The Ethical Rainmaker

Spilling the Tea on UK Fundraising w Fixing Fundraising's Andy and Tom

Episode Summary

The UK has had a foundational influence in building the problematic philanthropic and nonprofit sectors (Third Sector) in the US and other countries, which is why we are so happy to go straight to the source! Host Michelle Muri talks with Andy King and Tom DeFraine of UK podcast Fixing Fundraising! From topics like Captain Tom and the injustice of fundraising for government programs that should be funded by taxation, Brexit, the political nature of any nonprofit, dog whistles, the role of patronage in the UK, Prince Andrew’s fall from patronage, Prince Williams, a brief word about drones and fireworks, to the terrible practices the UK is adopting from the US...we promise you’ll chuckle or even laugh out loud! Yes, even in a pandemic.

Episode Notes

While many awful nonprofit practices exist, Andy and Tom are doing their work as responsible white men in our sector, to unpack what is really happening in nonprofits and philanthropy and use their platforms for good - so that we can all do better. So many great assets mentioned in this episode, here are links for content and definitions mentioned in the show:

References then Definitions: 


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Episode Transcription

Michelle Shireen Muri:

This is Michelle Shireen Muri, your host and fellow traveler, on The Ethical Rainmaker. We’re here to explore how to step into our power or step out of the way, when trying to do good work in nonprofits, fundraising and philanthropy. 

We are so excited to launch Season 2. And let me just say it has been amazing to see this community grow. 

In the 6 months since we launched, we’ve seen the show being used in curriculum in multiple universities. We are welcoming listeners from around the world. And it is truly inspiring to hear your messages of support and reflection as you listen to our conversations about the third sector and its challenges. You all give me energy and life. So thank you for being here! 

And this season? We have a lot of juicy conversations on the way - we'll dive into conceptual frameworks, work on better tactics and strategies for community centrism in the nonprofit world, and explore concepts like reparations and restorative justice...

So… our fucked up fundraising practices, our relationship to patrons, those power dynamics... well, they came from somewhere. And you know, on this show, we talk about patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism. In the US, we can trace so many of those practices and that history to the land of ultimate colonizers, England. And I think we can learn a lot from how the UK struggles with charities and patronages, and see reflections of our own similar issues, wherever we are doing this sort of work.

Michelle Shireen Muri (00:37):

Today, we're talking to Andy King and Tom DeFraine, who are the thoughtful and witty hosts of the UK podcast, Fixing Fundraising. Two white dudes who are very aware of the big problems of our sector and channel their analyses through hosting their show. 

Andy and Tom have a lot in common in that they’ve each focused their careers in relationships and partnership building. Andy works at Remarkable Partnerships, a small consultancy in the UK helping nonprofits build ambitious public/private partnerships. He’s been involved in East African Playgrounds and then Rays of Sunshine. In 2018, he was awarded ‘Best Fundraising Newcomer’ at the UK National Fundraising Awards and was named in the top “25 under 35 fundraisers” by Fundraising Magazine. He is also Chair of Trustees at Raising Futures Kenya.

Tom is a digital fundraising expert now working in augmented reality (AR)) and is helping charities, schools and non-profits leverage emerging technologies. He's on the board of London-based charity Street Storage, helping people experiencing homelessness find vital access to safe storage of their belongings. Tom has worked across digital fundraising at companies like Blackbaud, JustGiving and social-media for good start-up Lightful.  

On Fixing Fundraising, Andy and Tom have created more than 30 episodes, which offer analysis, diversity of opinions, and inspiration. I love listening to these interviews and I know you will, too, as they allow full conversations to take place with complete honesty. Gentlemen, thank you so much for the work that you do on Fixing Fundraising, and welcome to The Ethical Rainmaker.

Andy King (01:26):

Hi. Thanks for having us.

Michelle Shireen Muri (01:27):

Welcome to The Ethical Rainmaker.

Andy King (01:31):

I believe this is the bit where we speak. From the land of tea and/or colonialism, hi.

Tom DeFraine (01:41):

Yeah, we invented them both, right? Well, I think, actually, tea was invented by Indian people and... You know what? That's ours! I think colonialism is ours. We can take that one.

Michelle Shireen Muri (01:54):

Yeah, I think you can.

Andy King (01:56):

It's the closest thing we have to culture.

Michelle Shireen Muri (01:56):

Is stealing other peoples?

Tom DeFraine (01:58):

It's really good. It's a really proud legacy of our great country. But really excited to be here, Michelle.

Michelle Shireen Muri (02:05):

Yeah, so excited to have you. Thank you. Y'all, we have so much to talk about. I love your podcast. I've really been getting deep into the interviews that you do and, again, they're just so touching and inspirational. It's so great to hear full conversations like that. We so often are just hearing soundbites. So, thank you again for the work you do. And we have so much talk about today. Our audience for The Ethical Rainmaker spans from Sri Lanka to Brazil, from Switzerland to New Zealand, and, really, the majority of our listeners are in the US and Canada and slowly expanding. So, I'd really like to talk to you today about the UK and how some of the most damaging practices that we see in nonprofits over here in the US and Canada were actually born where you all live.

Michelle Shireen Muri (02:57):

One of the... You've had a bunch of stuff about charity, about fundraising, about philanthropy. A lot of problematic stuff has been coming up in your media. We can start anywhere, but I know that, recently, the chair of the Charity Commission in the UK... is an appointed position and this person has asked charities to watch their tone and stay out of political conversations. The chair of the Charity Commission is someone called Baroness Stowell and, recently, she was interviewed and said, quote, "I've been quite challenging of the charity sector and I make no apology for that because I care very much about all that it achieves." I would love to hear more about your opinions here.

Andy King (03:48):

So, I think it's worth, before we get into it, kind of explaining what the Charity Commission is-

Michelle Shireen Muri (03:54):


Andy King (03:54):

... and why the chair of the Charity Commission's statement to the charities to not be political is so important. Because it's our understanding that there isn't necessarily a direct equivalent of the Charity Commission in the US. So, the Charity Commission-

Michelle Shireen Muri (04:09):

That's right.

Andy King (04:09):

... is effectively the regulator. It's the government body that checks that charities are doing with their money what they're meant to be doing. They check that there's no fraud, they check that there's no corruption, and they check that everything is operating as it should. In principle, that's a brilliant body to have. It should really help public trust in charity and it should be something that really keeps everyone moving towards the right goals. And you will notice that I have said should rather than does. Often because of the behavior of the chair of the Charity Commission.

Andy King (04:51):

And, it's super interesting to hear someone who is the chair of the Charity Commission, which is a politically appointed role... the party in power pick their person to regulate the Charity Commission, so it's a political thing... telling charities not to be political. And especially with the government that we have in play at the moment, the Conservative Party, who are similar in many ways to the Republican Party, it's effectively the chair of the Charity Commission being like, stop picking on my friends, stop saying that the government aren't doing enough because it's the government that have put me here so I'm going to tell you that you're bad and you're wrong. That's where the problems start, but there's a whole bunch of problems that come out of that from there. Tom, I don't know if you wanted to pick up from that point.

Tom DeFraine (05:45):

Yeah, I think... I mean, you're absolutely right and your explainer really gives that the context of the world that we live in. The UK is full of regulators for different industries based on political appointments. The thing that really interested me about the baroness' article in particular was that, A, it was written in the Daily Mail, which is, generally speaking, a very right-wing publication. It wasn't put anywhere from an official communications point of view. It was put out in a very politically leaning, politically active newspaper deliberately as a communication to that audience, basically. And the thing that really got my attention was the fact that she said... She said party politics, but also culture wars, which is such an interesting statement.

Tom DeFraine (06:38):

It was such an interesting choice of words when there's so much going on in the world right now about... The use of the term culture wars is almost virtue signaling from the right. A lot of right-wing organizations use culture war as a kind of dog whistle for some kind of conflict, which I think is really interesting language. And then when you piece it together with it being in the Daily Mail and who it was writing it, it completely blows your mind that the message is don't be political. It wasn't an official government broadcast, so it didn't come from the Charity Commission. It was innately a political statement that was made. Especially as it came out not far after this article that she wasn't seeking a second term as the chair.

Tom DeFraine (07:26):

So, it was almost like here's my fireworks display before I go out. Like, this weird scorched earth policy, which sometimes you see from, like, the Bank of England, which is our big fiat money regulator. The Bank of England can sometimes border on political if an outgoing director or an outgoing chair of the Bank of England wants to make a political statement, but it's normally quite delicate. This was really on the nose and I think, during a global pandemic where the charity sector in the UK especially has been really, really hard hit, it just came across completely tone deaf. Like, she only mentioned the pandemic in the opening paragraph and then it was like an unending silo of attack on the sector, which, from your regulator, it just seems completely barmy. But it does lend a lot of context to the kind of landscape that's operating in the UK right now and it definitely does lead back to what you were saying, Michelle, about the power structures that exist in the political organization of the UK. The way our charities are set up is this kind of legacy structure from, basically, the Victorian times. And that's kind of where we find ourselves right now, which is pretty crazy.

Andy King (08:45):

I think it's... not only is it tone deaf, but it's really naïve to tell charities not to be political given that, as Tom said, our charities are kind of set up as a legacy from what was set up in the welfare state and what wasn't set up in the welfare state. Most charities are set up to meet a need that people feel the state isn't meeting. Cancer Research UK might not be considered a political charity until you consider that Cancer Research UK only exists because the government isn't putting enough money into cancer research for people to be happy with that. And people are more than happy to donate millions and millions of pounds, which is worth even more if you convert it to dollars, into funding cancer research because they've decided that it's not enough of a political priority.

Andy King (09:37):

It's exactly the same process that someone goes through to set up Black Lives Matter. Because they think, well, the government isn't prioritizing social justice enough so I'm going to set up my own social justice organization. Fundamentally, what we're doing when we're setting up a charity is plugging a gap that the state is leaving behind. And so to ask charities to not be political is to ask them to completely ignore their reason for being set up and ignoring the fact that the state probably in most cases has the power to solve those problems and is actively choosing not to. So, it's just a completely barmy statement.

Tom DeFraine (10:16):

Every act of setting up a charity is a political statement. Some are more political than others in that some more actively campaign for policy changes, but whether it's homelessness or Alzheimer's, it's a political statement, as you say. It says something about the landscape and the economy in which you live. If you take that statement and say, I'm not happy with the status quo, as soon as you're not happy with the status quo, it's a political statement. It's an expression of political will to want to change something. So, it does seem crazy that that's the kind of... that is the landscape that we operate in. And it's just become the norm. Don't be political and you get finger wagged if you are... If you do do it, you get told off by the headmistress, which is not a nice feeling, I'm sure.

Michelle Shireen Muri (11:05):

Thank you for that. Yeah. There's so much to unpack in what you're uncovering. But, Tom, I can't help myself. You talked about the fireworks show that she gave and, honestly, on New Year's Eve, I watched London's fireworks show, which was full of drones and a really impressive display. But what I thought was most interesting about London's New Year's Eve fireworks display and drone display was that there really was so much shout out to philanthropy and charity. There was mention of... a lot of mention of the NHS. A lot of thank you's to people working on the front lines. There was a nod to one of your new celebrity fundraisers and there was... What I thought was interesting was that, again, this idea of forcing politics. Your mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, took shit for, quote, forcing politics on New Year's Eve. Especially because the NHS logo was shown and Black Lives Matter fist was shown to support the Black Lives Matter movement in coordination with all of the efforts that have happened around the world since the murder of George Floyd here in the US. I thought that was interesting. I'm wondering if you would speak to any of that.

Tom DeFraine (12:54):

I mean, as an aside point, I would say that I'm very pro-drone and very anti-firework. Now, I've seen what drones can do. I think it was an impressive statement, but again, it's also... Again, often people who want to oppose something will label it as political to make people think that it shouldn't happen. They'll say the Black Lives Matter movement is political. They'll throw shit, as you say, at the mayor of London for putting that together, even though it would've been multiple people weighing in on that and thinking about what kind of year we've had and what kind of things should we mention and what kinds of things shouldn't we mention given how many drones we have. What story do we want to tell? I think that's what they tried to do. People who want to shut that kind of debate down will say, "It is political. You can't make this political statement," but it was I think, arguably, more political to put Captain Tom up there. The fundraiser who you mentioned who is the nation's sweetheart, shall we say. The UK loves him and rightly so. He's an adorable old man who tried to make a difference and made a political statement by doing that.   

A note for the listener. this conversation was recorded just prior to the passing of Captain Tom Moore, who died of complications from COVID-19 on February 2nd 2021. Just letting you know why we didn’t mention his passing in this conversation. 

Tom DeFraine: But I think his inclusion-

Michelle Shireen Muri (14:20):

Tell us about that. Just tell us quickly about that. Because I hadn't heard of him until I watched your New Year's Eve show and then I did some googling to learn more. I would love to hear from you what his story is.

Tom DeFraine (14:32):

100%. We'll do it in tandem. I'll tell some of the story and I will probably omit some and Andy will correct me. He's a record-breaking fundraiser. A war veteran. I think he's over 100 years old. Was a captain in the RAF (Royal Air Force), I believe. Was a colonel originally and then was promoted to captain in his 100th year. He decided to walk around his garden to raise... I think it was 1000 pounds originally for the... not directly for the National Health Service... and this is where it gets a bit murky... but for an organization called NHS Charities Together that supports the tapestry of different organizations that support our national health service here in the UK. He ended up raising something like 32 million pounds, which is an incredible amount of money when you look at the financial reporting from NHS Charities Together and they raised about half a million pounds the previous year. So, suddenly, their income growth has been exponential. This ridiculous growth. Loads of people are giving because they're moved by the pandemic and they're moved by someone like Captain Tom.

We’re talking about fundraising and the challenges of charities in the UK, right now, on The Ethical Rainmaker. Britain has a system where tax dollars ostensibly pay for a lot more public services than they do here in the US, yet... they face a lot of issues that might sound familiar to you. Our guests are Andy King and Tom Defrain, hosts of the podcast Fixing Fundraising. You can find links to their work at Fixing Fundraising dot UK. And again, an important note here: we are talking about beloved UK charity figure Captain Tom, who passed away February 2nd, 2021 at the age of 100. We recorded this conversation shortly before Captain Tom’s passing.

Tom DeFraine (15:52):

The challenge here is it's extremely unpopular to say anything against what he's done, but actually, there is an inherently political problem with people who have a national health service raising money for that national health service when that service should be adequately funded through taxation. That's the kind of end result there. Taxation is boring and not emotional and everything Captain Tom did was incredible and emotional and wonderful. He was given a knighthood from the queen for it. He was celebrated and venerated and rightly so for the actions that he took. He wanted to make a difference, but he stuck his flag in the ground and said I want to raise this money because, clearly, the NHS isn't well-funded enough. He clearly thought that. He clearly thought we're not doing enough to support the National Health Service. The challenge, I think, from his legacy is are we normalizing this structure of poorly-funded public services and instead we'll just give through philanthropy to our services as and when we need them? So, they're not going to have this consistent funding from taxpayer's money but just have these weird splurges of money every so often and be impossible to actually deliver lasting change.

Tom DeFraine (17:10):

I think it's incredibly difficult to talk about Captain Tom and his legacy without getting into the murky emotional world of what he did, but it does pose a threat, I think, to the way our public services are delivered in the UK. Certainly when a lot of what the British government has been doing over the past five years has emulated what the American government is doing and has always done. I think, possibly, we may have given you the English language and cups of tea... and you've done some crazy things with the English language, might I add. Aluminum. What the hell is that? But you've given us back this weird, strange, decentralized system of government that means a lot of deregulation is coming our way. I think that's... the Captain Tom thing is kind of indicative of that, really.

Michelle Shireen Muri (18:07):

Yeah, capitalism is our religion over here. We have taken it to the next level since-

Tom DeFraine (18:12):

Praise be to capitalism.

Michelle Shireen Muri (18:14):


Andy King (18:14):

Do you mind if I jump in on that? Because there's a couple of bits I want to add.

Michelle Shireen Muri (18:19):

No, are you kidding? I would love that, Andy. Please do.

Andy King (18:22):

First of all, I absolutely love that Tom, the tech man... his head... when he thinks about the New Year's Eve political conversation, his first thought is, but what's the drone capacity? That's his first thought.

Tom DeFraine (18:35):

[crosstalk 00:18:35]

Andy King (18:35):

They only have so many drones. So, that's hilarious. Second is-

Michelle Shireen Muri (18:42):

Right. And Tom-

Andy King (18:43):


Michelle Shireen Muri (18:43):

Well, and Tom, you work in the field of augmented reality now, right?

Tom DeFraine (18:48):

I do. I do. And I work in an emerging market, so as soon as I saw drones, I was like... They're the future! I get very excited by the kind of...the shiny penny. I make no apologies of that.

Michelle Shireen Muri (19:01):

So, you've got Tom tech-ed out. That's what he first thought of. And what did you think of, Andy? Go ahead.

Andy King (19:08):

I think I thought of that more political murkiness in truth. I want to make a quick shout out aside. There's another great UK fundraising podcast called Do More Good. And there's an episode of Do More Good where they interview the CEO of NHS Charities Together, who is the person at the helm of that organization that went from having 500K turnover last year to suddenly 32 million and being like, "Now, what do I do?" It was a fascinating episode. So worth checking out if you're interested in the story, specifically of Captain Tom and his impact.

Michelle Shireen Muri (19:44):

We'll link to it in the show notes.

Andy King (19:47):

Awesome. And I think the particular point that Tom made is that the dangerous part of Captain Tom, which is difficult to point out because it looks like you're attacking this really nice old man who did this really nice thing and all these nice people that donated nice money well intended, is it normalizes this behavior that the NHS can be propped up by the people. But the NHS shouldn't be being propped up by the people because we are literally already paying for it in paying our taxes. That piece that we were talking about earlier about how charities are set up to address the problems of the state.

Andy King (20:26):

When we were talking about this episode, we were talking about how, actually, the NHS is one key difference between the UK charity and the US charity market in that, in the UK, people like Cancer Research UK are developing specialists and cutting-edge cures, but it's 99% of the time the NHS that are administrating those cures. Once the cures are there, they're being rolled out. The NHS are the ones who are responsible for getting people vaccinated from COVID right now. Whereas, in the US where you don't have that nationalized health service, you might rely on charities to help you fund your chemotherapy. You might rely on charities to help you administer your chemotherapy. That's a complete difference.

Andy King (21:09):

By donating to Captain Tom's efforts and, in particular, the difficulty of donating to Captain Tom's efforts, thinking that you're donating to the NHS rather than the NHS Charities Together, which is actually a different thing, you're making a statement that it's okay for your additional money outside of your taxes to, for lack of better word, top up what the government won't pay. That's a really dangerous precedent to set and, if anything, it is a political statement that people aren't necessarily thinking through about how political it is. And I don't want to say to people that they shouldn't have donated to Captain Tom. I'm not saying that Captain Tom shouldn't have the incredible recognition that he is. Like, put that man up in drones. No matter how few drones you have, he should go up in drones.

Tom DeFraine (22:00):

Yeah. Drone him!

Andy King (22:03):

Whoa. That sounds a lot worse when you say it like that.

Tom DeFraine (22:07):

I immediately regret saying drone him to an American audience. Immediately.

Andy King (22:12):

Just quick pause. We mean put him in drone lights. 

Michelle Shireen Muri (22:17):

Not bomb him with drones.

Tom DeFraine (22:20):

Not Tomahawk missile him. Definitely don't Tomahawk missile him. He's a legend.

Michelle Shireen Muri (22:21):

Like the US has done so much of.

Andy King (22:24):

But it's nuts that Captain Tom squeaks by given... There's loads of context here about how Brexit, which is this whole other shit show... Brexit and NHS funding has been this massive ongoing conversation, where one of the big campaign promises of the Brexit referendum was an extra 350 million pounds a week going to the NHS. It has been very clear that that was just a lie. That that was just fabricated. That BoJo and his mates got a fag packet. They wrote on the back of it 350 million. They're like, "That sounds right. Let's put it on a bus and drive that bus around the UK." And then when you think about Captain Tom's 32 million... That's an incredible figure, but 32 million of a one-off campaign versus the 350 million that we were promised isn't acceptable and loads of people who've donated to Captain Tom are like, oh, well, at least Captain Tom's happened. And it's like, well, no, actually, that leaves a 318 million pound deficit just in the week that that campaign was. I'm really impressed with myself with my quick maths there.

Tom DeFraine (23:36):

Quick maths.

Michelle Shireen Muri (23:37):

I'm pretty impressed. I'm pretty impressed with that math. Because you're explaining how dangerous that move is. How dangerous that kind of acceptance of this fundraising campaign was without thinking about what that actually means politically and what it is that the people, quote, “the people” are willing to accept from government, which is exactly why the US is a shit show. It's exactly this kind of behavior from the very colonization of our country and the individualism that is more prevalent here that allows us to think about independent systems and not to think about any sort of coordinated care. For example, the shit show that is our vaccine rollout right now. The shit show that is our discrepancies between healthcare around COVID. Or even testing. Just all of that. All of that has been a huge mess in the United States as a result of exactly what you're speaking to. Being the standard and the status quo over here.

Andy King (24:54):

But it's tough though, right? Because when you look at the mess that is the US rollout of the COVID vaccine and a charity are offering to do it better and you can donate to them, it does feel a little bit like what Tom and I are platforming right now is to just do nothing. And it's worth saying that that's very much not what we're saying. It's tough because, obviously, our background is Fixing Fundraising, but one of the key themes that comes up in Fixing Fundraising all the time is that fundraising in and of itself is not enough. Actually, maybe writing to your MP in the UK or writing to your senator or your congressman is a better use of your time. And actually being like, no, this isn't okay. I'm going to donate to the political party that's going to affect that change, is a much better, if more convoluted, use of your time.

Michelle Shireen Muri (25:55):

Yeah. So, thank you for that. I was about to ask you about solutions. What is the next step? For those of us that work in the nonprofit sector, for those of us who work in fundraising, how... Some parts of this podcast are about how we as fundraisers are contributing to the mess. Definitely that's also part of the content hub and the content that we put out through that is definitely about how we contribute to the problem. How do you think we can contribute to the solution? I think, Andy, you're pointing to what we can do as citizens in our respective countries, right? Like, writing to our politicians. Making political campaign contributions. What else y'all got? Tom?

Tom DeFraine (26:51):

Yeah, definitely being an active citizen. It's making that distinction between being an active citizen as much as you can be and as consistently as you can be and not just letting these big movements, like Captain Tom, that kind of... They've very emotionally driven. They're very unique. They kind of sweep you off your feet and you think that you can affect lasting change. But even if we look at that specific example of that 32 million pounds going to a consortium of charities, the change that people think that they've enacted through doing that and the mechanism in which that money is going to get distributed is extremely inefficient versus taxation.

Tom DeFraine (27:38):

Taxation is a well-established, I will say it again, very boring way of funding your public services, but that money was all funded through a private company who set up a fundraising page, who would've taken some profit off the top. It would've then gone to another organization who then had to think about how they were going to distribute that money, which would've cost them a lot of money. It's a really expensive journey. So, what I'd always ask people to do and what I fundraisers, we have this duty to kind of help people make effective giving decisions so they can have the most impact... and often that is community centric, right? Often, it is how can you make a difference in your immediate environment, in your community, or whatever kind of connects you to other people? I think that consistency in your citizenry is really important.

Tom DeFraine (28:31):

So, not just getting involved in one thing but having this politically active mantra, I think, is so important because it means you stay in the loop. You're not just moving from kind of, one movement to another or you don't set yourself up for disappointment if you give to a charity that ends up spending that money how you least expect it. And holding your leaders to account, obviously, is super important, as Andy said. Having even that basic level of political engagement means you hold your leaders to account. And, they're the people that, especially in this country, appoint the chair of the Charity Commission. Eventually, you have some kind of influence over that decision-making. Whether you're a fundraiser working on the front lines or you are just a donor that wants to make a difference. It's having that consistency, I think, is super important and knowing what you're getting involved in when you choose to give money.

Andy King (29:27):

The other angle to consider is... Because that's what we can do as donors, right? But the other angle is what can we do as fundraisers? What can we do as people who work in charities? One of the things that strikes me about particularly community centric fundraising but fundraising more generally is that a lot of this is about realizing the power that you have and realizing the consequences of your actions. If you're a top-level leader, there's loads you can do. You can really assess your programs. You can really assess your how programs are working to meet needs, if your programs are meeting needs the best way they can be done, if you're considering the long-term or the short-term. Like, are you building a nursery? If you're building a nursery, what's the primary school going to be? That kind of question that's really important to ask. But also, even as a lower level or a junior member of staff, there's a lot you can do about questioning why we're doing this. Being connected to your purpose, being connected to the problems that you're solving, and ensuring that the problem that you're solving is being solved in the best way for the people whose problem it is.

Andy King (30:40):

There's loads of stuff particularly in international development. Speaking from the country that knows colonialism best. International development communications can often be super colonial. Like, this poor, little African person that we're going to help because they don't know this or that is deeply, deeply problematic. If you look at your own comms that you're putting out, think, yes, this might be generating money, but is this doing more harm than good? Really kind of assessing that and taking that case to your manager or your manager's manager and boiling back down to this is the reason our charity was set up. This is the problem that we are trying to solve. Are our actions... not even doing more good than harm. That's not enough. Are our actions doing harm? Because, if so, we are making our mission take longer than it needs to. And so it's really worth, as a fundraiser as well as a donor, considering the messages you're putting out, the options you have, and using the power that you do have. Particularly if you are privileged like Tom and I have had the, I guess, fortune... as gross a word as that is... to be. We are both middle-class white males. If we don't use our power, who the fuck will?

Michelle Shireen Muri (32:05):

That's right. Yeah! Thank you. Thank you for that. And I agree with you. If you don't use your power for good, who the fuck will? That's great. 

Reset 2: We’re talking with the gentlemen of the Fixing Fundraising podcast, Andy King and Tom DeFraine, right now on The Ethical Rainmaker. Do you love the topics we’re bringing you? The best way to support this pod is by subscribing, sharing with colleagues and contributing to our new Patreon! Learn more at So, let’s talk about patronages. In the UK, members of the Royal Family have links with hundreds of charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organizations. For North American listeners, think of these patronages as sort of like having a celebrity or powerful and influential person associated with your nonprofit board. 

Michelle Shireen Muri:  So, gentlemen, one of the things that we've talked about in our own conversations is the role of royalty as patrons. And, you know, the reason it interests me and I'm curious about it and how things are done in the UK is because I think we're mimicking a lot of your fundraising structures. Especially that were created through the role of monarchy. We're emulating them and we may not even be clear that we're doing so. We're having some big issues with some of our patrons, for example, in the medical field. We have Zuckerberg Chan, for example, gaining criticism because they've given a huge gift to a Silicon Valley hospital. That hospital is now upset that they have to use the Zuckerberg Chan name as a result of this huge gift that was given because hospital staff believe that Facebook was spreading a lot of misinformation about COVID. And so hospital staff are upset, for example, about the role of that patronage. That's a little bit abstract. I'm wondering if you would talk about how patronage and royalty works and what some of the... some of what we might be mimicking here in the US and what the problems are.

Tom DeFraine (33:49):

Yeah, it's definitely an interesting one. It definitely is one of those antiquated things that just kind of exists. There's lot of research that I know Andy can talk about in more detail in terms of what it means, but in terms of the way the Royal Family works and the way patronages work... The first recorded patronage... I believe this is right... was George II. He died 1760, so we're talking-

Michelle Shireen Muri (34:19):

Deep in history.

Tom DeFraine (34:19):

... old school. Yeah, yeah. We're digging into the time when they used to powder all their faces and have really curly white hair. The proper Georgian times. The concept is that a royal patronage, either from the monarch, who... His or her patronage carries the most weight, the most influence. If you have a royal patronage from the monarch, it in theory unlocks more funding, more reputation, whatever it might be. Members of the Royal Family, right down to the kids, up to a certain point, they unlock these patronages as they grow up and they will become patrons of a charity. Queen Victoria was the patron of the Mothers' Union. I don't know what the Mothers' Union is, but it sounds like something that probably shouldn't have existed. It sounds like a work house to me more than it sounds-

Michelle Shireen Muri (35:18):

Yes, it does.

Tom DeFraine (35:19):

... like anything that should have existed. These patronages, essentially they add status. The Royal Family or the patron will visit the physical location. Will maybe cut a ribbon. It's designed to increase their status, basically. It's super problematic when you look at instances like Prince Andrew, who... His fall from grace in the Royal Family caused a lot of controversy because he refused to give up his patronages for a while. Obviously, he had a chat with his mum and she was like, you probably should give these up for the sake of the charities that you work for. It's not all about you, you selfish idiot. But it definitely is quite a problematic power structure that seems to have spread out across the world. I think it really sets quite a weird example of favoritism in the charity sector and I think that can be quite dangerous. So, it's certainly an interesting antiquated idea that we still use to this day.

Michelle Shireen Muri (36:28):

Prince Andrew, just to be clear, his fall from grace had to do with pedophilia, right?

Tom DeFraine (36:34):

Yeah, correct. He was very good friends with Jeffery Epstein and there was a lot of controversy around his actions around there. He's immune from prosecution in the US because of his status, but if, for example, he was removed from the Royal Family, then he wouldn't retain that immunity. But he's essentially been ostracized by the Royal Family as a result of that. For a while, a long while, he wasn't giving up his... He had a position in government, but he also had a position as a patron of multiple charities and he wasn't giving up those patronages for quite a while. Obviously, you can imagine the stress and anxiety it would've caused those organizations to have someone like that as their figurehead. So, it certainly... It's not a bulletproof system and, to some extent, it might even be seen as undesirable now for a lot of organizations.

Andy King (37:26):

Just to kind of show how low the benefit is versus how great the stress and the PR issue was with Prince Andrew... Tom mentioned that Prince Andrew was the patron of multiple charities. Guess how many charities he was legally registered as a patron as, Michelle? Take a guess.

Michelle Shireen Muri (37:43):

No idea. I am unfamiliar with how this system works. 30?

Andy King (37:48):

How many charities do you think one person could reasonably be a patron of and actually make any difference?

Michelle Shireen Muri (37:55):

Maybe like three. But I would say if they have lots of money, maybe like 30 or 40.

Andy King (38:00):

Cool. He was the patron of 203 charities.

Michelle Shireen Muri (38:04):


Andy King (38:05):

Which just shows how much it's lip service and how much it's ego driven. It's really desirable from a board perspective, to be the board of a charity that has an exciting patron, but there is countless research that shows... and this is a great title from The Times, one of our papers, that just says, "Having a Royal Patron Doesn't Pay for Charities." It shows that of 3000 charities surveyed with a royal patron, it had a small or negative impact on their profits that year. It is completely about status and nothing about solving the problem that the charity was set up to solve. And kind of tying it into the political issue, it's super interesting to see which causes they are patrons of, too. Because they are patrons of cultural charities, sports charities, and basically nice to have charities whereas social mobility charities have almost no royal patronage. They will only side themselves with the charities that are seen as nice to have or a pure charity whereas the ones that are more in the space of, oh, the state's not doing enough so I'm going to set one up, they're not interested in that.

Michelle Shireen Muri (39:22):

Like racial equity, for example.

Andy King (39:23):

Like racial equity. They're not interested in touching that. And the racial equity charities probably aren't interested in touching them either because they see... I mean, using the word touching and Prince Andrew in the same concept is problematic at best, but yeah. It's not a great look for anyone involved.

Tom DeFraine (39:42):


Michelle Shireen Muri (39:43):

Got it. And so I think one question that's important to ask is who is bringing on these patrons?

Andy King (40:20):

It's usually the board using their connections to try and secure something that they probably think is in the long-term going to benefit them but is more about, if you dig into it, probably board ego.

Tom DeFraine (40:33):

Yeah. It's definitely started to shift ever so slightly. Like, in terms of... You look at someone like Prince William, who's positioned himself as a more modern member of the Royal Family. He is a patron for a charity called Centrepoint, which is a homelessness charity. So, there is an almost inherent political statement in that, whereas a lot of traditional patronages... Because they go back to George II, they are inherited. They're hereditary patronages. The queen will inherit her father's patronages and, really, they'll just build up over time and often they'll be areas that they're interested in. Prince Charles, who's the Prince of Wales, is very interested in the environment and he's been in lot of political scandals using his power to influence environmental policy. He chooses a lot of patronages in that area. They seem to have some correlation with their interests, if they express any interests, but a lot of them are hereditary. A lot of them are passed down. Because these organizations, some of which go back hundreds of years, they are a royal institution because they've always had a patron who's the monarch or a patron who is a crown prince or crown princess.

Tom DeFraine (41:48):

So, it's certainly become... Yeah, it's certainly become a problem that, I guess, is just getting worse over time. It kind of exacerbates itself. But it is quite refreshing almost to see someone like Prince William who just goes, Centrepoint. That's what I'm into. Like, I'm really into getting rid of homelessness. Which I think is obviously... It's inherently political whether he gets involved in those conversations or not. And then you get people like Prince Harry, who's just like, I'm out of here. I'm done with this family. I'm taking my patronages with me and I'm going to America. But there we go. There we go. We can't keep them all, can we?

Michelle Shireen Muri (42:24):

To Hollywood.

Tom DeFraine (42:25):

To Hollywood, baby!

Michelle Shireen Muri (42:29):

So, a lot of the patronages are passed down, then. They're hereditary. And then I'm also hearing that some of them are really boards seeking out patrons and that that whole system in general does more harm than good. Any solutions about how we shift the model?

Andy King (42:46):

I mean, first of all, ban hereditary patronages. That's just weird. Like, there were lots of things that used to be passed down. Hereditary titles in the UK were common for a long time, like the House of Lords, which is our equivalent of the Senate, used to be hereditary. So, if you were appointed... because it's appointed, not elected... then your kids would also be appointed. Also, weird. But ignoring that. So, do away with hereditary patronages. And then I think it's just about ensuring that, if your cause is going to go for a patron, you go for someone that, A, has a genuine interest and, B, is in a position to use their power for good. And I've seen some incredible patronages. There's a blood cancer charity that I do some work with and they have a comedian patron. That comedian is known for being a Pub Landlord comic. Tom can probably guess who that is. It's a very British reference.

Tom DeFraine (43:51):

I can.

Andy King (43:51):

But that Pub Landlord comic has been incredible introducing that blood cancer charity to beer brands. Because if that comic reaches out to a beer brand, you better believe they reply. Given how much alcohol is linked to causing cancer, collaborating with those beer brands on alcohol-free beers, which also gives a kick back to the charity, is a really positive angle. That's one example of where it does work, but it's just making sure that you do less better rather than more worse.  

Tom DeFraine (44:28):


Michelle Shireen Muri (44:29):

Wow. Thank you for talking to us a little bit about how all of that works. I think for all of us listening in other places, we can also see how the role of the board is important in upholding some of these terrible practices and also the ways in which we can shift the model if we chose to.

Michelle Shireen Muri (44:52):

Well, gentlemen, that's it for our discussion with Tom DeFraine and Andy King of Fixing Fundraising. Thank you so much for being on The Ethical Rainmaker. It is such a pleasure to speak with you both and thank you again for your work. I look forward to staying connected. 

Andy King (45:16):

Ace. Thanks, Michelle.

Tom DeFraine (45:17):

Thank you, Michelle. It was a blast.

That’s a wrap for our first episode of Season 2 of The Ethical Rainmaker. I'm Michelle Shireen Muri. And you can hear Lottie the dog snoring tin the background. Thank you so much for being with us.

We have extensive show notes for you about the complex systems of patronage and charities in the UK at

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