Director of think tank Rogare Ian MacQuillin attacks 'anti-fundraising undercurrent' in the sector

At an Institute of Fundraising conference and, more extensively, in a blog, he says fundraising is under ideological attack from the state, the media and even from within the voluntary sector

Ian MacQuillin
Ian MacQuillin

There is an "anti-fundraising undercurrent" within the charity sector, according to Ian MacQuillin, director of the fundraising think tank Rogare.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s Yorkshire and North East conference in Leeds this morning, MacQuillin said many charity staff and trustees saw fundraising as a "necessary evil" and told delegates that it was up to fundraisers to build relationships with their colleagues that would dispel this view.

Expanding on this thesis in a blog published today on Critical Fundraising, Rogare’s blog platform, MacQuillin says fundraising is under "ideological attack" from the state, certain sections of the media and "even some from within the voluntary sector".

He says this does not mean the sector is necessarily under attack from a particular political ideology but rather that some people hold a "charity ideology" that prescribes how the voluntary sector ought to go about its operations.

He describes such people as "voluntarists", who believe charities ought to be run according to an ethos of "self-sacrificial voluntary service". He says they undermine the fundraising sector’s efforts to defend itself.

"Many non-profit professionals are actually voluntarists, particularly when it comes to fundraising," says the blog. "In fact, many of the anti-professional fundraising components of voluntarism – such as a distaste for mass-market methods and corporate partnerships/sponsorships – are shared by people who would probably otherwise consider themselves to be professionalists."

Professionalists are people who view charities as has having to follow the most effective, efficient and professional courses of action to bring about change in the world, he says in the blog.

MacQuillin’s blog says that Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of fundraising last summer was riven with "anti-fundraising voluntarist doctrine", in particular in its focus on the need for fundraisers to respect the public’s "right to be left alone".

He says it beggars belief that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, of which Etherington is chief executive, had acted as the Cabinet Office "enforcer" in bringing fundraising to heel.

He also criticises the Institute of Fundraising for having responded positively to each of the announcements made about fundraising by the NCVO and the Office for Civil Society over the past few months, including Etherington’s review.

"Many of us were bemused at the spate of press releases emanating from the Institute of Fundraising last year welcoming each new move by NCVO, the Office for Civil Society and others," he writes.

"The context for our bemusement was that the IoF kept ‘welcoming’ ideological encroachment into territory we assumed it was committed to ideologically defending.

"Fundraising is an inherent and integral part of the professionalist charity ideology and it cannot – must not – be sacrificed to the voluntarist agenda, either to protect other tenets of professionalism or because some professionalists hold a naive conception of fundraising as a ‘necessary’ evil," the blog concludes.

"If professional fundraising falls, the rest of professional charity won’t be far behind."

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