The fundraising conundrum: James Tufnell explores charitable donations.

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 Photo courtesy of Howard Lake; licence: CC-BA-SA 2.0 

CC BY-SA 2.0)

Irrespective of what generation we are from, the way we conduct ourselves online in the plethora of mediums of communication (such as email and social media) we are exposed to being judged both morally and in terms of manners.

Indeed, while there is the potential to debate the varied facets of digital etiquette, which I believe should be more firmly enshrined, in this short piece, I’d like to outline a little bugbear of mine, namely online charitable fundraising.

Online charity event-focused fundraising on sites such as Just Giving is a huge industry. Every weekend of the year (including Christmas and New Year), across Europe and especially Britain, countless fundraising events are organised, run and undertaken. Ranging from bake sales to triathlons and head shaves to fun runs, people participate in challenges in aid of charity all the time.

The amount of money raised in these fundraising efforts by generous benefactors sponsoring friends and family, can range from the £10s to £10,000s, as such rendering this source of income fiscally highly variable and potentially lucrative for charities.

As such, given the potential that event-focused fundraising has for charities it has been heavily adopted and utilised by some charities more than others. However, while there is the temptation now to critique the charity industry and outline which charities are the most effective from an altruism perspective,there are various etiquette faux pas that people all too often do when fundraising with the best of intentions.

In the first instance, if you raise money via getting people to kindly give money to a charitable cause in honour of you doing a selfless challenge, don’t then make it about you, your generosity or your achievements. Boasting can completely demean the selfless element of the charitable act and imply that after all that you were doing it for yourself and your own ego.

The biggest pitfall of charitable fundraising is how it is sometimes practiced. Personally, I think that giving money to charitable causes in honour of someone putting himself or herself out there in an event, should be viewed as a good-natured gift to the charity, donated in honour of someone doing a challenge rather than for someone to do a challenge.

As such, in my mind where possible I think people should pay their own way in gaining entrance to charitable fundraising events. If they do not, I find that charity fundraising events lose the charitable aspect and become more like crowdfunded adventures, in which the participant achieves their personal goals at the expense of their friends and family who think that all of the money they give is going to charity, when actually a large part is funding the participants involvement in the event rather than going to charity.


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 Photo courtesy of Artotem; Licence CC-BY 2.0

The London Marathon, for example, places can be given to runners by charities in exchange for the runner raising a certain amount of money (usually around the £2,000 mark). In this instance, a charity will have paid the entry fee for the competition in exchange for the runner essentially paying back the entry price two fold, ultimately gaining double the cost of the entry fee through charitable donations.

Herein  I think lies a problem, because for a lot of people running a marathon (justly) represents a huge lifetime achievement, in achieving this milestone the people that have paid for it are: the generosity of the runner’s friends, family, colleagues and indeed the charity. It is not uncommon for the runner to actually contribute very little to the actual cost of their own event place, in what is arguably, their personal ambition, with a charity tagline.

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Photo courtesy of Jan Kraus; licence: CC-BY- 2.0

Charity marathons can be wonderful life affirming events, yet I cannot help but think that more of the money raised should go to charity, with the event participants paying more for their place. If this is not done, I fear that the argument of ‘why should I sponsor you to do something, you’re going to do anyway for fun’ gains too much traction. To solve this I think that, where possible, people should pay their way when fundraising for charities via completing events, and not expect people to pick up the cost of events on their behalf under the pretence that they are giving to charity.

Charitable fundraising exemplifies humanity’s ultimately generous and adventurous nature, however, like all good deeds it maybe hijacked by the human vices of pride, greed and generosity related prejudice.


Yet, I think that people putting themselves out there for charity should always be supported and encouraged, provided, however that the focus stays on the charity and attention is not subverted onto the individual or their deeds.


Teaser Photo Courtesy of James Tufnell


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    James Tufnell lives near Oxford but has since fled his hometown to study Archaeology at Durham and Cambridge Universities. Despite the focus of his studies on the past, James is fascinated by how the past is replicated in the present and, as such, tries to be continuously on top of current affairs. Outside of the intellectual, James is never happier than when out on various grand or small adventures, and is always keen to see what’s on the other side of the proverbial hill.

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