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A transdisciplinary approach

We take a transdisciplinary approach to rethinking fundraising. The solutions to the challenges we face are not necessarily only to be found in the academic domains of fundraising, nonprofit studies, nonprofit marketing and philanthropy. Relevant ideas, theory and evidence are also to be found in closely-related academic disciplines such as commercial marketing, consumer behaviour, behavioural science and public relations. But they can also be unearthed in subjects such as social psychology, moral philosophy, anthropology, evolutionary biology, political theory, postmodern philosophy and many others.

But what does transdisciplinary mean, compared to multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary?

•    Multidisciplinary means incorporating ideas from outside your silo/discipline.

•    Interdisciplinary means working with people across silos/disciplines.

•    But transdisciplinary means synthesising a single, overarching conceptual and theoretical model from a variety of disciplines.


Here’s how this works in a couple of hypothetical cases for behavioural science and ethics:

Case 1 – behavioural science

Multi-disciplinary – fundraiser reads a paper written by a behavioural scientist about how behavioural science can be used to influence consumers, and applies that to their own fundraising in an attempt to do better fundraising.

Inter-disciplinary – fundraiser works with a behavioural scientist to make their fundraising better.

Transdisciplinary – fundraiser and behavioural scientist work together to devise new approaches to fundraising, founded on behavioural science, that are universally applicable.

Case 2 – ethics

Multi-disciplinary – fundraiser reads a paper written by an ethicist and applies this to their own fundraising to do fundraising more ethically.

Inter-disciplinary – fundraiser works with an ethicist to identify ways to do their fundraising more ethically (such as in drafting a gift acceptance policy).

Transdisciplinary – fundraiser and ethicist work together to develop a new theory of fundraising ethics.

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