NEW THINKING: Blog digest – March 2022

Each month, the Critical Fundraising blog presents a digest of the best fundraising-related blogs and articles from the previous month 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.

The dirty money dilemma

Stanford Social Innovation Review

When it comes to deciding whether to accept a donation from a possibly dubious source, charities need to weigh up the different types of harm that could result from their taking it. Lauren A. Taylor summarises the ideas from her doctoral research at Harvard University.

Choice quote:

“When we consider the universe of potential exchanges between a donor and a nonprofit, we should keep in mind that we live in what political philosophers call a nonideal world – it is corrupt, unjust, and riddled with wrongdoing. The demand for moral purity is foolhardy, and to expect it is to dismiss nuanced, complex conversations about philanthropy.”

The ethical dilemmas of GoFundMe: Should everyone be given a ‘take-action button’?

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

GoFundMe has grand ambitions to expand into aiding nonprofits, becoming the key intermediary for all charitable and donation-based giving across the world. But can they achieve this when constantly mired in controversy and co-opted by political causes? Academics Matthew WadeMichael James Walsh, and Stephanie Baker seek to answer the question.

Choice quote:

“How does a company expressly dedicated to helping social causes ensure that it doesn’t become an enabler of (in the words of Ottawa’s police chief) a “nationwide insurrection driven by madness”? Given the uncertain risks posed by social movements, GoFundMe regularly finds itself having to arbitrate about when and how to intervene in fundraisers for such activities.”

  • See also: ‘Is GoFundMe violating its own terms of service on the ‘freedom convoy?’ by Jeremy Snyder on The Conversation.

Where are the red lines on ethical fundraising?

Arts Professional

The ethics of accepting money from fossil fuel companies is mired in lazy thinking and a refusal to engage in more nuanced discussions, argues Chris Garrard of lobby group Culture Unstained.

Choice quote:

“Even now, some will still mischaracterise the debate around ethical funding as being about negatively rejecting any funder that isn’t squeaky clean. They often claim that because no source of funding is ethically pure, we may as well just ‘take the money and run’…this kind of lazy thinking is a refusal to engage in those more nuanced discussions around ethics that allow us to progress.”

Community-centric fundraising cannot be neutral: A reflection for 2022

Community-centric Fundraising

From abortion and LGBTQIA+ rights, to vaccine mandates and defunding and abolishing the police, the CCF Founding Council says fundraisers cannot and must not be neutral in any matter of equality.

Choice quote:

“We believe all fundraisers are agents of justice and that the act of raising money and other resources is a tool that we can use to create a better, more equitable world — to achieve liberation.”

A new beginning for donor loyalty and retention – at last

Institute of Sustainable Philanthropy

For almost thirty years, Adrian Sargeant has championed the use of satisfaction, commitment, and trust  – imported for the commercial world – as relationship measures that can help nonprofits manage loyalty. Now he says it’s time for the charity sector to stop its reliance on for-profit ideas and create models and measurements of relationship that are bespoke to the nonprofit world.

Choice quote:

“It’s important to understand that most work on retention and loyalty has attempted to predict giving intentions. We were able to find few studies that attempted to predict actual future behaviours. And, of course, it turns out that what predicts giving intentions is broadly not what predicts actual behaviour.”

We need to have a serious conversation about ‘Donor Love’

In a loving relationship both partners bring out the best in each other. But Vu Le says the concept of donor love is closer to sycophancy than love.


Choice quote:

“We have watered down the term ‘love’ so much that we no longer understand what it entails. I think in many ways we have been short-changing and infantilizing donors. We don’t ‘love’ them. We find ways to psychologically condition them to give money in the most efficient manner possible.”

NFTs: WWF tried raising money with digital art but backtracked – environmental charities should follow suit

WWF’s recent foray into the world of Non-Fungible Tokens contains lessons for all charities, says Northumbria University’s Peter Howson.

The Conversation

Choice quote:

“Before reacting to crypto-giving hype, conservation charities such as WWF need to do their homework. Animal jpegs and cryptocurrencies may seem a harmless way to fundraise. But mindlessly jumping on the blockchain bandwagon could tie their hands while longstanding donors take their support elsewhere.”

See also: 

  • ‘How the World Wildlife Fund tried – and failed ­– to create an eco-friendly NFT’, by Justine Calma on The Verge.
  • ‘WWF faces backlash over ‘eco-friendly’ blockchain fundraising’, by Kirsty Weakly on Civil Society (paywall).

What do the Captain Tom Foundation accounts really tell us?

Captain Tom was a fundraising phenomenon, but, says Russell Hargrave, the foundation created in his honour must now find answers to difficult questions.

Civil Society (paywall)

Choice quote:

“If it turns out that Captain Tom’s name remains a totemic fundraising machine long into the future, funnelling millions more to good causes, then early spending on getting the philanthropy and governance right will look like a smart decision. If progress stalls, and the fund struggles to attract more cash, it will look like a waste.”

The CIoF needs to rethink its basic assumption about what it does 

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising still hasn’t squared the circle of serving both the interests of its members and representing the fundraising profession, which, argues Ian MacQuillin, are not always necessarily the same thing.

Third Sector (paywall)

Choice quote:

“If the IoF/CIoF hasn’t adequately built a better understanding of the importance of fundraising over the past 20 years, then just what has it been doing? Being better able to do stuff like this was, after all, a rationale for the rebranding from ICFM.”

Make ’em wear the schwag

The Agitator

Kevin Schulman presents what he admits is a ‘crazy’ idea – require donors to wear charity branded products as a precondition of donating.

Choice quote:

“People want to feel good about themselves and look good to others. Schwag that publicly signals your altruistic (donate) or civic act (e.g. donate blood, vote) might be seen by others as self-promotional. This creates conflict for the doer – I don’t want my pure act of giving/doing to be seen as impure…the obligatory requirement removes this internal struggle.”

Book review – In Defence of Philanthropy by Beth Breeze

Hilborn: Charity eNews

Beth Breeze has provided a convincing defence of the criticism of philanthropy dating as far back as the 8th century. But, asks Maryann Kerr, does philanthropy – or the ‘philanthropic complex’ – need a ‘defence’ in the first place?

Choice quote:

“Giridharadas suggests that philanthropy causes more harm than good. In his worldview, philanthropy only addresses ‘effect’ issues like food insecurity instead of ‘cause’ issues like injustice and poverty. Breeze asserts that numerous media outlets have highlighted this point of view. Of course, Giridharadas’ viewpoint is a massive generalization and the leap Breeze makes is to suggest that this generalization, because it is picked up by the media, requires a defence.”

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