Training on Decolonising Fundraising Narratives – Exploring alternatives to “donor as hero”


The Partnering for Change project of the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry organised an online training on exploring alternatives to donor-centred models in fundraising communication. The training was the second session in a series of three webinars focused on decolonising fundraising. 

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The training was given by June Steward, an Australian fundraising expert specialising in decolonisation of fundraising.

Decolonising fundraising narratives: exploring alternatives to the “donor as hero” training was held online on 1st February 2024. The first training of the series had discussed the donor-as-hero, donor-centred, or negative-plus-need paradigms while this second training discussed alternatives to beneficiary-centred narratives as a first step of the journey to decolonising fundraising.

Wellbeing and love instead of saviourism

In this event, June Steward introduced the principles of donor identity and well-being and walked participants through using those concepts as a first step to tackling the so-called white-saviourism complex in fundraising communications.

She also outlined ways to maintain and strengthen donor relationships while being beneficiary centred using copywriting examples based on real world cases. The alternatives emphasised preserving the beneficiaries’ agency, and were built upon research, theories and examples, and their application in practice.

The training offered alternative approaches to fundraising that highlight connectedness, love, wellbeing, and agency as well as the idea of everyone, donors and beneficiaries, as being part of a single group.

Using donor identities for efficient copywriting

June Steward showed examples of priming personal identities in donor communications to enhance fundraising. This perspective creates beneficiary-empowering narratives by reflecting donor’s self-identity and supporter-identity, i.e. how donors identify themselves as individuals and as supporters of a charity or cause. This method is backed by research that showed that using words that donors would use to describe themselves either as an individual (self-identity) or as supporter of a cause (supporter identity) outperform texts that do not reflect these identities.

June Steward emphasised that decolonising fundraising would not happen through simply eliminating the saviour perspective from texts alone. “This is more of a compromise at this point in time, until we can reach the point at which we can make more drastic changes,” she said.

The third and last training in the series took place on 7th March 2024.

The training is organised by the Partnering for Change project of the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry, implemented with consultant Mwila Agatha Zaza. The project is a part of the development cooperation programme of the Deaconess Foundation funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Partnering for Change is implemented by the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry.

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