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The fundraising profession needs to have a broader discussion about the work of disintermediated players from outside of the ‘traditional’ charity model, according to philanthropy think tank Rogare.
Rogare director Ian MacQuillin is one of four co-authors of a new academic paper which says that while there has been focus on disintermediation via digital crowdfunding, there are many other forms of disintermediation which require further examination.
‘A typology of disintermediated giving and asking in the non-profit sector’, published in the Journal of Philanthropy and Marketing, identifies three main types and four subtypes of disintermediation.
The summary of the paper promises:
“This paper will help fundraising practitioners reframe questions about the role they play and whether and how other types of actors are encroaching on their role (for better or worse).”
Under what Rogare calls the traditional model, charities turn resources (principally donations) into good or services to be used by beneficiaries. Disintermediation refers to non-traditional entities, such as individuals, commercial fundraising organisations, companies or even Governments, replacing the role of charities in this process.
A recent example was the transfer of money to individual Ukrainians via AirBnB bookings, following the Russian invasion. Rogare says that while some celebrated this ‘democratisation’ of philanthropy, it also risked exacerbating inflation and therefore wider challenges in the country. Another type of disintermediation is the creation of charitable platforms by private companies, enabling them to carry out work which traditionally would have been done through a partnership with an established charity.
The paper says that identifying the types and subtypes of disintermediation is a first step towards further examination of issues surrounding these and other actions.
Ian MacQuillin says:
“Some microlending sites intentionally position themselves as more ethical alternatives to charity because, the argument goes, it allows recipients of loans to work their way out of poverty rather than being passive beneficiaries of charity handouts. But does this ensure that all people who need help get it, not just those whose business proposition is attractive to lenders, and it might even reintroduce the notion of the ‘undeserving poor’ through the back door?
“Because we don’t have clear consensus of what we mean by disintermediation, these ethical questions often fly under the radar, and we struggle to come up with solutions because something that seems right for one type of disintermediation might be reject because it’s not appropriate for another type. This typology provides that clarity so we can better see what the ethical and regulatory issues are and so better target our solutions.”
Rogare’s next step will include extending and refining the typology, turning it into a more accessible paper aimed at fundraising practitioners, and organising a symposium on the issue in 2024.