NEW THINKING: Blog digest – November/December 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. This month we have a double edition as the editor got Covid and was not able to compile the November digest.

Inclusion in this digest does not indicate that Rogare agrees with any arguments presented, only that we thought they made a good case.

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 think critically and imaginatively about them.

Neither amateur nor professional but something in between – the ‘Corinthian’ nature of fundraising and the problems that causes

Critical Fundraising

Fundraising is torn between the need to be professional while at the same time embodying ‘amateur’ values. Ian MacQuillin argues this compromise exacerbates a power differential between givers and askers.

Choice quote:

“Just as cricket and rugby were split around the professional/amateur distinction, so is the whole enterprise of philanthropy, with a Corinthian ideal of giving cast at odds with a professional approach to asking.”

  • See also Ian’s column in Third Sector, which considers fundraising’s ‘class problem’ in the context of its Corinthianism.

Who owns the story?

The Agitator

Kevin Schulman says the ‘victory’ for a beneficiary-created fundraising pack in a recent split test might not be as conclusive as claimed.

Choice quote:

“Having an editor rework copy would not be an automatic undermining of the ‘authenticity’, nor autonomy, nor a nod to saviourism. The best professional writers on the planet all have editors.”

  • See also Kevin’s variation on this them on LinkedIn, which also contains a response from the report’s author, Jess Crombie.

Is a nonprofit truly effective? Lets ask the people who are served

USA Today

Looking for the ‘best’ nonprofit to support? Evan Feinberg says the efficiency metrics used by ratings agencies such as Charity Navigator aren’t the right ones.

Choice quote:

“A real measurement system wouldn’t start with dollars spent or academic studies, but with the people a nonprofit serves. In the same way that the customer is king in the private sector, the beneficiary is key in the social sector.”

  • h/t Heather Hill for suggesting this blog.

People promise much to charities, but donations remain unsent

More than half of charitable giving via payment apps is ‘forgotten’ as soon as a fundraiser leaves, according to a new University of Copenhagen.

Choice quote:

“A substantial part of the explanation rests in the fact that a person’s will to donate is highly correlated with the social pressure present when people meet. When a fundraising solicitor leaves, that pressure fades away and it becomes easier for a donor to opt out.”

  • h/t Heather Hill for suggesting this blog.

Socratic fundraising theory: How questions advance the donor’s story

Fundraising Myth and Science

Russell James starts a series on ‘Socratic’ fundraising, following the lead of Greek philosopher who taught by asking questions.

Choice quote:

Questions can do a lot. Of course, they can uncover information. But they can do more. Empathetic listening signals a social or friendship relationship, rather than a purely transactional one. This encourages sharing. Questions can also teach. Even more, questions allow people to teach themselves. Questions can change “an idea” into “my idea.”

FTX: Is the Effective Altruism movement (finally) over?


In the context of the fall of one of its highest profile advocates – the crypto-financier Sam Bankman-Fried – Craig Hanson offers a philosophical critique of the Effective Altruism idea.

Choice quote:

“What the EA movement promises, and what it has always promised, is only as robust as a tautology: that if we manage to do everything for the best, then everything will be better. True enough. The problem is that with humanity’s worst problems, it is never clear what is best.”

Pro bono is no substitute for the public purse

The Law Society Gazette


Catherine Baksi says it cannot be right that vulnerable clients are left to rely on the largesse of barristers who are willing to work for nothing, in order for them to have someone to advocate on their behalf.

Choice quote:

“Many legal aid lawyers already do huge amounts of unpaid work. As criminal barristers have seen, the more work that they have been prepared to do for nothing over the years, the more the government expected them to do.”

Why we’re recycling the same fundraisers around the same jobs

Third Sector (paywall)

There’s a recruitment problem in fundraising, but all we’re doing to fix it is recycle the same fundraisers into new jobs, says Ian MacQuillin.

Choice quote:

“If a job advert for a head of fundraising requires the successful candidate to raise high six figures annually, manage the relationships with major donors and corporates, run the development board and write and implement a new fundraising strategy that opens up new income streams – all on three days a week for a pro rata salary of £30,000 (i.e. actual salary of £18,000) – then frankly you can just go whistle.”

No thank you: Why one foundation leader doesn’t want gratitude from grantees

Chronicle of Philanthropy (paywall)

The thanks grantmaker Lisa Pilar Cowan once craved are now causing her to think about the larger system, and what she is inviting and putting out in her relationships with grantees.

Choice quote: 

“Those of us who have shaped and continue to shape philanthropy have created a system where we take money from the public good twice, and then are thanked for giving it back to address societal problems that often result from the system that benefited the original donor. And then we get a paycheck and a thank-you note for doing so.”

4 ways to make donor-advised funds simpler and fairer

Chronicle of Philanthropy

New proposed legislation in the USA to reform DAFs could go even further. Craig Kennedy outlines his solutions.

Choice quote:

“The secrecy enjoyed by DAFs has generated a whole lobbying movement focused on defending so-called donor privacy. But DAFs are subsidized by American taxpayers, and those fellow citizens have a right to know where the funds are going.”

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