Fundraising 'is not a profession', argues think tank report

A paper from Rogare says fundraising does not match the criteria of profession-hood and must establish a formal entry route if it is to gain respect

The report
The report

Fundraising fails to fulfil the criteria that would make it a profession and needs to establish a formal entry route if it is to gain respect, according to the fundraising think tank Rogare.

In a discussion paper called Less Than My Job’s Worth: Is Fundraising A Profession? And Does It Matter If It Isn’t?, published today, Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare, argues that fundraising is not a profession when judged against the accepted criteria of profession-hood.

The paper looks at standard definitions of a profession, which include having a standard body of knowledge people must have in order to practice, professional autonomy to act in the way they see best, a coherent theory of professional ethics and a system of self-regulation.

MacQuillin argues that there is no entry requirement for fundraising and no need to demonstrate knowledge of fundraising in order to become a paid fundraiser; that fundraisers do not have professional autonomy because they are required to be strictly answerable to stakeholders; and that they do not have a coherent theory of professional ethics to follow, which means it fails to meet the criteria of a profession.

He also argues that fundraisers cannot truly be seen as self-regulating because the same body, the Fundraising Regulator, both sets professional standards through the code of practice and enforces them. He argues that the Fundraising Regulator is an independent regulator outside the fundraising profession, so fundraisers cannot be seen to be setting their own standards.

In a statement accompanying the paper, MacQuillin said: "The problems associated with not being seen as a profession are that fundraisers are treated with a lack of professional respect and are viewed as employees who are told what to do, rather than specialists whose advice on matters of income generation is sought. There’s even a name they are known by: the ‘necessary evil’."

Many of these problems are caused by a lack of formal and professional education in fundraising, the paper argues, because about 60 per cent of Institute of Fundraising members do not hold a professional qualification and there is no clear career path by which people can enter fundraising and learn the theories and practical skills they need.

In the foreword to the paper, Simone Joyaux, an American fundraising consultant, says: "Too often, I’ve seen board members and chief executives insist their own opinions (and power) trump the fundraiser’s knowledge. These same leaders wouldn’t talk that way to an accountant or a brain surgeon… or even a building contractor. This common disrespect harms non-profits and beneficiaries, and our communities. The contempt for fundraising and fundraisers demeans our value and commitment.

"I want to claim the rights of a profession by ensuring that we in the field can define and defend the concept."

The paper is part of Rogare’s continuing review of fundraising’s professional ethics and says it is intended to raise ideas and stimulate discussion.

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