NEW THINKING: Blog digest – October 2021

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.

This is the second instalment since we reinstated this series last month, and as we are still playing catch up, there are also a few blogs published in September we missed last month.

A legacy of Sackler: Let’s reconsider philanthropic naming rights

Chronicle of Philanthropy

Following a legal ruling in the USA that for forbids the Sackler family from giving their name to new philanthropic projects, Benjamin Soskis says it’s time for a wholesale reconsideration of the place of naming rights in contemporary philanthropic culture.

Choice quote:

“Because offers of naming rights violate an ethic of humility and egalitarianism, we should help to maintain a basic presumption against them that would need to be actively, deliberately, and thoughtfully overridden with good cause by those extending and those accepting the offer.”

The danger of mistaking change for progress

The Agitator

Just because some practice in fundraising is commonly practised, that doesn’t mean it’s ‘best’ practice. Roger Craver says that “more sloth and sin are covered up by the excuse “we used best practices” than there are Power Points at an AFP conference

Choice quote:

“Under the cloak of “best practices” we blithely continue doing the same thing over and over—asking more and more, listening less and less, ignoring the preferences of our donors, drowning them in rising tides of digitized pap and on and on– ignoring the eventual day of reckoning.”

The closure of Virgin Money Giving should hammer the final nail into the ‘something for nothing’ mindset

Third Sector (paywall)

How do we change the conversation about zero-cost fundraising?

Critical Fundraising

Following the closure of Virgin money, Ian MacQuillin asks – in two separate blogs – why are organisations that claim all your money will go to the cause so successful at seizing the moral high ground, and how we can make our arguments against zero-cost fundraising more convincing

Choice quote:

“For years, certain players in the non-profit sector– from Comic Relief’s ‘golden pound promise’, to charity: water, to those regulators around the world that demand only an arbitrary proportion of donations be spent on overhead costs – have collaborated with the public’s fantasy that all the money they give ought to go directly to ‘the cause’, with none ‘wasted’ on overheads, particularly fundraising.”

Why pitch-based funding competitions are harmful and we need to stop having them


Vu Le argues that pitch-based funding applications do more harm than good.

Choice quote:

“Why is it always nonprofits that are pitching to funders and donors? Why is it never the other way around? Simple: Because one party has money, and in our society that means they by default get to call the shots. But is this what we want to reinforce?”

If you make people cry, are you a bully?

Hands on Fundraising

Fundraisers should never be afraid to use emotion, says Mary Cahalane. Any discomfort felt by a donor isn’t created by an emotional story told by a fundraiser, but revealed by it.

Choice quote:

“In a professional setting, many of us aren’t comfortable with too much emotion. It can feel like weakness. Or even attention-seeking…But that has nothing to do with how to communicate with donors. Your discomfort is probably a useful clue that you’re on the right track.”

Nonprofit leaders: The future. Yes, it will be different. Duh. Ready to move forward? The answer may be behind you.


Alan Harrison wonders if the current generation of nonprofit leaders are capable of leading their organisations through the change that is coming the sector’s way.

Choice quote:

“The dying generation may be the last that views donating to nonprofits as part of their civic rent. If the next billionaire class is any example, they’re likelier to send themselves into space, polluting the upper atmospheres.”

How to create an inclusive legacy programme

Civil Society Fundraising (paywall)

Haseeb Shabbir and Claire Routley offer guidance on how fundraisers can improve cross-group representation in comms.

Choice quote:

“If fundraisers don’t portray a wider mix of groups, they are missing out on opportunities to educate and engage potential users with cross-group representation – a phenomenon which has been shown to reduce prejudicial attitudes and therefore increase long-term engagement and empathy.”

September extra

Fundraisers, let’s take our requests for flexibility a bit further


Fundraisers how have been working from home during the pandemic have been able to plough their own furrow out the glare of always being expected to ask for money. But Kathryn Dilworth says there are also negative aspects of not being in an office environment.

Choice quote:

“I understand why fundraisers don’t want to come back to the office. The oversight and suspicion that quantitative metrics encourage is stressful and isolating. The freedom to be invisible has been life changing. But the yearning for flexibility to work from home is born out of the way we have been evaluated and judged over our careers. What drives the stink eye and expectation to be asking people for money all day long is the fallacy-based quantitative metrics that have become the de facto manager for the fundraiser.”

Stop saying that 80 per cent of nonprofit funding comes from individual donors. It’s misleading.


Is fundraising from individuals really the panacea many people believe it to be? Vu Le thinks not, and argues it has many unintended negative consequences. 

Choice quote:

“We need to stop thinking of individual donations as the silver bullet to philanthropy, and fundraising gurus need to stop pushing it as the panacea for all the challenges brought up by frustrated people, especially marginalized people, when it comes to foundation support.”

The pie lies – Why you should put the charity spending pie chart straight in the bin

Ask Direct blog

Caoileann Appleby says pie charts showing charity spend are fit for the bin only.

Choice quote:

“Spending on fundraising doesn’t take away the pie – it actually grows the pie. Spending on fundraising is an investment; it makes money! It’s a slice of pie that doubles or triples or quadruples its own size quite quickly.”

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