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Monday, January 22, 2018

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"With malice to none..." A Fundraisers' Manifesto
Tom Ahern

August, 2015

Charities too often view fundraising as a "necessary evil." Which is a staggeringly self-defeating attitude. Donors aren't evil. But the ungrateful might be. Board and program staff: Am I talking to you?



We love to hate our donors.


Just settle any "poverty porn" opponent onto the soothing cushions of a psychiatrist's couch and ask in your best marshmallow voice, "Why do you feel the way you do about this particular issue?"


The heartfelt answer (I do NOT question their sincerity; just their ability to manage a business): Because we shouldn't have to run sad pictures to raise money for a good cause.

"We shouldn't have to...."

Ah, entitlement. A pure bell tinkling in so many hearts.

In other words, "poverty porn" opponents and other self-ordained priests of pure motivation, dismissempathy as a scientifically-mapped, natural, community-building, evolutionarily-useful, cleansing and rewarding (yes, dopamine is involved) human response to sorrow and misfortune; a response hard-wired into most brains (sorry, psychopaths: you're excluded; see, that's what you're missing: garden-variety empathy; most, though, have it).

Cue instead dumb-dumb entitlement: "We do good work. People SHOULD support us."

Let me be clear (as I lift a glass of decent old vine zinfandel) I do not believe in drug testing for nonprofit staff. Altered states have their uses.

I DO believe, though, we should test for traces of "entitlement" thinking. Those thoughts are infantile, unprofessional. Pre-neuro-scientific. And, CFOs take note, glaringly dangerous to a charity's growth. Yes, there's proof; otherwise I wouldn't venture a peep.


And now for something that might put a true lift in your step....

For your door (and the education of passersby): the above MANIFESTO, designed by the magical Bluefrog, written by the ever-delightful Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University, in the UK.

As Ian explains in his announcement, it is "based on Beatrice Warde's famous 'This is a printing office' manifesto ... posted in almost every print room in the English-speaking world during the 1930s and 1940s, and is cast in bronze outside the US Government Printing Office in Washington DC."

You can download a hi-res PDF of the manifesto here.

Love you, Ian. You know your history. You know every herring swims upstream in his ancestors' wake: no advances without predecessors.
Visit Tom at


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