Target vulnerable for donations, Church’s new fund-raising chief says

The Church of England’s new fund-raising chief has a history of urging charities to make money from people’s “forgetfulness” and by targeting “vulnerable” elderly women, The Telegraph can reveal.

Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood, who has been tasked with reviving the financial fortunes of the Church, has described a banker’s standing order as “God’s special gift” because donors often forget to cancel them.

The former head teacher, who has advised a number of charities, has been hired to attract thousands more worshippers to donate to the Church every month through a direct debit Parish Giving Scheme.

The Church has already set out plans to sign up more than half of dioceses to the scheme, with donations from about 70,000 parishioners predicted to reach more than £50 million a year. Mr de Bernhardt Wood previously worked for the Diocese of Oxford and was made national adviser for giving and income generation by the Church in January.

In 2007 he published a book of advice called the Porcupine Principle, described as a “unique, fund-raising classic”, which is promoted on several Church of England websites.

In it he writes: “Standing orders are God’s special gift to fundraisers. They are administratively easy, they feel painless to the donor and, as you have probably worked out, you often forget to stop them.

“Fundraising through forgetfulness may not seem particularly noble or principled, but it is pragmatic, and in fundraising pragmatism is king.”

Later in the book he tells an unnamed charity that “those most likely to leave legacies to charities were single, elderly, poor females”, and advises that they should “target those most vulnerable to our fundraising message”.

“Without exception, the trustees were appalled,”

he admits.

He goes on to say:

“In my book, and let’s face it, this is my book, the ends justify the means.”

Wendy Cocks, vice-chairman of the charity Christians on Ageing, said she feared the Church was now backing “a more aggressive way of fundraising”.

“Forgetfulness should never be a way to make money,”

she said.

“It feels like the Church has resorted to chugging. Older people are especially vulnerable to this sort of thing. If they become unwell then they need their financial resources to pay for care. We can’t allow people’s cash to drain out of their bank account.

“I totally understand the appeal of regular donations, and the Church does need to raise money, but it needs to act with caution.”

A spokesman for the Church defended Mr de Bernhardt Wood’s appointment, and confirmed that senior staff had been “aware” of his views before he was hired.

Recent figures show that churchgoers gave £751m from 12,000 parishes, but offerings have declined in recent years and up to 20 church buildings are closed for worship each year.

Contactless collection plates have even been introduced in some churches to encourage parishioners to use their bank cards to donate money.

Written By: Bill Gardener

First Published 25.02.19:

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