Rogare’s research aims to uncover power imbalances in the relationships between donors and fundraisers – this so-called ‘donor dominance’ – defined as any serious form of undue or inappropriate influence that a donor or group of donors can exert over a non-profit organisation. This can include inappropriate behaviour, influence over a non-profit’s mission, or claiming entitlement to unwarranted benefits.
The survey explores donor-fundraiser relationships in five areas:
- Influence over mission
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Influence over a fundraiser’s role or career
- Entitlement to benefits
- Withholding donations
The research is part of Rogare’s wider project into so-called ‘donor dominance’, led by Rogare International Advisory Panel member Heather R. Hill, Vice-President for Advancement at Concordia College New York.
“Received wisdom in fundraising says you should always put the donor at the heart of everything you do. This doctrine shapes our ethics too, which tends to place all a fundraiser’s ethical responsibilities on how they engage with their donors.
“But when donors behave in ways that are clearly inappropriate, how are fundraisers supposed to deal with this if their training and ethics tell them it’s the donors’ wants and desires they ought to prioritise?
“I think we have seen a tendency to ignore the problem or brush it under the carpet so as not to rock the boat with donors, rather than confront it and tell them this type of behaviour is not acceptable.”
Rogare Director Ian MacQuillin added:
“This survey aims to find out not just how widespread these issues are, but also how charities have responded when they encounter these challenges – whether they support their fundraisers or whether they try to minimise the fallout to protect their revenue source.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first time anyone has researched these issues, so this will be a big contribution to our understanding of this challenge. So we’d encourage all fundraisers to take part in our survey – even if they don’t think they have experienced any donor dominance issues – to ensure we get as wide a range of data as possible.”
The initial results of the survey will be presented by Heather Hill and Ian MacQuillin at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference in San Antonio in Texas from 31 March-2 April.
The ‘donor dominance’ project complements Rogare’s project on gender issues in fundraising, which is being led by Caoileann Appleby of Ask Direct. This will launch in March with a series of blogs on the Critical Fundraising site.
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