How can fundraising play its part in a positive future for civil society?

How can fundraising play its part in a positive future for civil society?

Peter Lewis | 17 October 2019

Following the independent inquiry into Civil Society Futures and its subsequent report, we brought together a roundtable of our members to discuss its implications. We have now produced a discussion paper Civil Society Futures: Reflections on fundraising’s role and contribution. Peter Lewis and Daniel Fluskey outline in this blog what the paper says and what the issues and challenges are for fundraisers.

A few months ago we were really pleased to bring together a roundtable of our members to discuss the Civil Society Futures with its Chair, Julia Unwin. There are some big questions and challenges in the report including how will civil society be relevant, fit for purpose, and responsive in the rapidly changing world we are operating in. The inquiry asks charities and civil society to commit to a shared “PACT”, focusing on how organisations and groups need to respond on the questions of Power, Accountability, Connectivity, and Trust with our supporters, beneficiaries, and the general public.

These are big issues and challenging questions.

Over the last few months we’ve been thinking about what they mean for fundraising and today have published a discussion paper Civil Society Futures: Reflections on fundraising’s role and contribution bringing together some thoughts and reflections and ideas.

Like Civil Society Futures, this is not the end point, but a continuation of an ongoing conversation. And a conversation we are recommending all of our members have.

We certainly don’t have all the answers, but I hope we have identified some of the right questions that we, and you, our members need to be thinking about.

Some of the themes we think that need exploring include:

  • How do we acknowledge that giving money is also an expression of power? What does that mean in how we ask for money, and how we respond as a result?
  • How do we make sure that we create relationships that enable people to give ‘power to’ organisations, and not exercise ‘power over’ them?
  • How can we best account for our decisions to our stakeholders in ways that focus on our values, explaining our actions and justifying what we do, and how we do it, outside of the legal and regulatory framework?
  • Do we properly understand how fundraising plays a role in engaging communities in a broader way than simply asking for their financial support, and contributes to building trust and confidence? How do communities of interest and cause fit into all the current thinking about communities of place and geography?


We aren’t expecting easy answers, but hope that this discussion paper helps to view the Civil Society Futures Inquiry through the lens of charity fundraising, and identifies some of the key issues that we need to be discussing together. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Peter Lewis is Chief Executive and Dan Fluskey is Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Institute of Fundraising.


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