NEW THINKING: Blog digest – May 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.

This month we have introduced a new ‘wildcard blog’. This is a blog that does not discuss ideas that are directly related to fundraising, but whose ideas we might be able to use if we think critically and imaginatively about them.

Charity efficiency, overhead, and fundraising story: A tale of two worlds

Fundraising Myth and Science

Why do donors get vexed about charity overheads but are not bothered about similar overheads at companies? Because, says Russell James, in the charity context, money is not just a tool to buy stuff, but a character in a drama with its own magical qualities. 

Choice quote:

“Donors are not always averse to high-overhead projects or charities. They just don’t want their dollars to be spent on overhead. If their dollars are spent on overhead, then overhead is a problem. If other donors’ dollars pay for it, then overhead isn’t a problem.”

Do fundraisers need a ‘Bill of Rights’?

Third Sector (paywall)

There are bills of rights for donors and for various other consumer groups. Ian MacQuillin asks if such a document is needed to protect fundraisers?

Choice quote:

“Donor rights have found their way into attempts to build a fundraiser bill of rights. So ingrained is the notion of serving donors and philanthropy, that we find it hard to shake this idea even in documents in which we are supposed to think only of ourselves.”


The Agitator

Kevin Schulman discusses the main findings of a new research paper that explores how Joe Public views the concept of ‘non-profit.

Choice quote:

“Nonprofits are [seen as] much more charitable with big picture ‘why’ vs. little picture ‘why’ – e.g. making world better place beats making the beneficiary person better off.”

  • Full paper: Child, C., & Witesman, E. (2022). The Social Meanings of the Third Sector: How Action and Purpose Shape Everyday Understandings of “Nonprofit”. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 08997640221081523.

Corporations are more insect than person

Ethical Systems blog


Different businesses can be more or less anthropomorphized in the public eye. Crucially, says Brian Gallagher, this shapes how much we trust them.

Choice quote:

“Because anthropomorphism increases trust, it is possible that anthropomorphized corporations are deemed more worthy of rights precisely because they are more trusted.”

Using family words not formal words in fundraising story

Fundraising Myth and Science

Fundraising is quite like sales, in terms of technique. But it’s very different at a fundamental, neurological, chemical level, a level where, says Russell Jamesfamily/social relationships encourage philanthropy, but market/exchange relationships don’t.

Choice quote:

“Technical, formal, or contract language can shift the listener’s frame of mind. It can shift to a detached, defensive, market-exchange perspective. This inhibits sharing. In fundraising experiments, these word choices can make a big difference.”

As funders, we have a problem

Civil Society (paywall)

Funders need to give charities permission to fail, says philanthropist and entrepreneur Ewan Kirk.

Choice quote:

“If an idea doesn’t work, that’s not a bad thing. It means we’re all one step closer to finding an approach that does work. We often learn much more from our failures than our successes.”

Legacy fundraising in the 2020s


With the value of legacy giving is predicted to increase dramatically over the next few decades, Claire Routley looks at the psychology behind legacy giving that fundraisers can tap into.

Choice quote:

“In a world of existential terror, we’re all looking for some hope. As charities encouraging legacy giving, we can share a vision for a better future – and indeed, research suggests that showing people a positive future vision (as opposed to focusing on the detail of day-to-day work) is likely to be particularly effective in legacy messaging.”

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