How organisations can support decolonising fundraising narratives


The Partnering for Change, a project implemented by the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry, organised an online training titled “Decolonising Fundraising Narratives Part III – How your organisation can properly support the process”. The session, led by the seasoned fundraiser and copywriter June Steward, delved into the organisational challenges and solutions associated with decolonising fundraising narratives, offering valuable insights for charities seeking to navigate this transformative process.

A pink heart and post it notes with the word fund raiser on top of a black keyboard.

There has been much discussion in the development community recently about the power relations in development cooperation and the narrative and imagery it has offered to the Finnish people about the global South. This topic is particularly relevant to fundraising. The Partnering for Change project invited the leaders, managers and fundraising experts of development cooperation organisations to another online training session, which was a follow-up to the ones held last October and in February.

The final in a series of three webinars on decolonising fundraising narratives was held on 7 March 2024 and focused on how organisations can support fundraising teams in transitioning to decolonised narratives. Once again the webinar was given by June Steward, an Australian fundraising expert and copywriter with 16 years of experience.

This event, titled “Decolonising Fundraising Narratives Part III – How Your Organisation Can Properly Support the Process,” focused on outlining what fundraisers need if an organisation is serious about decolonising its fundraising. It was intended as a space to generate ideas and to find the beginning of solutions to this issue.

Fundraiser’s dilemma

Among the key points discussed were the barriers to decolonising fundraising or why directives to simply change fundraising narratives won’t work. When this question was put to the participants they suggested “Some of our donors don’t even understand what it [decolonising fundraising] is” and that “Need to raise funds is great, no room for errors and growth is expected.”

June condensed these concerns listed into what she termed a fundraiser’s dilemma regarding decolonisation – the need to raise more funds while having to abandon proven traditional donor-centred practices, which leads to lower income yields and greater frustration among practitioners.

She also highlighted that fundraising is an already turbulent profession marked by high staff turnover, in Australia an average of 18 months per position. Fundraisers have reported that they feel unsupported and that their targets are unrealistic. Therefore, this lack of support sets fundraisers up to fail to reach their targets or to innovate to decolonise fundraising.

Creating conditions for success

The workshop then discussed how to create the necessary conditions for success. When asked their views, the participants suggested that fundraisers needed clearer concepts and products to try, they required room for trialling new methods and a greater understanding of fundraising by boards among other recommendations. 

June added that organisations would have to allocate funding for testing and that they had to devise other ways to fill the funding gap that might arise during the testing period. These would maximise a fundraiser’s chance of success.

June offered a framework to transition to decolonised fundraising narratives and during breakout discussions, participants were guided through four critical areas in the framework: incomes and budgets, donor relationships, fundraising and advocacy, and programmes and offers. 

The final point June made as the presentation came to a close, was that it was essential to involve beneficiaries or a “with us not to us,” approach should be used. 

The participants thanked June and PARC for the webinar with one emphasising “I fully agree with your last point. It is a compromise, sometimes not a comfortable one.”

The training is organised by the Partnering for Change project of the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry. 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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