KNOWLEDGE: Blog digest July 2017

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. Inclusion in this digest does not indicate that Rogare agrees with any arguments presented, only that we thought they made a good argument.

My experience of being a woman in the charity sector

UK Fundraising

The consensus of a session on diversity at the IoF Convention year was that sexism is generally less overt in the charity sector. Beth Upton disagrees.

Choice quote:

“None of us needs to hit our targets so badly that we ought to even consider tolerating behaviour that makes us uncomfortable”

How anthropology can give us new insights into donor-centred fundraising

Critical Fundraising

Responding to the debate around donorcentrism, Ashley Scott asks whether fundraisers should look to anthropology to better understand what donorcentrism means, and how it could generate completely new insights into their donors.

Choice quote:

“If donorcentrism is able to create a two-way dialogue that is transparent, segmented and customised then it offers the prospect of introducing disruptive narratives into the relationship that would be hard to countenance in broadcast mode.”

There is no ‘average conversion rate’

Beate Speaks Out Loud

Everyone want to know who they are doing compared to their peers. Beate Sorum highlights the pitfalls of not considering all the variables.

Choice quote:

“Your conversion rate is one of the most important numbers to know – just don’t compare it to anyone else’s unless you know they really are comparable.”

Emotional intelligence: the fundraiser’s friend


If fundraisers want to bring sustainable change to the way they operate, Jen Love thinks they’ll need a bit more self-awareness.

Choice quote:

“Every time you make a decision that leads to over-solicitation, skirting the rules around do-not-call lists, or making exceptions on what your donors’ expressed interests are, you are giving permission for every other fundraiser to do exactly the same.”

The Commission on the Donor Experience – a good thing in itself, but philosophically confused

Critical Fundraising

The Commission on the Donor Experience has received an overwhelmingly positive reception. But Ian MacQuillin argues philosophical flaws at its heart mean many of its recommendations are not supported by evidence.

Choice quote:

The biggest concern I have with the Commission on the Donor Experience is the lack of store it puts on evidencing its claims, to the extent that it says that evidence is not even required to justify some of its fundamental principles.

Does the Commission on the Donor Experience promote donor-centric or donor-led fundraising?

New Philanthropy Capital blog

NPC’s Clare Wilkins says the CDE risks elevating the donor experience above the needs of the beneficiary.

Choice quote

“The report fails to adequately address the fundamental principle of fundraising, namely that it is first and foremost a mechanism to enable activity in support of service users and beneficiaries.”

Eminence vs. evidence in fundraising – Part 1: emerging from the dark ages

The Agitator (paywall)

Over a three-part blog, Roger Craver asks what standards or evidence are required in fundraising.

Choice quote:

“After all, most sectors — ranging from apple growers to doctors and hospitals, and even zoos — have them [empirically-based standards]. Fundraising doesn’t. Of course there are those who excuse or justify the status quo. “Yes, but fundraising is an art, not a science.” Such utter nonsense.”

Eminence vs. evidence in fundraising – Part 2: What is “proper” research

The Agitator (paywall)

Choice quote:

“I believe at this stage in our trade’s evolution from myth and habit to the greater use of evidence what is important is that we keep moving in the direction of ‘evidence’. In short, we should always be sceptical of how perfectly the ‘evidence’ was arrived at, but not paralyzed into inaction as we wait for the perfect to emerge.”

Eminence vs. evidence in fundraising – Part 3: ‘How’ and ‘where’?

The Agitator (paywall)

Choice quote:

“Unless you’re prepared to perform like a hunting dog, ranging out and about on the scent and spending lots and lots of time, the task of tracking down evidence-based information is mighty time consuming.”

Why I trust hairdressers more than charities

Civil Society

Civil Society journalist Kirsty Weakley delves beneath the headlines of a press release that claims that fundraisers are less trusted than hairdressers.

Choice quote:

“Well this isn’t news to me. In fact it is perfectly obvious when you think about it, mainly because in order to let someone waving sharp, pointy objects near your head you need to trust them.”

Trust and confidence? A reality check

Andrew Purkiss blog

Whenever he hears a statement about public trust and confidence in charities, like Herman Goering, Andrew Purkiss reaches for his revolver.

Choice quote:

“There is a danger that, despite the limitations of surveys into public trust and confidence, we set too much store by them… Those who challenge such assumptions for lack of solid evidence are at once suspected of complacency, but over-reaction to opinions expressed by those with a hazy knowledge of what charities are has its own dangers.”

Lord Grade should resign as F-Reg chair

UK Fundraising

Ian MacQuillin says that Lord Grade cannot carry the confidence of the fundraising sector and ought to step aside.

Choice quote:

“The comments Lord Grade has repeatedly made to the media can give fundraisers little confidence that the organisation of which he is the figurehead and titular leader will impartially and without prejudice assess all complaints against professional practice, nor impartially regulate professional practice to the benefit of all concerned – the donating and non-donating public, charities and beneficiaries.”

Is the fundraising levy really voluntary?

Civil Society Fundraising (paywall)

The UK’s Charity Commission confirmed last week that it would be contacting the trustees of each of the charities yet to contribute to the Fundraising Regulator’s levy. Hugh Radojev argues this latest intervention risks making the levy voluntary in name only.

Choice quote:

“It appears that, instead of dangling a carrot in front of the sector, the regulator has opted instead for an even bigger stick.”

Leveraging our biases to fundraise


Everyone succumbs to unconscious bias. Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton show how charities can use that for good.

Choice quote:
“The key is to leverage constituents’ personal relationships with individuals close to them who have experienced misfortune (e.g. a health crisis) and motivate them to expand their sympathy to your broader community.”

Philanthropy needs protection in stormy times

EU Observer

After decades of expansion in influence, foundations in an increasing number of countries are experiencing something new, says Felix Oldenburg – they are among the first victims of populists and autocrats.

Choice quote:

“If they do not increase transparency and act boldly against prejudices they will be easy prey for populists. Foundations need to ask tough questions about their impact, how they invest, and how they can improve accountability.”

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