Fundraising think tank Rogare has completed a project to develop counter-arguments to the most frequently encountered objections to fundraising.
As COVID-19 swept the globe, fundraisers overseas were facing opposition to continuing fundraising efforts. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Rogare had been working on a project to help fundraisers counter objections to fundraising that were rooted in ideology and had no basis in fact or evidence.
Objections, says Rogare Director Ian MacQuillin, “the fundraising profession has historically found it difficult to respond to.”
The new report, Advocating for fundraising during emergencies, builds upon the Canadian Fundraising Narrative, developed by Rogare for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Canada. This narrative aims to help fundraisers better engage with people who object to professional fundraising – those who hold a voluntarist ideology and believe, for example, that all money should go to the cause and people will give without needing to be asked.
A project team collected objections to fundraising in the pandemic from Canada, the UK and USA. These are just a few.
“Businesses are closing and people are being laid off. We are not on the frontlines of Covid-19 so now is not the time to ask.”
We don’t want to come across as tone-deaf and uncaring by asking people to give what they don’t have. We’ll just make people feel worse.”
“We are in a stronger financial position than most of our peers so it wouldn’t be right for us to make any appeals.”
The objections were then grouped into four overarching themes with corresponding counter-arguments.
Theme 1 – The state of the economy
Objection: We ought not fundraise because the economy is in bad shape.
Counter-argument: Charities play a crucial role in society and when we ask for support we are asking on behalf of those we serve. A lack of action sends a message to our beneficiaries that they are not important. Also, while many people’s incomes have been affected by the pandemic, others have not. Charities have always appealed to people at all levels of the socio-economic scale and giving a gift, of whatever size, is a hugely positive and empowering action for a person to take. While charities have a responsibility to fundraise responsibly and effectively, it is not our place to decide whether people have the financial capacity to give.
Theme 2 – Anxiety and stress felt by the public
Objection: We can’t fundraise because people are afraid, anxious, overwhelmed and dealing with too much right now.
Counter-argument: It is our duty to our beneficiaries to ask people to give and, in turn, donors’ decisions to give can allow them to feel purpose, compassion and control. In a time of social distancing, people are looking for ways to feel connected to each other; giving can offer that sense of connection.
Theme 3 – Emergency response to the pandemic
Objection: If we are not directly involved in the frontline response to the pandemic, we should not be fundraising.
Counterargument: Our mission has not gone away, in fact it may be even more critical. It is our job to anticipate and understand the needs of our beneficiaries and communicate this effectively to our supporters, or potential supporters. It will be up to them to decide if they want to give at this time.
Theme 4 – Perception of the need for fundraising
Objection: We shouldn’t fundraise right now because our needs are not as great as charities that are struggling, and doing so is in poor taste/seems greedy.
Counter-argument: It is not greedy to fundraise to serve beneficiaries, both now and in the future. If we clearly illustrate need and the impact we will not appear greedy and the need for funds will be well understood. If we choose not to fundraise for fear of appearing greedy, we are compromising our responsibility to our beneficiaries, we are taking away the choice of our donors, and we may incur more costs in the future to make up for it.
“What we aim to give fundraisers are the types of things they could say to people to persuade them that sensitive and appropriate fundraising should continue. We’re not suggesting fundraisers copy and paste what we’ve crafted, but we do hope we’ll have saved them a lot of the brainpower and time,” said project team leader Vivian Smith.
The report also highlights that research conducted during the pandemic has shown people want to carry on supporting the charities they give to and are waiting to be asked.