Legally blonde

The result of corporate fundraising success is work; account management, operational involvement, marketing sign-off and PR engagement to name but a few; and then there’s my personal bugbear; contracts.

While I love the marketing aspect of corporate fundraising, the brand alignment and the planning and implementation of great campaigns, I am no lawyer; and the turgid detail of contracts leaves me cold.

Like many charities we don’t have a huge in-house legal department at Battersea. My corporate partners whisk off contracts to their legal teams and send over amendments and refinements for their “legal counterparts” –  probably not realising that, in the first instance, this is me.

In comparison to the team of sharp suits, with thick carpets in a shiny office that I imagine make up the legal departments of our partners, I sit in a portacabin with a wipe-able floor (we have office dogs) and go through every contract line by line, ensuring that we are neither exposed nor over-committed.

This is not to say that Battersea has an amateurish attitude to our contracts; we are incredibly scrupulous and protect our brand and our assets, but this has to sit alongside the day-to-day activities of fundraising, and there’s no big team of law school graduates to check the details.

The disparity between big corporates and their charity partners is often most evident in issues relating to resources and, for me, means treading a fine line between delivering a professional partnership and ensuring that partners understand that there is a reason we don’t have big flashy offices and huge teams.

6 Responses to “Legally blonde”

  1. Olly Benson

    Biggest problem that many charities face is that their IP is generally held by their employees. As soon as the charity starts trying to commercially exploit it, their employees realise the value and become competitiors to the charity. It’s happened plenty of times when a charity sets up a commercial training service; employees allow the charity to create the market then leave and undercut it with their own competing services.

    Charities also need to be careful of not exploiting the goodwill of their staff/volunteers. A good few years ago a friend volunteered for a charity to write a handbook. Once it was written, the charity decided that they could sell the handbook commercially. Not surprisngly, the friend was somewhat put out that her work she had done in her spare time that was intended to help others was suddenly becoming an income generating tool for the charity.

    • Andy Horton

      I was in the same position for another charity. I retained copyright but gave a quite wide-ranging licence to use for educational purposes, which would probably include producing it in a bound form/handbook and retailing it to cover costs. This sort of thing was much harder work than I expected and I got credits for doing it and expenses to cover costs. I think If I was to do another one, I would like to paid. No objections as it stood. None whatsoever. My nose would be put right out of joint if someone else was then paid to produce an inferior facsimile though (this has happened in the past as well). So I think the writer should be proud of her/his achievement (pride is not an emotion I care too greatly about though). Downloading other copies was specified as free by agreement. Amendment of the original was also allowed under the same sort of thing as Creative Licence agreements.

    • Andy Horton

      Addenda: this subject was regarded as so important that at the AGM of a voluntary society I formed that a motion was passed (effectively an an amendment to the Constitution) that all the intellectual property of contributors (unpaid volunteers) the copyright was retained by them. We agreed licence to use in printed publications for sale. However, amendment of the original IP was not allowed (except for sub-editing) and licence to third parties required separate agreements. This was done way back in 1990. Out of 300+ examples of a similar kind and 10,000+ of lesser contributions we had not a sniff of complaints like mentioned in the other messages. We made sure full credits were given. One person got the hump over a photograph which was of minor consequences, and we had about five refusals to allow photographs.

  2. Kate Bowgett

    Ditto, a large organisation (who shall remain nameless) asked myself and some other Volunteer Managers to be on the steering group they were putting together to look at Occupational Standards. We went along for 4 seperate half day meetings – something we were happy to do because we felt it would be something that would be beneficial to loads of people. We were therefore absoloutley horrified when it got to the end of the project and were all sent a ‘complimentary’ copy and a link to the website where we could buy more copies at a fiver a pop. To be fair after a lot of complaints they did put up a link where people could download it for free, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, and a reluctance to share my time and expertise again in the future.

  3. Andy Horton

    PS: If you work for a wage for someone the employers invariably hold the copyright of the intellectual work you produce. Volunteers are different ? See how we did it “dove-like” in my reply. There is a lot of expense and skill involved in a training or advisory project, akin for example to designing a new fridge (the design can be copied, usually inferior with things missed out) and if it is commercially marketable get as much dosh (or goodwill) as you can (hawk-like). Pay the designers (eagle-like) though.

  4. Andy Horton

    Vulture-like. Worse case scenario, they asset-strip your IP but they will still need your experience and they might pinch your paid-staff and volunteers. (I was thinking of the Work Programme engaging consultant charities to help their skill deficiency. But Price-Waterhouse said the scheme was not financially viable, so they must be cutting corners.) Beware.


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