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Professionalisation of fundraising

If you ask a fundraiser how they came to be a fundraiser, the chances are they’ll tell you the ‘fell into fundraising by accident’.


That’s because in most countries, there is no formal entry route into fundraising, of the type there is for almost all other professions. But that’s not the only area where fundraising falls short on the criteria – such as acquiring a body of knowledge required to practice – traditionally used to demarcate professions form non-profession. In fact, it’s debatable whether fundraising is really a profession at all. Many scholars think that fundraising is an ‘emerging’ profession at best.

And that’s problematic, because many of the issues and challenges faced by fundraising reduce to the question of whether fundraising is or is not a profession: for example, lack of investment in fundraising, failure to support fundraisers publicly, and distrust of fundraising as a ‘necessary evil’.


Professionalising fundraising is high on Rogare’s agenda, as doing so could go a long way to solving many of the other challenges.


While this whole work strand incorporates anything that relates to the context of the fundraising profession, when we use the phrase ‘professionalisation’ this is very specifically used in the contexts of become more like a profession – i.e. meeting the criteria for professionhood.

Our objectives in this respect are:

a) Identify the issues affected by fundraising’s perceived lack of professional status

b) Identify how these issues, challenges and problems would be solved were fundraising to professionalise

c) Recommend whether fundraising needs to professionalise

d) Recommend what fundraising needs to do in order to professionalise.

Our vision is that future generations can choose to enter a fully-fledged profession through a defined entry route and not fall into it by accident through an ad hoc one.

To explore these issues, we have far published two papers.

Paper 1 – Is fundraising a profession?

The first paper, published in 2017, looks at whether fundraising can claim to be a profession, and asks whether it matters if it cannot. Assessing fundraising against the criteria generally used to decide whether an occupation qualifies as a profession – known as the sociological approach – shows that fundraising falls short on many factors.


However, there's a different approach to professional status – the 'philosophical approach', devised by Professor Michael Davis of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions –which identifies the 'moral ideal' served by the the profession and then requires all members of the profession to opt-in to the profession's special standards that service the moral ideal.

The paper proposes as fundraising's moral ideal:

Ensuring that charities and other voluntary and nonprofit organisations have sufficient income to carry out their core charitable purpose and improve the lives of their beneficiaries.”

The Rogare paper proposes a mixed approach for the professionalisation of fundraising, encouraging fundraisers to opt-in to fundraising's special standards while the profession takes steps to meet the criteria - such as entry pathways and a body of knowledge - required by the sociological approach.

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More information

  • Download the Rogare green paper: Less than my job’s worth: Is fundraising a profession and does it matter if it isn’t?

  • Read Ian MacQuillin’s Critical Fundraising blog ­– The case of the accidental fundraiser and the need to professionalise fundraising.

Paper 2 – Qualifying pathways into fundraising 

The second paper – funded by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy and Cause4 and published in September 2020 – looks at how people currently enter the emerging profession of fundraising, how they acquire professional knowledge, and how they become 'qualified' as competent professional fundraisers.

The paper describes the ways people enter fundraising: direct entry, transferring from another sector, apprenticeships and graduate trainee schemes, through interning and/or volunteering, student rag fundraising, and through face-to-face and other field force fundraising.

It then looks at existing ways that fundraisers acquire professional knowledge: on-the job learning, self-teaching, mentoring, training, CPD, professional qualification, certification/credentialing and apprenticeships.

It then looks at how other professions structure their entry routes and qualifying pathways, including the types of competency frameworks they use, and considers what type of similar qualifying pathway would be suitable for fundraising.

The report also looks at what traits are considered desirable for new entrants to fundraising and what types of people fundraising should be looking to attract on to the qualifying pathway, once it has been constructed.

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More information

  • Download the report: Accident prevention: the case for a qualifying pathway for fundraising and the most appropriate entry routes on to that pathway – available from Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy.

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