How donors choose charities report
A new report on ‘How Donors Choose Charities’, has just been published, written by Dr. Beth Breeze from The Centre for the Study of Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice (CPHSJ) at Kent University. The report analyses findings of a study of donor perceptions of the nature and distribution of charitable benefit.
The study interviewed 60 CAF account holders, meaning they have all set up a charity bank account and regularly ear-mark money to be distributed to good causes. The make-up of the sample was focused on committed donors (i.e. those that sustain charities’ voluntary income rather than the sort that occasionally ‘chuck a few coins in a tin’). These were believed to have a more considered opinion about giving. Also, the process of setting aside money for donations means that these donors can concentrate on deciding ‘what’ to give to, rather than going through the multi-step process confronting the rest of us, who must decide: ‘Shall I give? How much shall I give? To what shall I give?’ according to the report’s author.
The author concluded that “What I found was that most people tend to support organisations that promote their own preferences, help people they feel some affinity with and support causes that relate to their own life experiences. Despite widespread beliefs that charities exist primarily to help the needy, these non-needs-based factors had the most influence on the distribution of donations”.
One very strong theme that emerged in the interviews was the importance of donors’ backgrounds. People draw on their personal and professional experiences and let their ‘philanthropic autobiographies’ shape their giving decisions. A straightforward example of this comes from a donor who said: “I grew up by the sea so I support the RNLI”.
One of the author’s favourite examples is a man who chooses to support butterfly conservation, because: “When I was a boy I collected butterflies and I’m trying to give back, if you like, the damage that I did so to speak. In those days you were encouraged to kill butterflies and collect them, so that’s an important one”. This quote is a good illustration of the fact that donors support things that are important to them, selected for their own personal reasons. They do not claim that they are picking the causes that are the most important in any global or objective sense, rather giving is shown to be a highly subjective and personal matter.
You can download the full report for free here.