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Rogare project examines ethics of legacy fundraising during emergencies

Rogare project examines ethics of legacy fundraising during emergencies

The question of whether it is ethical to conduct legacy fundraising during a pandemic and other emergencies has been explored in a new project by Rogare.

Rogare’s project explored the ethical challenges and issues involved in all emergencies that are likely to result in severe loss of life, including the current pandemic and aims to help fundraisers navigate them.

To do so, it worked to differentiate these from the usual ethical challenges and dilemmas faced by legacy fundraisers, and analysed them through the lenses of existing theories of fundraising ethics before recommending possible resolutions.

On its website, Rogare explains that the project team classified the various arguments into two question sets.

The first looked at areas including the consideration of people in vulnerable circumstances, communicating about a death-related subject at a time when thoughts of mortality were high, and public perceptions around the appropriateness. The second set included issues such as the possibility of people making legacy decisions in a hurry, the risk of short-term offence leading to long-term detriment to legacy giving, and the importance of offering a convenient way to give when other options might not be available.

The project team then examined each set of questions through the lenses of trustism (fundraising is ethical when it maintains and protects public trust), Donorcentrism (fundraising is ethical when it gives priority to what the donor wants or needs), and Rights Balancing (fundraising is ethical when it balances the duty of fundraisers to ask for support with the donor’s right not to be subject to undue pressure to give).

The team concluded that many of the ethical dilemmas considered were about poor legacy fundraising practice or situations that also affect day-to-day legacy fundraising, both of which could be amplified during a time of emergency.

As such, it stresses the importance of drawing on effective legacy fundraising practice and being sensitive to the situation the organisation is fundraising in.

It also recommends careful consideration of the organisation’s overarching approach to the ethics of legacy fundraising, and suggests creating an ethical values statement that could be reviewed during challenging times to ensure that the thinking behind it hadn’t changed.

Of the three lenses it used in its exploration of the ethical issues, it believes that Rights Balancing provides the most sound approach because it takes into account donor wellbeing and the needs of the organisation’s beneficiaries. Using Rights Balancing can also, it says, bring the organisation’s plans into sharper focus to provide a clearer course of action, and this frame also suggests that inaction could be more problematic than sensitive action, because of the potential detrimental impact on the organisation’s beneficiaries.

The full whitepaper is available from Rogare’s site.




Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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