NEW THINKING: Blog digest – September 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’ (there are two this month) 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.

Why do we talk about ‘ethical fundraising’ as if unethical fundraising were the norm?

Third Sector (paywall)

If it goes without saying that fundraising is ethical, why, wonders Ian MacQuillin, do so many fundraisers feel the need to point out how ethical they are?

Choice quote:

“Describing fundraising as ‘ethical’ does not challenge any general perception of fundraising as ‘unethical’. It reinforces it by separating a few ‘ethical’ players from the mass of the (alleged) ‘unethical’ ones. It’s throwing the rest of the profession under the bus.”

Who was the original ‘poster child’?

Mental Floss

The phrase poster child is deeply ingrained in the lexicon, used to describe exemplars in everything from international politics to failed films to endangered plants. But did you know the original poster child appeared in a fundraising advert? Caroline Eubanks tells the story.

Choice quote:

“I felt famous; I felt singled out and special…I spoke to crowds both large and small about how normal my life was and how happy I was – all in an effort to raise awareness and money for an organization designed to fund research that would prevent congenital birth defects similar to my own.”

Why am I not an Effective Altruist?

Philanthropy Matters

Rhodri Davies looks at why, despite there being plenty to admire about Effective Altruism, many are still uneasy about the movement’s ideas and influence – and why he is one of them.

Choice quote:

“Some have taken things even further, arguing that it is fact worse to give but to do so “badly” (from an EA perspective) than it is not to give at all…This may seem deliberately contrarian, but EAs subscribing to this sort of view are in fact (but perhaps without realising it) tapping into a rich historical tradition of believing that giving in the ‘wrong’ is worse than not giving at all, due to the negative unintended consequences it produces.”

  • See also this article in the New Yorker: The reluctant prophet of Effective Altruism.

How much should you give to charity?

Emma Beeston Consultancy

With charities experiencing increased need for funds, but donors stretched by the cost of living crisis, the question remains: how much, as individuals, should we give to charity? Emma Beeston says there are two concepts we can use to guide us.

Choice quote:

“Charity is often discussed as what you do with any surplus you have. Your ‘spare’ change is the extra money you don’t need; but is that a monthly contribution after paying all your bills; or an amount left after paying for other things like holidays, family plans or retirement?”

How to defend philanthropy in eleven words

Critics of philanthropy are under-read and over-opinionated, argues Beth Breeze.

Philanthropy Australia

Choice quote:

“Critics are also curiously resistant to acknowledging the well-known presence of mixed motives – as any kid knows: giving makes you feel good whilst doing good. It is a choice to only see self-interest and not the many well-known humane and positive drivers of philanthropy such as gratitude, empathy, compassion, religious conviction, a sense of duty, anger at the existence of unmet needs.”

Inside the mind of conspiracy theorist



Philosopher Julian Baggini considers why people like to believe fanciful explanations for what is wrong in the world.

Choice quote:

“When people believe what seem to be crazy things – conspiracies, fundamentalist religion, crank diets – we make a mistake if we think that all they need to do is to look more carefully at the facts and think more clearly. Their primary allegiance is to other people who hold the beliefs, not the beliefs themselves.”

The joy of fundraising: How fundraising can be truly, authentically joyful


The way we’ve been conditioned to understand and experience joy in fundraising needs to be explored more deeply, and with a lens of equity and justice. Vu Le outlines an alternative set of ‘joyful’ fundraising practices.

Choice quote:

“Charity has become a warped manifestation of capitalism. Traditional fundraising and philanthropic practices have turned our sector into a Skymall catalogue of causes and issues, all competing for the attention of donors. And we fundraisers have become salespeople and personal shoppers who often delude ourselves into thinking that our fundraising work, at its worse a form of conscience-laundering for capitalism’s many inequities, is somehow fun.”

Fundraiser turnover problems: The stigmatized story character

Fundraising Myth and Science

Inspirational stories can motivate. But stigmatized stories can cripple. Few professions suffer more from stigmatized stories than fundraising, says Russell James.

Choice quote:

“Fundraiser. What does that mean? ‘Fund’ means money. ‘Raiser’ means one who retrieves or gets. So, a fundraiser is a money getter’. Not very inspirational, is it? It doesn’t distinguish the profession from other ‘money getters’. A drug dealer is a money getter. So is a prostitute, a pickpocket, or a time-share telemarketer.”

See also:

Activism isn’t for everyone

The Ruffian


Ian Leslie says that there are some debates where both sides need to be examined, which is why academics and journalists should remain neutral.

Choice quote:

“A little wilful stupidity is required to make any change happen. The more a person focuses on political actions, the harder it becomes for them to justify the kind of thinking which puts those very actions into question.”

Why Black philanthropy matters

Civil Society (paywall)

Patricia Hamzahee, co-founder of GiveBLACK, writes that the organisation seeks a self-sustaining model of giving within Britain’s Black communities.

Choice quote:

“Britain’s Black communities are usually seen as recipients of charity rather than as donors. Because people of African and Caribbean heritage in the UK typically hold the lowest wealth…we are too often viewed as part of a dependency culture, which successive governments have sought to eliminate, even though we know our generosity is substantial.”

Avoiding being asked? Say it ain’t so

The Agitator

If people enjoy giving then why, asks Kevin Schulman, would they ever actively avoid a fundraising ask?

Choice quote:

“Being solicited and the joy that can arrive from being charitable are not synonymous. Heck, sometimes they aren’t even distant, far-flung cousins. Relatedly, the act of giving is not what brings joy. It is how people react afterwards.”

I’m calling out this ridiculous claim in Marketing Week!


A news item claims Dutch confectionery brand Tony Chocoloney grew without spending a penny on marketing – actually above-the-line media. Jennifer Whitfield says this is sending a dangerous message.

Choice quote:

“Small businesses often have limited to no in-house marketing resource but can still have incredible products, brands and missions. Telling them that they can grow their brand without spending a penny on marketing is utterly ludicrous.”

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