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Ian MacQuillin: Disintermediation & Fundraising Ethics

In this episode we talk to Ian MacQuillin, Founder and Director of the fundraising think tank Rogare about the promise and perils of disintermediation in the charity sector, what a theory of fundraising ethics looks like, and why knowing more about the history of fundraising is important.


  • How did Rogare came about?
  • What are the aims of the organisation, and what are its key themes/areas of interest currently?
  •  What is the current state of academic research on fundraising and charities? How much of this influences practice? What barriers are in the way of this happening more?


  • What is disintermediation and why is it an important trend ?
  • What are the different ways in which disintermediation can apply to the work of charities?
  • What benefits and risks can disintermediation bring for donors and charities?
  •  If people are able to give in disintermediated ways instead of via traditional charities, does this matter? Should we just accept it as a natural evolution, or is something in danger of being lost?
  • What, if anything, can the various examples of controversy that have arisen around crowdfunding and other forms of disintermediated giving tell us about the value of the role that traditional charities play?
  • What is “normative fundraising ethics”?
  • Does normative fundraising ethics need to go above and beyond what is allowable in legal or regulatory terms? If so, what is the basis for the normative principles?
  • Is there a danger that the purpose-driven nature of charities brings about a form of (perhaps subconscious) consequentialism in fundraising (i.e. the end justifies the means, because the cause I am fundraising for is “worthy” or “good”)?
  • Is it part of the nature of fundraising to be challenging? (e.g. making people uncomfortable in order to elicit an empathetic response, pushing them to give more than they might do if left to their own devices). Or does this raise ethical issues about the undermining of individual choice and agency?

Tainted Donations

  • Why are tainted donations such a perennial challenge for charities and fundraisers?
  • How could a normative ethics framework help to inform our thinking about tainted donations?

Community-Centric & Donor-Centric Fundraising

  • What is the distinction between Donor-centric fundraising (DCF) and Community-centric fundraising (CCF), and why has it become such a point of controversy and debate?
  • Are the arguments in favour of DCF solely pragmatic ones (i.e. that it works), and conversely are the arguments in favour of CCF solely principled ones (i.e. that it is the “right” thing to do) or are there principled and pragmatic arguments for both?
  • Is it possible to balance the demands of DCF and CCF?
  • Why is a historical perspective on fundraising valuable?

Related Links

Learn from our past to better understand our future.

Philanthropy has a long and varied history. We’ve created bite-size chapters that you can jump in and out of to better understand philanthropy.