Fundraisers becoming like modern donors, claims new book

In her study The New Fundraisers, Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy, says fundraisers have evolved to have a lot in common with philanthropists

A new generation of fundraisers has emerged who share characteristics similar to those of modern-day philanthropists, according to a new book by Beth Breeze, director of the University of Kent’s Centre for Philanthropy.

In The New Fundraisers: Who Organises Charitable Giving in Contemporary Society?, published today, Breeze argues that, rather than having an antagonistic relationship, fundraisers have evolved over time to match the traits of donors.

Breeze surveyed more than 1,200 of the 6,000 members of the Institute of Fundraising, asking questions designed to discover who they were, why they chose a career in fundraising and what motivated them.

She told Third Sector she wanted to “shine a spotlight on the askers” through this research, saying little work had been done on fundraisers in comparison with donors.

“We act as though it’s all about the givers and forget about the askers,” she said. “Yet we know that the vast majority of giving happens only when prompted.”

She pointed to Charles Handy’s 2006 book The New Philanthropists, which identified the current generation of donors as young, cause-oriented and keen to make an impact.

“Fundraisers have a lot in common with new philanthropists,” she said. “They’re young and they have a drive to make things happen. In some ways, the only way they differ is that they don’t have the money to do it themselves.”

Breeze’s book identifies a number of traits that new fundraisers share with new philanthropists, including their demographic: they are more likely to be young, female and well-educated.

It says that just as new philanthropists are more likely to have created rather than inherited their wealth, new fundraisers come from a less “well-connected” background than their predecessors.

Fundraisers also tend to share genuine passion and conviction with donors, a focus on achieving transformational results rather than on how much money is given, and a commitment to cause over organisation.

Like donors, fundraisers also have a desire to make a lasting impact with their life, are not generally well thought of by the public and can exhibit contradictory characteristics, such as being very sociable, but often working in isolation.

“One thing that came up again and again in the research was how much joy fundraisers find in asking,” said Breeze.

“We know that giving can give major donors a lot of joy; fundraisers say they can see the joy of givers and share in it.”

The survey found that fundraisers tended to take part in community-oriented activities outside work, engaging in behaviour such as sharing with neighbours. Eleven per cent of fundraisers were found to be members of a choir, compared with just 1 per cent of the wider population.

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