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It's Time for the Nonprofit Sector to Embrace Scientific Research


After being part of this wonderful world of nonprofit fundraising for more than three decades, I am beginning to wonder if loosely-stated jargon from a few well-positioned industry pundits is causing more harm than good.

Don’t get me wrong; I am eternally thankful for the ravings from my good friends Roger Craver, Simone Joyaux, Marc Pitman, Chris Davenport, Lynne Wester, Rachel Muir, Tom Ahern and others who point out the immense benefits of proper research addressing the biggest issues facing fundraising professionals.

But when will the nonprofit sector finally reject the continuation of age-old traditions and mindsets that we casually refer to as the current body of knowledge? Is it that hard to require industry publications and major conference presentations to be grounded in sound research principles and practices? Is utilizing a proper footnote or citation from such a proven body of knowledge out of the question?

Professional Fundraising deserves more – in fact, much more – than conjecture!

If you are reading this blog, you can join in the effort to implore our profession to have a properly researched and usable body of knowledge to work from.

Let’s see the definition of proper body of knowledge as defined by Wikipedia:

A Body of Knowledge (BOK or BoK) is the complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a professional domain, as defined by the relevant learned society or professional association.

Could you imagine medicine or dentistry or space travel without a proper body of knowledge?

One must only compare what has been happening in the world of professional marketing and its ever burgeoning body of knowledge to the limited body of work in the professional fundraising world to witness an ever-widening gulf.

More and more proper research is being pursued by the professional marketing world. Perhaps more importantly, this new research is being placed rapidly into practice by the marketing sector. The resulting improved outcomes in professional marketing are outpacing the improvements in similar outcomes being sought after in the nonprofit fundraising market.

Together, we can change the tide and start to close the gap.

We at Bloomerang are quite proud of two institutions of proper philanthropic research we have been fortunate enough to be associated with.

They are the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IU and the University of Plymouth Hartsock Centre of Sustainable Philanthropic. Both are among the leaders in providing such research.

The two most recent philanthropy research projects Bloomerang assisted in funding were “Relationship Fundraising” and “Major Gift Fundraising.

Hopefully, both will become key additions to the body of knowledge of the professional fundraising profession. Perhaps they will also serve as inspiration to future projects.

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