Americans help Brits beg for bucks

Marketplace Staff Sep 12, 2008

Americans help Brits beg for bucks

Marketplace Staff Sep 12, 2008


Bob Moon: From the panhandler on the street to the worker hitting up the boss for a raise, it’s not easy begging green. These days, raising needed funds is proving especially difficult overseas. Many British nonprofits are finding themselves without their usual sources for money, partly due to cultural reasons. The Tate Modern in London, for example, recently unveiled designs for a new gallery — without the money to build it.

As Christopher Werth reports, the British are finding out that raising cash is more of an art form on this side of the Atlantic.

Christopher Werth: On a recent evening, nearly 50 fundraisers gather in London to discuss how to tap into all the money floating around the city’s financial service industry. And the conversation inevitably turns to one question: Why are Americans so good at getting others to open their wallets? Moyra Doyle is with Richmond Associates, a recruiting firm for fundraisers. She says that with big cuts in public funding, the equation for raising money has changed.

Moyra Doyle: Fundraising, and particularly corporate sponsorship, used to be seen as the icing on the cake, and it now really is the cake.

Doyle says her clients want Americans and Canadians, because they know how to ask for money. Her firm has recruited 80 in Britain in the past five years, with nearly half of those just in the last 24 months. The British may speak the same language, but it’s not just the accent that’s different.

Doyle: I think British people do find it more difficult to ask for money than Americans, and sometimes British people prefer someone to be straightforward and ask them, whereas if a Brit’s asking a Brit, it could go on forever.

Shannon Callahan is one of those straight-shooting Americans. She moved to London a couple of years ago, and is now the head of Major Giving at the Kew Foundation, part of Britain’s Royal Botanical Gardens.

Shannon Callahan: For the British it’s generally distasteful to talk about money, but an American can get away with it because, well the British just assume we don’t know any better, there’s sort of a rolling of the eyes, like, “Ah, she’s American.”

But there are some divides that the brash American sensibility just can’t do anything about. Europe doesn’t offer the same tax incentives for charitable giving. In the U.S., donating money is a write-off for the donor, but as Callahan points out.

Callahan: In this country, the charity receives the benefit.

Tax laws can also vary country to country, making cross-border giving another hurdle. In some cases, tax rates can climb up to 90 percent, although the European Union has been putting pressure on member states to smooth out those differences.

In London, I’m Christopher Werth, for Marketplace


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