Op Ed | Diary of a Conservative Fundraiser

publication date: Oct 10, 2018
author/source: Jordan Cleland

I’m an avid reader of Hilborn Charity eNews, making it a priority to gain the perspectives of my peers in the fundraising profession. One thing that often strikes me when I do so, however, is how predominant the voice of “the left” is in the world of not for profit fundraising in Canada. Sure, that’s a generalization but it's informed by over a decade attending conferences, mixers, “lunch and learns” ably put on by the likes of CASE and AFP.

As a socially progressive fiscal conservative I got this feeling of being ideologically different from my peers again very recently while reading Gail Picco’s Op Ed piece for Hilborn in September on the recent Superior Court ruling on charities and advocacy. To excerpt her, she writes with great exasperation:

"The decision is considered an unmitigated disaster by anyone working to reduce income inequality…”

"This is not a win for free speech. This is a win for money. And the other side has a damn sight more of it."

"Canadian taxpayers will now pay for every half-baked, alt-right, corporate-focused piece of political activity that can take place in the name—and under the guise—of charity”

A win for money? The “other side”? Is that what wealthy people are to some in our profession – the other side?

There is a fascinating juxtaposition between fundraisers and the donors that are absolutely essential to those fundraisers' and their charities' success. Fund development professionals, in general and in my experience, are left of centre in their politics; and the wealthy donors, again in general, are overwhelmingly more conservative.

This is likely harmless ... until the fundraisers start speaking (and writing…) sanctimoniously and dismissively about their progressive views, and then wonder why they're having such a hard time meeting their targets and endearing themselves and their cause to donors.

My uncle Cam is one of those who “works to reduce income equality”. He employs, and thus provides a livelihood for five people who operate his fleet of water hauling trucks to service that nasty oil and gas sector in Alberta. He doesn’t see this decision to protect political donations as free speech as an unmitigated disaster at all. His wife is from an active political family and he likes having the freedom to choose to donate money to candidates and political parties who he feels best represent his views on business and tax environments, and other government services.

Uncle Cam also considers himself right in his politics. But he’s not “alt-right”, which is the favourite new drive-by smear that progressives use for even the most moderate conservatives with alarming frequency. Ms. Picco might have been a bit more discerning with her labelling when she described political parties that believe in private delivery of health services within a universal access model; choice in education, that the economy ought nought unduly be strangled to meet climate change targets the most serious emitters don’t even subscribe to.

I tend to think that fundraisers would have better success and more harmonious relationships with donors if they kept their opposing political viewpoints to themselves.

President of Jordan Cleland Consulting, Cleland also previously served as Vice President, Advancement at Olds College and Chief of Staff to two Alberta Cabinet Ministers in the 1990s.

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