'They think I don't know what I'm talking about'

Intelligent Giving's director Adam Rothwell, scourge of chugging, answers his critics

Adam Rothwell
Adam Rothwell

Adam Rothwell has a lot to say. So much, in fact, that the director of donor information website Intelligent Giving barely pauses for a sip of latte as we sit among the parents and screaming infants at the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London's Bethnal Green.

Intelligent Giving has ruffled a few feathers recently and Rothwell is unrepentant about that. The 24-year-old admits to having no background in the sector, but makes no excuses for it.

"It annoys a lot of people, especially in the past few days," he says, referring to his organisation's recent report, which advised people to boycott face-to-face fundraisers.

"They think I am screwing over people who have decades of experience and that I don't know what I am talking about. I understand people find it irritating but I think, quite frankly, it's a non-argument."

Born and bred in West Dulwich, south London, Rothwell graduated from Cambridge University in 2006 with a masters degree in American history and immediately joined the newly-launched Intelligent Giving as a volunteer.

Rothwell says it is tiresome being criticised for who he is rather than what he says. A common charge is that he is a self-appointed watchdog. "Of course we are self-appointed," he says. "Who else is going to appoint us? Most charities are self-appointed."

Rothwell does not discount bodies such as the Professional Fundraising Regulatory Association or the Institute of Fundraising, but he believes his organisation's independence gives it "the kind of authority no membership scheme in the sector can ever hope to have".

Charities that say they don't need an independent organisation such as Intelligent Giving are shortsighted, according to Rothwell. The public wants an independent point of view, he says. "You wouldn't let any other sector of the economy be entirely self-regulating and expect the public to have confidence in it," says Rothwell.

Intelligent Giving looks likely to create further waves in the sector. In the next three years it aims to develop a new "hallmarking" process that measures the impact of charities, similar to its existing transparency scoring.

Rothwell says some of Intelligent Giving's research methods have been criticised in the past, but no one has ever argued with the scoring system. "Our priority is going to be enhancing the quality of the charity profiles we have," he says. "It's ambitious, because measuring performance is hard - but we'll get there."

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