We recently asked Ian McQuillin, manager of fundraising think tank Rogare at Plymouth Uni, about his talk ‘Are you Proud to be a Fundraiser’, which sparked some debate at the Institute of Fundraising’s First Thursday last month.
He said “Anyone going to the Institute of Fundraising National Convention this year is going to be told they should be ‘proud’ to be a fundraiser. Fundraisers ensure charities have enough money to carry out their missions and visions and change the world for the better. How could anyone not be proud of that?
“And yet the these calls to action to be ‘proud’ – and the flipside, to stop apologising – is an indication that something is not quite right in the profession of fundraising. Fundraising comes under continuous scrutiny and sometimes open warfare from the media, public, parliamentarians, and those of our charity colleagues who don’t ‘get’ fundraising and view it as a ‘necessary evil’.
“Exhortations to be ‘proud’ to be a fundraiser are really shorthand for saying “be more confident in your profession”. Because if we have complete professional self-confidence then we will be able to mount robust defences of fundraising when it comes under attack.
“The trouble is, that we are not sure what we do. To an outsider, fundraising is very obviously about raising money. Many fundraisers however, maintain that fundraising is ‘not just about raising money’; it’s really about doing good work or connecting donors with the cause. And to do this successfully, it’s more important to be ‘passionate’ about the cause than passionate about the actual process of raising money.
“But this confuses means and ends, the what and the why. ‘What’ we do is raise money; ‘why’ we do it is to change the world. When fundraising comes under attack, it is almost always over what we do, not why we do it. So the defence has to be based on the ‘what’, not the ‘why’.
“If you are neither proud of nor passionate about the ‘what’, then any defence is fatally weakened and almost certain to fail.
“I think we need to unite these two views of fundraising (‘not-just-about-money’ school and the more literal interpretation). I’ve written about how to do that with a new manifesto for fundraising.
“It’s likely that street fundraising will help to inform this healing process. Flow Caritas’ current research to map the transition from street fundraising to working in charity fundraising departments has shown that street fundraisers are regularly getting charity fundraising jobs.
“Street fundraising is the essence of fundraising – two minutes to enthuse a potential donor so much that they’ll sign up to a monthly gift. To be good at that, you have to be passionate about the cause you’re ‘selling’ and the actual process of ‘selling’ it.
“This research – which will be published in full in July – shows that fundraisers who began their careers on the street are ‘passionate’ about being fundraisers. On a scale from 1 to 7, passion for the job scores 5.67 compared to 6.30 for passion for the cause.
“There’s no benchmark to compare this with the passion felt by other fundraisers. But I find it pretty encouraging. If we can all become this passionate about the business of raising money, pride in that business can’t be far behind.
“I sense a real willingness to make this happen. Perhaps the Zeitgeist for 2014 really will be pride in fundraising, after a number of false starts in previous years.”