NEWS: How should we study the history of fundraising?

  • What little study of fundraising history there is takes the ‘great man’ approach
  • We aim to explore research questions using social and cultural history lenses
  • Looking for fundraisers to be part of the project team, especially those who have studied history.

Rogare is today (12 May 2021) launching our project on the history of fundraising.

More accurately, this is a project about the historiography of fundraising – looking at how fundraising ought to be studied, what questions about the history of fundraising we ought to explore, and what historical research techniques and approaches we should adopt in doing so.

As the paper that launches the project (One Damn Ask After Another – How Should We Study the History of Fundraising) points out, there are only a handful of book chapters and papers that consider the history of fundraising. And many of these take a rather superficial approach, adopting the so-called ‘great man’ view of history, where historical facts are attributed to the actions of a few remarkable people (usually men).

However, there are alternative social, cultural and economic lenses through which to study history, and this project recommends these approaches to explore a series of research questions that will shed new light on the past, present and future of our profession.

Research questions already identified in the paper include:

  • The so-called ‘social problem’ of fundraising (a term used by Beth Breeze in her 2017 book The New Fundraisers) – how and why fundraising has caused so much unease with the public going back decades and perhaps even centuries, and what is the media’s role in addressing, solving or exacerbating the ‘social problem of fundraising’.
  • Why do so many people fall into fundraising by ‘accident’?
  • The role of women in the development of the profession/organisation of fundraising
  • Decolonisation of fundraising
  • Histories of particular types of fundraising
  • National fundraising histories, particularly in non-English speaking countries.

The project will be run as a discussion group or study group (on a social media platform yet to be decided), with teams to explore each of these research questions, and other research areas as and when they arise. Initially we have assembled a core team of fundraisers to get the project up and running, many of whom have studied history and so are versed in historical research methods.

The project is led by Rhyannon Boyd, head of fundraising of the Forever Friends Appeal at Bath NHS Foundation Trust, and a history graduate of the University of York. She says:

“When we study the historiography of fundraising, we must proactively seek out and critically analyse sources and interpretations to give us context, voices and stories of those not traditionally heard through the ‘Great Man’ approach or a simple chronology of events. How we study the history of fundraising enables us to examine and critically question the cultural, political, social and economic influences across time that have formed the narratives around how our profession has developed and what we believe to be true.

“I very much invite you to contribute your thoughts and ideas to this project, which I am delighted to lead. I very much hope that by shining a light on the historical analysis of fundraising that fundraisers now and in the future can better understand the errors of the past and shape future success.”

The Rogare history/historiography of fundraising project team as of May 2021 is:

  • Rhyannon Boyd, Bath NHS Foundation Trust (UK) – Project leader
  • Ruby Beaumont, Fight for Sight (UK)
  • Giovanna Bonora, VIDAS (Italy)
  • Emma Doran, Ask Direct (Ireland)
  • Mike Johnston, HJC New Media (Canada)
  • Marina Jones, Royal Opera House (UK)
  • Harpreet Kondel, Animals Asia (UK)
  • Jayne Lacny, Freelance fundraiser (UK)
  • Howard Lake, UK Fundraising (UK)
  • Sarah Lyon,  Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia (Canada)
  • Sarah MacQuillin, DFN Project Search (UK)
  • Mark Phillips, Bluefrog/Rogare (UK)
  • Ruth Smyth, Boldlight/Rogare (UK)
  • Daryl Upsall, Daryl Upsall International (Spain)

We will be looking to expand the people engaged with this project, particularly as we start to add and explore various research questions.

Anyone who would like to be a part of this project, in any way, shape or form, should reach out to the project leader Rhyannon Boyd on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can email Rhyannon via Ian MacQuillin at Rogare – ianmacquillin@rogare.net

If you have also studied history previously, you’d be a great addition to our team.

To find out more about the Rogare history/historiography of fundraising and to download the paper – One Damn Ask After Another – visit the Rogare website here – https://www.rogare.net/history

From that page you can download version of the report optimised for desktop, tablet and printing.

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