INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Member Viewpoint - I worry fundraising is a charade and doesn't make a real difference

JONATHAN FARNHILL, MInstF(Cert) is director of resources at St Luke's Hospice Plymouth and chair of the South-West regional group

I'm sure we've all been there before. The interview is going OK and then someone on the panel asks why you want to be a fundraiser. If you're like me, you'll gush a bit about making the world a better place, helping those in need and enabling people to show their compassion and so on. The interviewer ticks the box and you get the job.

The problem is I'm not so sure it's true that we always do make the world a better place. Maybe after 12 years I'm getting cynical, but I do wonder whether sometimes we can perpetuate the very injustices we try to solve.

One of our supporters said with admirable frankness that he donated money to the hospice so he didn't feel so bad about smoking 20 cigarettes a day. We might worry about the logic displayed, but it made sense to him. How many donations are guilt donations? ("I realise that I've benefited from the rise in house prices but it has meant it is more difficult for the homeless so I'll give a tenner to Shelter?") To what extent is financial giving not an attempt to change the world but to make people feel less guilty?

I guess it's the old campaigning vs fundraising argument. I do try and reassure myself that I am helping make the world better, honestly I am, and I guess fundraising does for many. But I worry about whether our understandable desire to show our charity's effectiveness can sometimes make the public think it is easier to create social change than it really is. Maybe fundraising is a total charade, creating new problems rather than solving old ones.

I hope my boss doesn't read this. If she does, has anyone got a good fundraising job going? I'd really like to make the world a better place.

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