A Fundraising Preference Service Allegory

I like this from Adrian Beney (a Partner at More Partnership):

Here’s an Allegory I wrote to try to think through some of the reasons why I find the whole Fundraising Preference Service so difficult.

Please feel free to ignore completely if it’s nonsense.

An allegory:

There was once a village. If you were any one of its residents, relationships in the village between people might be characterised thus:

  • You know some villagers well, you’ve eaten in their homes and they’ve eaten in yours; you’ve shared joys and sadnesses with them. They are close friends and real neighbours.
  • There are people you’ve met at the school gate, or at the Post Office. It’s not a deep relationship, but you know their names and snippets of their news. If you were throwing a big party they’d be on the invitation list, although you might have to work to pull together a list of everyone’s full name and address. Sometimes, some of these people end up in the first group as they become closer friends.
  • There are others with whom you’re on acquaintance terms. You might know a first name, or maybe not. But you’ve exchanged the time of day, and you may even know the name of their dog, or that their daughter has just recently married.
  • There are other people who, although you recognize their faces, you don’t talk to much, and you’d exchange a “Good Morning.”
  • And there are the people you’ve never seen before, even though you’ve passed them in the street often enough.

Mostly people in the village were civil to each other, but there were a few isolated examples of people yelling rudely at each other across the street.

One day, a new law was passed by the Parish Council, which had been taken over by a group of people who have spent their lives in the London Underground where everyone knows you should never talk to anyone.

This law said that people may not speak to anyone else in the village, even their closest friends, unless they had been given explicit and specific permission to do so. Long-time residents complained, but the Council said that when people were first introduced they should have sought their permission in writing to talk to them, and made a note in the Parish Council Register of Approved Conversation Holders.

The residents said this was unfair because they had not known they needed such permission. They said that they would go and ask their friends for that permission, but the Council said that they could not walk up to someone to ask them for permission to speak to them, because that would involve speaking to them, and they didn’t have permission.

The Council came up with a compromise. They said that each person could write to everyone and ask them to write back, allowing permission to speak to them. And, if they said “yes”, then the permitted person could talk to them. Some argued that not saying “No” should be enough but the Council insisted. Some argued that in this modern age, email or a text would easier, but the Council pointed out that a higher standard was required of communicating by text or email.

The law remained in force for some years, and other villages came to look at this social experiment. Some people were genuinely happy, able to go about their business undisturbed by people saying “hello” to them. And the oldest friends had reluctantly complied and filled in the forms they had sent to each other, and registering them in the parish office and so they stayed in touch.

But each of the groups of close friends was getting smaller because it was hard to introduce new people into the groups, because a permission form had to be filled in and registered. And the playground began to fall apart because no-one could get together the people with a common interest in getting it mended, because that required a permission form too.

And then one day someone in one of the small groups lost their job, but they could not use the food bank because that was run by people in a different group, and they had not got permission to speak to them. And eventually the unemployed person’s friends found they could not help their friend anymore because they had their own needs. not least because their group had got so small.

And then someone from another village came and started shouting, and called everyone out into the village square. And people were afraid to come because they knew that they should not be talking to other groups without permission, and certainly not to hear from someone from another village.

But some people came out and gathered, hesitating, and they heard the person tell a story of a different way of living. Yes, it was sometimes messy, and occasionally people said inappropriate things to each other and occasionally they had to get the parish council to remind everyone to respect each other. But people shared what they had, and helped each other out, and welcomed new friends into their close groups and even spoke to strangers. And there was a strange happiness about this person from another village – one which seemed to have come from giving and receiving the riches not only of their own heart, but that of others too.

And slowly the villagers came out and surrounded the Parish Council office and tore down the room that contained the Parish Council Register of Approved Conversation Holders. And the Parish Council members were invited to have some therapy.

And life got better again after that.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

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