We care a lot about donors, but do we care enough about fundraisers?
As a fundraiser, I couldn’t believe that so many of my peers were so negatively affected by making ethical decisions, decisions that must be made as part of our work.
We’ve never met, but you might recognise me. In 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the IoF Fundraising Convention as a fundraiser, and I was also able to work alongside the team at the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy’s Charity Lab. It was an amazing few days, and over 220 delegates participated in the lab. The research study was designed to test fundraisers’ sense of professional self-worth. Were you at the Convention? Did you take part in the lab during your break or lunchtime? Are you curious to know the findings?
After the data was analysed, a paper was published called “The effect of ethical decision making on fundraisers’ sense of moral identity,” (Shang & Kong, 2015). Results from the study revealed that fundraisers felt worse than non-fundraisers after they were asked to make identical sets of ethical decisions, even though both groups made almost the same decisions. What protected fundraisers? Pride in their identity as a fundraiser.
These results sparked something in me. As a fundraiser, I couldn’t believe that so many of my peers were so negatively affected by making ethical decisions, decisions that must be made as part of our work. In my eyes, fundraisers are some of the most virtuous people I know. They have strong morals. They spend their days making sure others benefit from services and programs provided through incredible charities and non-profits. And as Aristotle said:
The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”
If fundraisers are negatively affected by making the ethical decisions that are required of us in our daily work, something must be done to help us! To help give us confidence in our decisions; to strengthen our virtuous characters…
And so, I began my quest; my quest to pursue a PhD in philanthropic psychology at the Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University. For the past three years, I have been a full-time fundraising manager of an NHS Hospital Charity by day, and a budding researcher examining morality in fundraisers by night. I have read hundreds of articles, written thousands of words, and interviewed incredible professionals. If I’m honest, working alongside the brilliant people of Hartsook has been humbling and inspiring. It is an honour to serve my tribe of fundraisers surrounded by people who insist on producing only the best, most high-quality work.
All my hours of reading and writing have led me to this moment; this moment where I ask you, my fellow fundraisers, to help me help us. The research I am conducting, inspired by the work at the 2015 Convention, has finally reached a place where I have built hypotheses based in sound theories. Where I think I know what influences some of the decisions we make, and where I hope that the results will be used in training and conferences to give us courage in our difficult decision-making moments.
Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible." Aristotle
Will you help me make sure we are taking care of fundraisers?
If the answer is yes, you only need to give 30 minutes of your time to complete a survey at the comfort of your own keyboard. Your participation in the study will be completely anonymous, and to appreciate your time and effort, you’ll have the option to enter a raffle for an i-pad mini or £100 gift voucher. When you have a half hour to dedicate to the survey, please follow this link.
Thank you for all you already give. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for being a fundraiser.
Jessica Burgess, MInstF, PhD student at Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University
Shang, J. and Kong, S. (2015). The effect of ethical decision making on fundraisers’ sense of moral identity. Plymouth: Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University
- ethical issues in fundraising