NEW THINKING: Blog digest – April 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.

People around the world are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine to help people in need. Will it work?

Center for Global Development

People have been transferring money to individual Ukrainians by booking via Airbnb. Anit Mukherjee and Alan Gelb say there could be unforeseen consequences to pouring money into a wartime economy.

Choice quote:

“Cash will only help if there’s something to buy. Reports from Ukraine have exposed major supply shortages from food to medicine to electricity. And there is an important open question about whether pumping more cash into a war economy might make this situation worse. With limits to supply, the extra cash in the hands of a small group of people (Airbnb hosts) may generate inflation and simply drive up prices of necessities for everyone making a bad economic situation even worse.”

More on Airbnb and Ukraine: 

Math problems in fundraising story: Motivations and barriers

Fundraising Myth and Science

For nonprofit managers, numbers define success or failure and show impact. But, says Russell James, numbers in fundraising exist in an alternate universe where they are still important, but in weird ways. 

Choice quote:

“The social-emotion system motivates charitable giving. Social-emotional story is the engine that drives giving. The math and logic system takes part too. But it contributes only as a brake on giving. In experiments, pointing out math and logic errors ‘works’. The story vs. statistics bias disappears. But this works only by applying the brakes to giving. People act more logically, but they give less. In fundraising, that’s not a great result.”

More on fundraising math by Russell James in Fundraising Myth and Science this month:

There t’aint enough thinking about tainted money

Third Sector (paywall)

Since fundraisers have been pondering tainted money dilemmas for so long, you’d think we’d be pretty good at resolving them, but Ian MacQuillin says they still seem to be tying us in ethical decision-making knots.

Choice quote:

“Donations are normally the culmination of a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship between charity and donor that brings meaning and satisfaction for both. Prince Andrew’s ‘donation’ was none of these and was more in the nature of a fine.”

Philanthropy in Julian Fellowes’s The Gilded Age: Maybe a little too familiar?


Philanthropy in late 19th century USA had two functions: helping those in need and providing a “ladder to cling into society for those who don’t belong there”, according to those who were already part of the social élite. Kathryn Dilworth wonders if all that much has changed.

Choice quote:

“The money and position that women leverage is often co-opted by the men to serve their own ambitions. The women, albeit living glamourous lives, are non-commodified laborers in this scenario, a practice that remains prevalent to this day in the nonprofit sector where women make less, deliver incredible amounts of social capital, often feel pressures to donate to the organizations they work for, and routinely choose not to submit work expenses.”

We need a ‘Nonprofit Fundraiser Bill of Rights’

Philanthropy News Digest

Fundraisers care deeply for donors and go out of their way to look after donors’ interests. Evan Wildstein says the time for ‘us’ has arrived, and fundraisers need to show as much care for themselves as they do for their donors. 

Choice quote:

“I recently saw a meme suggesting that a fundraiser’s chief responsibility is to apologise for things they didn’t do wrong. When I shared it with colleagues, the overwhelming response was along the lines of, ‘I feel that in my soul’.”

How to measure meaningful connections

Many nonprofit managers use face-to-face meetings as a key evaluation metric for their team, and most fundraisers are still insistent that a donor connection must occur face-to-face. Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels argue that this antiquated thinking is not honouring the donor, and it’s costing non-profits many valuable relationships.

Choice quote:

“Simply put, a meaningful connection is any interaction and communication with the donor that moves the relationship forward. This can happen in any manner including text, LinkedIn, video, phone, traditional mail, and, yes, in a donor meeting.”

  • This post was missed in our March Critical Fundraising Blog Digest (sorry!).
  • See also: ‘The growing importance of meaningful connections’, by Tim Sarrontonio discussing this article on LinkedIn.

Donation intention and threat – what’s the link and why does it matter?

Institute of Sustainable Philanthropy

Harriet Day reviews a recent research paper and outlines some implications for fundraising practice.

Choice quote:

“There’s a reason that experiencing a traumatic event means people are more willing to participate in charitable activities. It’s because there is a shared experience and so you can understand the perspective of that individual far easier.”

Original paper:

Are you undermining donor’s sense of control?

The Agitator

Kevin Schulman describes a key finding of recent academic research that indicates that donors’ sense of their own control over their time and money explains a preference for volunteering over giving.

Choice quote:

“If we tell folks they will have some control over their time/money, we remove the seemingly baked-in advantage of time and its mental linkage to autonomy.”

Original paper:

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