Frankly we know many that deserve a kick in the pants and then some. Our anger is not inspired by the attack on the FIA but on the damage this lazy, schlocky journalism will do to charities.