OPINION: Blog digest November 2014

Each month, the Critical Fundraising blog presents a digest of the best fundraising-related blogs and articles that have adopted a critical fundraising mode of thought.

Direct mail isn’t dying but it’s changing

Tobin Aldrich’s blog

Direct mail will be part of future multi-channel fundraising, but charities that think about ‘fundraising’ separately to ‘marketing’ might find this particularly challenging, says Tobin Aldrich.

Choice quote:

“The physical impact of a piece of addressed mail, if it is relevant and compelling, can be even greater in a world where mail is becoming a rarer and more specialised channel.”

Fundraisers who understand the finance side will have a greater impact

Civil Society Fundraising (paywall)

Andy Taylor argues that not enough fundraisers can apply an accountant’s expertise to the the money they bring in, but doing so would help them close the understanding gap between fundraising and finance.

Choice quote:

With so much resting on the financial decisions we make it’s high time that all fundraisers started to think and act more like accountants.”

We’ll only excel if we evangelise


Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Georgina Bridgwood bemoans the attitude among charity marketers that they don’t need to know anything about fundraising, but says it’s up to fundraisers to put that right.

Choice quote:

“There was no need for the marketers to attempt to understand fundraising because brand trumps everything. Fundraisers were the petulant child because sometimes we wanted to break away from core brand and tailor work to our different audiences.”


Critical Fundraising

A new study by behavioural scientist has recommended charities should tell donors they have no overhead costs because they’ve already been paid by a philanthropist. Although the numbers stack up, Ian MacQuillin argues that this is a very bad idea.

Choice quote:

“The only reason the charity could tell the public in 2002 that every penny would go directly to the project was because the public of 1975 had already donated the admin costs.”


Critical Fundraising

Some of the greatest thinkers about charitable giving have described fundraising as the servant of philanthropy. So why, asks Adrian Sargeant, is there now a movement that claims there is no link between them at all?

Choice quote:

“Fundraising and philanthropy both have a place in the domain of philanthropic studies and many scholars are rightly focused on the fascinating space where the two overlap.”

The Ice-Bucket Racket

(Editor’s note – don’t let the sub-editor’s headline put you off reading this.)

New York Times

Business and economics writer Ian McGugan rounds up some arguments from psychology about why people are motivated to take part in fundraising happenings like the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Choice quote:

We hate being asked for money, yet we give generously when we are…because people know they won’t be able to resist an appeal to their empathy, they try hard to avoid having their humanity aroused. Their aversion to charitable appeals doesn’t demonstrate their inherent callousness, but rather the need to manage their softer sides and ensure that charities don’t take advantage of them.”

The nonprofit inferiority complex is not sexy

Nonprofit With Balls

There is a unconscious yet pervasive sense of inferiority when staff in the nonprofit sector compare themselves to their corporate cousins. Vu Le argues when this combines with the sector’s martyr complex, the results are debilitating.

Choice quote:

“Our sector’s self-image has started to resemble our delicious and ubiquitous snack of choice. Hummus. It’s cheap. It’s soft. It’s slightly nutty. And a little bit sour.”

Be afraid: the five scariest trends in philanthropy

Inside Philanthropy

The rise of the ‘know-it-all’ funder is one entry on David Callahan’s list.

Choice quote:

“Many of us love what some funders are doing to change public policy, and it can be tempting to just cheer your side’s team without thinking too hard—hooray for the donors bankrolling the same-sex marriage push! But if you do stop and think, you’ll have to admit how corrosive all this is to the ideal of an equal voice for all in our democracy.”

Marching for the cause of charity overheads is not likely to generate public sympathy

Third Sector (paywall)

Matt Sherrington is not sure Dan Pallotta’s Charity Defense Council march is such a good idea.

Choice quote:

I can’t imagine there will be much public sympathy for marching charity workers chanting ‘I am overhead’. I can imagine the media angle: ‘Militant charity workers take time out from doing good to march for their pay.’”


Critical Fundraising

Simon Burne dissects the criticisms of Band Aid’s reworked version of Do They Know it’s Christmas and finds them wanting.

Choice quote:

“How do we draw the world’s attention to something dreadful without showing dreadful images?”

Welcome to the party! How to apply the new rules of fundraising


Following his earlier Critical Fundraising blog about why charities need to adopt the new rules of fundraising, Richard Tuner explains how this should be done by introducing the idea of ‘holistic fundraising’.

Choice quote:

“Old style charity is give us the money and we will solve the problem. In this new world, where everyone is a channel, the way forward is to say “Here is the social problem we are trying to solve – want to be involved?” What an opportunity!”

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