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Fundraising and postmodernism

Whether we realise it or not, we consume postmodern ideas all the time. Postmodernism is a way of seeing the world. It’s also a way of thinking about the world, particularly through various incarnations of critical theory that use critique to extricate hidden meanings and uncover power structures.

You’re probably thinking what has any of this got to do with me as a practising fundraiser.

The answer is plenty.

First postmodernism might offer ways to communicate with donors that are quite different from the ‘romantic’ donor journeys we often construct in which donors are the heroes of their own quest for philanthropic meaning. The Rogare praxis paper written by David Harrison on overcoming social taboos might represent one way of doing this.

Second, many of the current discussion around contemporary issues in fundraising – such as whether donors have too much power, or whether fundraising ‘others’ beneficiaries – are framed in the language of postmodern critical discourse.

To help fundraisers understand these issues, we are publishing a series of three papers – all written by British Fundraising consultant Ashley Scott, a member of Rogare’s Critical Fundraising Network – that unpick fundraising’s place in a postmodern world. 

  • The first paper looks at key concepts in postmodernism and how these relate to live issues in fundraising

  • The second (to be published in late 2024) will look at how postmodern ideas could be used more directly in fundraising practice.

  • The third (mid-2025) will future gaze what postmodernity might have in store for fundraising in the future.

Also, if you’ve ever found yourself wanting to know more about postmodernism but didn’t know where to start, Ashley’s first paper is a very good layperson’s introduction to a very complex and difficult-to-understand topic.

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More information

  • Ian MacQuillin’s blog on why an understanding of postmodernist ideas is relevant for fundraisers.

  • Press release announcing the publication of the first paper.

  • Find out more about Rogare’s critical realist methodology, which we call Critical Fundraising.

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Further reading

  • Never ending story: Postmodern storytelling for postmodern donors  – by Ashley Scott on Critical Fundraising.

  • Why fundraisers need to start a journey to an holistic understanding of donors – by Ashley Scott on Critical Fundraising.

  • How anthropology can give us new insights into donor-centred fundraising  – by Ashley Scott on Critical Fundraising.

  • David Harrison's praxis paper on overcoming social taboos.

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