KNOWLEDGE: More critical thinking at the Ask Direct Summer School

Another week, another conference. This time, it’s the Summer School, devised, hosted and run by Rogare Associate Member Ask Direct. Now in its third year, the event will take place at Trinity College in Dublin on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 July.

Just as we did for AFP I-Con and IoF National Convention this year, a team from Rogare’s International Advisory Panel has picked out the sessions at the Summer School aimed more at getting the critical thinking juices flowing than imparting practical knowledge. This includes both the ‘wildcard’ sessions – two sessions that have no direct connection at all with fundraising, but are intended to encourage fundraisers to draw their own links and connections.

Having said that, the whole ethos of the Summer School is to look at things differently from new perspectives, so many of the sessions are less standardly ‘practical’ than at other conferences.

Ask Direct managing director Damian O’Broin says:

“When we started Summer School, we wanted to be as much about ‘where now?’ as ‘how to?’. The whole ethos of Summer School has been to engage critically with fundraising and look honestly and clearly at the challenges we face as a profession. So that means bringing in the best learning, and best practice from around the world and sharing it. But it also means providing space for debate and discussion about how we do fundraising, whether we’re living up to the high standards we should be setting for ourselves and what we need to do to continually improve.”

Key words covered in the eight sessions chosen are:


A manifesto for rebels with a cause

Damian O’Broin

9.10am, Burke 

As fundraisers we are in that sacred space between donor and beneficiary, and we have the honour and duty of bringing them closer together. But to do this effectively, in this increasingly challenging world, we need to be better than we have ever been. We need a new manifesto, a call to action, a demand for greatness. Kicking off Summer School 2018, Damian will deliver a manifesto for rebels with a cause: what we need to do if we are to be the great fundraisers we need to be and how we have the power to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

Key words: ethics, disruption, professionalism, vision.

So what do donors actually think about being asked for money?

Mark Phillips and Amber Nathan

10.40am, Burke

This session will be based on new qualitative research conducted over the last few months by Ask Direct & Bluefrog with donors to a range of Irish charities. It will also draw on other qualitative research carried out by Bluefrog in UK, Canada and the US.

Key words: research, donor behaviour, donor attitudes.

Is fundraising a profession?

Ian MacQuillin

10.40am, Swift

People talk about ‘the fundraising profession’ as if it is obvious that it is a profession, simply because fundraisers do skilled work for good causes. However, there are certain trappings to professionhood – such as a required body of knowledge – that fundraising doesn’t possess. It is not certain that fundraising actually is a profession. But does this actually matter?

Key words: professionalism, ethics

Try again. Fail again. Fail better: How you can use research insight to raise more money

Caoileann Appelby and Emma Doran

10.30am, Burke

This session takes delegates through the bad and the good of testing, from grounding your hypothesis in research to interpreting your results. Using real examples from a variety of organisations and channels, both successes and ‘failures’, it will deliver simple, actionable ideas for tests to improve your own fundraising.

Key words: research, testing, professional development

Digital assistants, Facebook quizzes, and fake news! You won’t believe what happens next?

Laura Kalbag

11.45am, Burke

As citizens of the web, do we know what is happening to the data we’re sharing about ourselves publicly and privately? As people who use technology for our work, are we ethical about the data we obtain from others? There’s a dark underbelly to the internet we love, and its darkness is rooted in the core decisions we make about our products. This talk will explain more, and share how we can use the Ethical Design Manifesto to make it better.

Key words: data, ethics, accountability, digital

Wildcard: Exploring the politics of emotion

Rachel Hewitt

Friday 11.35am, Burke

Contemporary writers on psychology often describe emotions as rooted in the individual self, playing a crucial role in individual wellness and self-care. Online psychology blogs encourage readers to think of emotions as ‘pure and natural’ spontaneous sensations, and to appreciate ‘each emotion [as] a beautiful sculpture that is formed when we let ourselves feel’. But there is a very different way of thinking about emotion, in which feelings are shaped by social attitudes and play an important part in political activism. My talk will defend this latter view of the social and political role of emotion, and will trace how, when and why that attitude fell out of fashion.

Key words: psychology, emotion, politics.


Wildcard: When good guys fall out

Brian Dooley

11.35am Swift

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, and of the first civil rights marches in the north of Ireland, we will look at how the two movements inspired each other during the 1960s and progressed despite internal conflict and disagreements. It will look at how friction between good people is normal, can be managed and is nothing to be scared of.

Key words: Psychology, disruption

How do you know what you know in fundraising?

Panel Session – Ian MacQuillin, Craig Linton, Meredith Niles, Damian O’Broin & Claire Routely

1.45pm, Burke

Fundraisers learn predominantly by coming to conferences such as Summer School and listening to other fundraisers presenting case studies about what has worked for their charities. But how can delegates know if those case studies will also work for them? How do fundraisers know what they know? How can they be sure it’s true? How much evidence do they need? Do they even need evidence at all or should they just go with their gut instinct? Or should they be delving into the vaults of academic research?

Key words: knowledge, evidence, professionalism, professional development.

How we did this

The members of the critical fundraising team (see below) assessed the sessions against three criteria:

  • Was the session mainly practical and instructional or focused on encouraging new thinking and challenging existing ideas?
  • Did it tackle a subject in a novel way?
  • Were any ideas presented supported by evidence and, if relevant, theory?

Any sessions that was recommend by more than 50 per cent of the team went it the stream.

You can see the full programme for the 2018 Ask Direct Summer School here.

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