Give or get out…of the profession that is!

Published by Daryl Upsall on

I used to love the titles given to the IFC opening and closing CEO speeches at the IFC by my hero and fundraising guru and friend, George Smith. They were simply “Rant 1” and “Rant 2”. Though I will never achieve the wordy heights achieved by George here is my rant for today.

I am fed up with the hypocrisy of fundraisers…especially here in Europe. Phew…thank God I have now got that off my chest.

Having had a busy October spending a week at the wonderful and inspiring IFC in Holland followed by a week in Puerto Rico at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) “Leadership Academy” and Board meeting I was struck more by the differences than the similarities between fundraisers each side of the pond. In North America fundraisers actually “walk the walk” whilst in most cases European “just do the talk”.

In the USA and Canada the word most frequently used is “philanthropy” whilst in Europe it is “fundraising”…and I have been wondering why. No this is not just a class in semantics it’s about us and our profession.

Wikipedia defines philanthropy as meaning” the “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human” on both the benefactors’ (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries’ (by benefiting) parts.”

Whilst fundraising is described as “a significant way that non-profit organizations may obtain the money for their operations. These operations can involve a very broad array of concerns such as religious or philanthropic groups such as research organizations, public broadcasters, political campaigns and environmental issues.”

One is fundamentally human whilst the other is a mechanical act. So why is Daryl on a rant?

Tree2_-_artworkIt is because for the 30 plus years I have been working in both fundraising and philanthropy across some 60 countries I have never met a fundraiser from North America that does not donate to, volunteer for and in many cases has included a charitable gift for the cause they work for, among several others causes that they are “philanthropic” about. And yes it is indeed “give, get or get off on Boards in the USA, including the AFP where I serve. Giving is celebrated, applauded and acknowledged.

Meanwhile, when I ask small groups of “professional fundraisers” within a non-profit, as did with a client in Austria last week or as I have with the 26 charities in the Spanish joint legacy campaign, if they give money, are regular donors or have left a charitable legacy gift I am met firstly with a blank stare and then usually a response such as “of course not, I work for the charity!” I get the same and fundraising conferences when I ask for a show of hands. It seems we have lots of learning to get but little in terms of leaning to give!

In Europe in seems we are “professional” fundraisers but not yet evolved into being “human” philanthropists! Happy, belated National Philanthropy Day.  It was 15 November in case you missed it because you were too busy donating, changing your will or setting a monthly gift to the non-profit you work for.

Daryl Upsall

Daryl Upsall

Madrid based, Daryl has 36 years working with over 232 non-profits in 62 countries. Known for his leadership and innovation, pioneering digital fundraising a co-creator of face to face fundraising during the 1990s when leading Greenpeace International fundraising worldwide. Daryl Upsall & Associates SL provides strategic consulting support to the world’s leading UN agencies and INPOs whilst Daryl Upsall Consulting International SL has recruited 581 positions for 205 different organisations in 125 different locations worldwide. He is the founder/co-owner of Spain's leading telephone fundraising agency, The Fundraising Company SL and the F2F agency International Fundraising SL in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. In Spain these agencies raised over 1.25 billion Euro for non-profits. He co-owns the digital fundraising agency dgtl fundraising SL. Daryl has spoken at conferences in 32 countries and writes for the leading non-profit journals. He is a Fellow of the UK Institute of Fundraising, former Chair of EUConsult, and former Vice-Chair, the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Tom Ahern · November 20, 2014 at 15:40

Some of the best communications insights I’ve wandered into came from watching my own behavior as a donor. It’s not just a “nice” thing to do, giving. It’s part of the lifelong learning we all need to do the job better. If you’re not a donor, how in bloody hell can you understand donor attitudes, moods, frustrations, desires, needs, hopes, wants, the rest. Daryl: damned nice rant. George would be proud.

    Adrian Salmon · November 20, 2014 at 16:03

    Seconded. I love being a donor. I give to the University I work for, my alma mater, and several other causes I believe in.

    I even became a mail-responsive donor for the first time this year, and realised that means I’m getting old(er)! And I also find it so important, not just to give, but also to make myself available for the upgrade calls, newsletters, further appeals, etc, and watch how I feel about them, on good days and on bad. Really instructive.

Duncan Batty · November 20, 2014 at 16:51

Absolutely right. I’m proud to tell people who I give to and why.

But I’d also extend the criticism to Charity staff as a whole. I think thee’s an extra dimension for fundraisers because it helps us to learn more about philanthropy and how donors feel, but broadly I can’t understand how anyone in the charity sector can feel comfortable spending (and being paid through) gifts and goodwill from others when they are not prepared to give themselves.

Doesn’t have to be to your own Charity, but give something!

Joe Matassino · November 20, 2014 at 23:34

I’ve recently surveyed the members of my AFP chapter in the U.S. on their philanthropic practices. The results of which will be published shortly on this blog. The post will also provide the opportunity for all fundraisers across the globe to participate in the survey and to share where and how much they give of their time and financial resources. Stay tuned…

Carmen Netzel · November 21, 2014 at 08:22

Thank you Daryl for voicing a shameful circumstance that needs to change on this side of the ocean.
Thank you for becoming ‘ranter’.

Morag Fleming · November 21, 2014 at 10:30

Excellent rant Daryl, we can’t expect others to give of their time and money unless we are prepared to do the same.

Don Kossuth · November 21, 2014 at 14:24

Right on, Daryl! I’ve learned more about fundraising from giving to the causes I care about than fost most, if not all, professional fundraising group-hugs out there.

Paul de Gregorio · November 22, 2014 at 14:01


I cannot comprehend how anyone could work in this sector and not be a donor.

Simone Joyaux · November 22, 2014 at 14:06

Great rant, Daryl. I think there needs to be more agitating and ranting in the NGO sector and in fundraising. Agitating like http://www.theagitator.net (Craver and Belford). Ranting like you just did. Ranting like I rant in my blog, Simone Uncensored. Some honesty amongst us professionals. I wish I’d known George Smith.

Philanthropy— love of human kind. Philanthropy — voluntary action for the common good. How dare we – as fundraisers – ask anyone to give money if we haven’t given money? How dare we – as fundraisers and board members of NGOs – NOT give? Hypocrisy? Arrogance? Lack of self-awareness?

As someone from the U.S., I am frequently disgusted by my country. Its politics, arrogance, bad international behavior, etc. etc. But I am impressed by the fact that, in North American (Canada and the U.S.), fundraisers are expected to give to their own organization — and damn well should be giving to other charities, too. Board members are expected to give to the organization where they serve.

Not all do. We are not 100% together over here. And we have to explain and re-explain why this matters. But the concept of give yourself or go away… Give before you ask others… Serve on a board, serve as a CEO, serve as a board member —- and YES you are expected to give…. That exists.

And it is curious, sad, and inappropriate that every country in the world, every NGO everywhere, doesn’t accept this as truth and expectation.

So continue ranting, Daryl!

Donna Reitano · November 22, 2014 at 14:46

I like your Rant and empathize as I have encountered similar situations. OK I admit, I am proud to be both fundraiser and philanthropist. But I am from North America and work in Europe (a little laughter might help). Thanks for articulating this problem. Definitely needs to be fixed.

Matthew Sherrington · November 25, 2014 at 14:54

A nice rant Daryl. Having been a fundraiser both sides of the pond, I completely recognise what you describe. Though there’s a deeper cultural thing about philanthropy in the US that paradoxically goes with the dog-eat-dog nature of the American Dream. If you get on, you give back. I don’t think Europe has quite that sense of obligation. I wrote a column along similar lines to yours in Third Sector a year ago, to coincide with Trustees Week. “Do Boards put their money where their mouth his? http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/matthew-sherrington-boards-put-money-mouth-is/fundraising/article/1219460

It applies equally to all staff, not just trustees or fundraisers. If you’re an advocate for an organisation or cause, which you are by virtue of working there, you have to put your money where your mouth is.

Meagan Niese · November 26, 2014 at 15:44

I wonder how much of this has to do with Europeans tending to pay more in taxes than we do in the US. Perhaps they feel they are already being philanthropic because such a large percentage of their income goes to support government programs that are accomplishing many things that NGOs are doing in the US.

    Daryl Upsall · November 26, 2014 at 16:16

    Hi Meagan…nice thought but taxes are not too high for us fundraisers to buy expensive coffees and subscribe to TV channels, sports clubs etc. The general public in Europe are very philanthropic and fundraisers live from their philanthropy.

Simone Joyaux · December 1, 2014 at 12:19

In response to Meagan’s comment: Whatever the salary is…the person accepted it. No matter where you work – in which country or what size nonprofit or or or …. Whatever your salary or family income or or or …. You can give. The amount doesn’t matter. The giving matters.

Maeve O'Byrne · December 2, 2014 at 20:28

I agree Daryl, I have worked both sides of the pond, currently in Canada and am also appalled when I ask Staff and their Boards about their giving habits. It’s getting better, however it interests me that there is still (after 32 years in the profession) that refrain about ‘I’m working there, or giving my time’. How can you ask for money, when by your very behaviour you are demonstrating that you do not believe enough in the organization you work for, to give to it…

    Daryl Upsall · December 3, 2014 at 12:12

    Exactly …if you do not believe in the cause and mission enough to give…how can you be able to convince others. I am surprised you this in Canada as when I have worked there I though it was closer to the USA in terms of fundraisers also giving. Canadian friend…what is your view?

lasertest · May 10, 2017 at 14:07

It’s an awesome piece of writing in favor of all the internet viewers;
they will take benefit from it I am sure.

    Daryl Upsall · May 10, 2017 at 14:42

    Hi I am impressed you found such an old article of mine…not much has changed in the world since in terms of the core message here.

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