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Critical Fundraising

A mode of enquiry to help us rethink fundraising

What is Critical Fundraising?

Challenging the fundraising orthodoxy

Critical Fundraising is a concerted attempt to Rethink Fundraising by critically and constructively evaluate these issues and provide practical solutions to them. It is very loosely based on the idea of critical marketing, which is based on the concept of critical management studies, which is informed by critical theory.

The term is directly borrowed from Critical Marketing, a school of thought espoused by marketers and marketing academics that challenges the orthodox views that are often seen as central to the core discipline of marketing. Critical Fundraising seeks to do the same for fundraising. 


Our overarching goal is to rethink fundraising by challenging, where appropriate and beneficial to the sustainability of fundraising, some of the assumptions at the heart of fundraising. 


We will do this through a transdisciplinary approach by applying knowledge from areas outside fundraising/philanthropy research and practice – from disciplines such as moral philosophy and professional ethics, behavioural science, evolutionary and social psychology, marketing and public relations, and anthropology – to synthesise new solutions to some of our knottiest professional challenges.

Our core methodological approach is Critical Realism, an approach that attempts to identify the mechanisms, often hidden or unactivated, that explain/cause real world phenomena, such as why barriers to relationship fundraising exist.


This Critical Realist approach also informs our Theory of Change for Fundraising.

And as fundraisers use our Theory of Change, they will use the Critical Fundraising ethos and approach to ask questions about where our theory and evidence is weakest.

Having identified such a knowledge gap, Rogare will use adopt the Critical Fundraising ethos to underpin all our research projects and other outputs, such as blogs and seminars, as we investigate areas of fundraising that are under-researched or ‘under-thought’.

  • Under-researched – topics where you feel there is simply not enough reliable data to inform current practice. Our aim would then be to find out what research does exist and suggest how this could be used by practitioners.

  • 'Under-thought’ – subjects where you feel that the arguments, discussions and debates lack cohesion, substance and/or internal logic. These are likely to be characterised by the same rhetorical arguments being repeatedly used (from within the sector as well as without) without progress actually being made. Our aim is to develop new theory in order to ask better questions to get the evidence we need.

How we Rethink Fundraising
  1. Through the lens of Critical Fundraising, we identify an under-thought or under-researched topic, problem issue or challenge.

  2. We then explore all there is we can know about that, again through the lens of Critical Fundraising.

  3. And then synthesise a new transdisciplinary solution to the topic, problem, issue or challenge.



Types of Critical Fundraising research initiatives

At Rogare we conduct our work in three broad categories of research initiatives:

  • Knowledge Collectives

  • Research Projects

  • Research Centres.

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More information

You can find out about Critical Fundraising and our transdisciplinary approach in our Rethinking Fundraising paper.

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  • Critical Fundraising – a new mode of thought for our profession
    By Ian MacQuillin, on the Critical Fundraising Blog.

Critical thinking guidelines

Two members of our International Advisory Panel – Cherian Koshy from Des Moines Performing Arts, and Ashley Belanger of Ashley H. Belanger Consulting – have written a guide to critical thinking in fundraising. These guidelines underpin Rogare's approach to our research, and we encourage fundraisers to take a similar approach when evaluating not just our work and arguments, but the ideas presented by everyone involved in knowledge development in fundraising, whether that's presenting a case study at a conference or a major piece of practitioner research.

  • Download Rogare's Critical thinking guide for fundraising. This paper is also available in a version optimised for printing.

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Critical thinking guide

Critical Fundraising Forum (Facebook)

This is Rogare’s ‘window to the world’ where more than 1,000 members discuss and debate current issues in fundraising. If you would like to join the conversation on some of the most challenging and difficult question in fundraising, you can join our community here:

  • Join the Critical Fundraising Forum.

Critical Fundraising Blog

We explore many topics, issues and challenges in depth on the Critical Fundraising Blog. This blog is not just a place for Rogare to present the ideas and research we have been developing; it’s also were members of our network and other guest authors can present arguments to an engaged, critical readership. 

  • Go to the Critical Fundraising Blog for the best new ideas in fundraising.

Critical Fundraising Reports

One strand of our programme to develop a richer and robust knowledge base for fundraising involves fundraisers compiling Critical Fundraising Reports for their own areas of relevance, expertise and interest. Working on these reports – using Critical Fundraising and the Theory of Change – encourage fundraisers to think critically about the challenges they face as well as raises awareness of those issues themselves.

‘This Is a Fundraising Office’ manifesto

  • Find out about and download our This is a Fundraising Office Manifesto

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‘I Am a Critical Fundraiser’ manifesto

  • Find out about and download our I Am a Critical Fundraiser Manifesto

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We can’t change fundraising without your help.

Like what we do and want to get involved?

Join the forum
  • Facebook - White Circle

Contribute to the debate and discussion in the Critical Fundraising Forum on Facebook. 


Follow us on Twitter
  • Twitter - White Circle

Follow us on Twitter - @RogareFTT


Critical fundraising blog
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Read the latest thoughts and insights on the Critical Fundraising blog. 

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