NEW THINKING: Blog digest – June 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 ‘wildcard blog’ 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 thing critically and imaginatively about them.

How to solve the ‘poverty porn’ dilemma by enabling service users to tell their own stories

Critical Fundraising

Advocates of the different poles of the framing ethics debate (raising money vs ‘poverty porn’) have been talking past each other for at least 37 years. Ian MacQuillin describes a new way to think about framing ethics that presents a way out of this ethical impasse.

Choice quote:

“Some people have commented that the formulation of ethics we have proposed will be a corrective to the use of ‘poverty porn’ by charities, assuming that, if given the choice, service users will obviously choose positive, values-based framing. But this is not necessarily so…It is entirely possible that service users, given the chance to exercise voice and agency…may want to talk about suffering, and show it.”

Understanding fundraising as story: The identity-challenge-victory story cycle

Fundraising Myth and Science

In the first of four blogs, Russell James explores the components that make up the best fundraising stories. 

Choice quote:

“In fundraising story, the ‘inciting incident’ is the ask. A crisis (threat or opportunity) arises for the donor’s people or values. The ask forces the donor to respond. It’s a challenge. But it’s a challenge that promises a solution. It promises the hope of victory over the crisis.”

NB This blog also contains a helpful summary of some of the research that shows that people give because they are asked.

Further reading:

How Twitter made me smarter

The Ruffian


Ian Leslie says there is an upside to the website everyone loves to hate.

Choice quote:

“If cliché is the enemy of good writing and good thinking, Twitter is the greatest source of information on enemy manoeuvres yet invented. It shows you what the buggers are up to and where they are, every day and every minute. Click on any hot take tweet and read the replies. Nearly all of them say the same thing.”

Why do fundraisers leave?

Third Sector (paywall)

If their charity doesn’t care for them, Ian MacQuillin says fundraisers should go to work for one that will.

Choice quote:

“Charities have a duty of care to look after their fundraisers, train them in the skills they need, remunerate and compensate them fairly, treat them with professional respect and protect them from harm (such as excessive demands of donors).If charities do not or cannot exercise this duty of care, then they cannot expect, as of right, loyalty from their fundraisers.”

Donorcentricity 3.0 – The science behind it

Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

The Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy delivers a primer in philanthropic psychology

Choice quote:

“Giving donors a voice so they can articulate how they feel about key issues, giving them meaningful choices in how to have their impact and allowing them to feel as though they had a hand in making something magical happen today, will all build wellbeing”

Would the world be better off without philanthropists?

The New Yorker

Nicholas Lemann reviews political theorist Emma Saudners-Hasting’s new book critiquing philanthropy.

Choice quote:

“Isn’t it better that moguls give their money away than buy more yachts and mansions? Not necessarily, in Saunders-Hastings’s view. For a ‘relational egalitarian’, overspending on a luxurious life might be morally preferable to philanthropy. It’s less paternalistic, and, if pursued with vigour, it could degrade the big spender’s superior position, from billionaire to millionaire.”

Fundraisers are not in the persuasion business

The Agitator

Donors who exhibit the most extreme individualist traits are rarely likely to be persuaded to donate, however you frame the message, says Kevin Schulman.

Choice quote:

“‘Rugged’ and maybe extreme(?) individualism…is a very good predictor of the yes/no giving decision. The more someone thinks like an extreme individualist, the less likely they are to give.”

Digital donor abuse

The Agitator

Roger Craver rails against some of the ‘scumbag’ practices prevalent in digital fundraising in the USA.

Choice quote:

“Why would an organization genuinely concerned with building a relationship with a new donor toss that newly acquired name into an open prospecting pit only to have the new donor be tempted or snapped up by another cause.”

NB – these criticisms apply less in the EU and UK where data protection laws prevent many of these activities.

Rising inflation will hurt fundraising – fact or fiction?

Giving Architects Journal

Despite informed commentary and logical conclusions, fundraising history shows us that higher than average inflation will not hurt fundraising. 

Choice quote

“There are any number of charts and data sets that show total giving has increased. But it is increasing because loyal donors continue to be loyal and new donors are influenced by the most effectively presented needs of people and planet.”

See also also:

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