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Rethinking Fundraising

How we can make better evidence- and theory-based decisions

The practice of fundraising is not built upon a sufficiently rich and robust knowledge base, and the fundraising profession collectively has not sufficiently valued, sought out, and used the knowledge that is available to it. To compound matters, the lack of a theoretical foundation underpinning the knowledge base has often led fundraisers to make poor and inconsistent decisions in areas such as ethics and regulation, which ultimately can impact the amount of money they can raise to help the lives of their beneficiaries.


Rogare’s solution is to We need to rethink fundraising.

We need to rethink both the type of knowledge that underpins fundraising, and bring about a culture change in how fundraisers learn, acquire and value that knowledge. 


We have therefore set ourselves two overarching objectives


1.         Develop a richer knowledge base

2.         Change the culture of learning in fundraising.


You can find out about who we will achieve these objectives in our paper Rethinking Fundraising, which describes in full our Critical Fundraising methodology, our Theory of Change for Fundraising, our transdisciplinary approach, and how all our various work streams and projects cohere into an ‘integrated theory of fundraising.

You can download this paper using the following links, while a summary of the paper is presented below.

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Rethinking Fundraising - the short version

In collating, refining and developing new knowledge (objective 1), we aim to tackle issues in fundraising that are under-researched or under-thought. 


Under-researched – topics where there is a perception that there is simply not enough reliable data or evidence to inform current practice. 


Under-thought – subjects where the arguments, discussions and debates lack cohesion, substance and/or internal logic. 


To change the learning culture in fundraising (objective 2), we aim to create and lead a network of critical thinkers in fundraising who will disseminate this new knowledge throughout professional practice by acting as key influencers in the spread of new ideas. This is the Critical Fundraising Network.


We call our approach to rethinking our profession ‘Critical Fundraising’ – a mix of critical thinking and the methodological approach of critical realism. 


We rethink fundraising by:


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.


‘Transdisciplinary’ means synthesising a single, overarching conceptual and theoretical model from a variety of disciplines.


All our work coheres in an ‘integrated theory of fundraising :


Professional ethics – is the foundation for everything.


Relationship fundraising – how fundraisers can and should build ethically-balanced relationships with all their stakeholders, particularly donors and beneficiaries.


Public understanding/stakeholder perception and engagement – how fundraisers can better understand and engage with the ideas of certain of their stakeholders who are critical of what they do.


Learning and innovation – understanding how ideas currently spread throughout the fundraising profession so we can more effectively change the learning culture.


The fundraising profession – setting the overarching conditions for all of this – for how fundraisers can acquire and value the knowledge they need to understand and engage with their stakeholders and build ethically-balanced relationships with them – is whether fundraising is viewed as a profession by external stakeholders and fundraisers themselves. Our overall aim is to contribute towards the professionalisation of fundraising.


To build and collate the knowledge base, members of the Critical Fundraising Network contribute in three different ways:


Knowledge Collectives – collate the best existing knowledge and signpost fundraisers to it.


Research Projects – use Critical Fundraising to synthesise new solutions to existing challenges.


Research Centres – for topics in which we do the most work, such as professional ethics, bringing everything together in permanent, semi-formal networks to ensure a continued stream of new ideas and questions.


Everything is brought together in our Theory of Change for Fundraising.

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