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Giving, philanthropy and creating a democratic society. Findings from studies of donor choice

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Giving, philanthropy and creating a democratic society. Findings from studies of donor choice

  1. 1. Giving, philanthropyand creating ademocratic societyFindings from studies ofdonor choiceBeth Breeze, University of KentCGAP Conference, 9th May 2013
  2. 2. Overview1. Why do people give?2. Findings from three studies:- How donors choose charities- User views of fundraising- Corporate philanthropy from the shop floor3. Implications and conclusions: can philanthropy create a democratic society?
  3. 3. Why do people give?Economic theoriesPersonal benefitsFuture benefit/Public Good theoryEnlightened self-interestWarm glowPsychological theoriesEmpathy-altruism hypothesisNegative-state relief modelIdentification/In-group membershipSociological theoriesSocial embeddednessNetwork tiesCultural contextsRole modellingIdentity work
  4. 4. Study 1: How donors choose charitiesResearch questionHow do donors choose from the c.80,000+ fundraising charities, when it’s not possibleto research or process the merits of all alternative recipients?Methodology60 semi-structured telephone interviews conducted between January-August 2009with a sample recruited in 3 waves with the assistance of the Charities AidFoundation. All 60 interviewees are CAF account holders c.1/3 high income, 1/3 middle income, 1/3 lower income (self-described) Interviews lasted on average 25 mins (min=12 mins; max= 46 min) 22 women, 38 men c.1/3 from the North, 2/3 from the South Spread of ages from 30s-80s with 60s most highly represented
  5. 5. Giving decisions are difficult“The trouble is there’s so many”“I couldn’t really have any definite reason for saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but you can’t support the lot. I sticka pin in”.“It’s amazing what comes through the door, and you’ve got no means of making an objectivejudgement”.Why did I choose those particular ones? Well, that has been a bit haphazard to be quite honest withyou. I mean, I’ve sort of come across them as I’ve gone along”“I don’t think I go into it that deeply. If I’m satisfied it’s being helpful and there’s a need... you know,we’re keen to help”“I’m not methodical about it... I don’t have any very good way of choosing… I just go by gut instinct Isuppose”
  6. 6. Donors believe giving decisions should be needs-driven“To be a charitable concern, a recipient had to be ‘in need’”(Fenton, Golding et al 1993:23)Why do charities exist?“To help needy people”“To do something worthwhile”“To do good works”“To help people without a voice”Who do charities help?“The needy”“The underprivileged”“People in a disadvantaged position”“People who can’t defend themselves”“People I feel sorry for”“People who are worse off than me”
  7. 7. Yet we find 4 non-needs-based approaches to giving1. Taste-based giving2. Decisions related to donors’ personal background3. Decisions based on perceptions of charities’ competence4. Decisions driven by desire to make an
  8. 8. Taste-based giving“It’s really what in one’s own mind one thinks is a deserving cause, and it does range,you know, hugely widely, and totally irrationally. I mean, I would support deserving dogsbut I wouldn’t support cats [laughs] because I just happen not to like cats”“I donate to the RSPB [Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] because birdwatchingis one of my great obsessions. It’s my, kind of, my treat to myself, if you like”.“I’m a passionate skier, so a personal favourite is a charity that provides snow sportsopportunities for people with disabilities”“Appropriate beneficiaries are people who are hard up… [but] I did put a rather largesum into helping to buy and restore an old Victorian steam engine… I hope maybewhen it gets going I might be allowed to stand on the footplate and blow the whistle!”
  9. 9. Donors’ personal background“I grew up by the sea so I support the RNLI”“I have a child and the very first thing I started off doing was child sponsorship”“My brother died of bowel cancer so I give to cancer research”“[I support] butterfly conservation. When I was a boy I collected butterflies so I’m tryingto give back, if you like, the damage that I did [because] in those days you wereencouraged to kill butterflies and collect them, so that’s an important one”
  10. 10. Perceptions of charities’ competence“I don’t think you want [to support] people who’ve got great big offices and give great bigsalaries and things like that”.“I understand X charity are extremely good at delivering their money on site, so tospeak, and they keep their administration costs as low as they can, but so much of thisis hearsay isn’t it? Unless you pore over the books and understand what you’re reading,I think it’s very difficult”“If they send too many [pieces of direct mail] I feel they’re just wasting the money, notspending it properly and so we cut them out”“If they get my address wrong, they don’t get a gift”
  11. 11. A desire for personal impact“I support them, but as there are a million members I don’t feel I need to respond toevery appeal from them, somebody else can!”“The impression I got is they are well-off compared to other charities”“We didn’t really want to support things where we felt our contribution was negligible”“I probably have gone for major charities because I feel they have more clout”“I hate to think that we’re doing things that the government ought to do”“With things like the XXX, I mean they’re quite well funded but it’s just something Ibelieve in”
  12. 12. Conclusions• Donors are not just limited by money, but also by the amount of information they areable to gather, their ability to compare the merits of alternative recipients, and theamount of time they are willing, and able, to devote to decision-making.• Donors are social beings whose charitable outlook is shaped by their life-long socialexperiences.• Donors retain an expectation that charities exist to serve the needy, yet in reality donot give to the most urgent needs - they give to things that mean something
  13. 13. Study 2: User views of FundraisingResearch questionWhat do the beneficiaries of homelessness charities think about the representation ofhomeless people in fundraising literature?MethodologyFive focus groups held in 2010/11 with users of a range of services athomelessness charities and hostels in cities across England: 38 participants, all with direct personal experience of homelessness. Users of hostels, drop-in centres and family centres. 19 men and 19 women, majority aged 16-25. Mix of ethnic backgrounds. Participants asked their opinion on images from a variety of fundraising campaigns•Do the images in these campaigns reflect what it is like to be homeless?•Why do you think homelessness charities choose certain images?•Do you think the public understand homelessness?
  14. 14. Findings1. Income maximisation is the priority, despite frustration at simplified fundraisingimagery that fails to educate donors.“If the organisation haven’t got their money in the first place to help you then the whole systembreaks down, really and truly. Just get the money, by hook or crook, y’know?”2. A preference for adverts that tell the story of how people become homeless.“I think that focusing on how it happens will make everyone think: ‘Oh god, it could happen tome’, instead of: ‘It’s alright, I haven’t got a beard and I don’t drink that much’!”3. A dislike of fundraising campaigns that use ‘pity pictures’ to merely arousesympathy rather than elicit empathy.“For the majority of people, you show a young kid looking sad, you show an old man freezing todeath, it’s gonna play on people’s heartstrings… but I don’t think it’s gonna do anything aboutthe issues”
  15. 15. User view: the most popular image“That is exactly what homelessness is. There’s nopeople, it’s just whoever is on that bit of cardboard inthe snow, that’s what being homeless is”“It crosses all the stereotypes, there’s no one thereso you can use your own imagination and think:‘Wow, try sleeping in it’”“If there’s someone in it, you could make them playthe victim card. You can make a judgement if there’ssomeone there… cos usually you just see big oldmen in duffel coats. I mean, that’s the initial thoughtof a homeless person. Whereas that one, anybodycould be sleeping on that.”
  16. 16. Study 3: Corporate philanthropy from the shopfloorResearch questions1. Why do shop floor employees get involved in workplace fundraising activities?2. What criteria are involved in the selection of charitable beneficiaries?3. What, if anything, is distinctive about the shop-floor perspective?Methodology Observational methods in ten different workplaces in the South East of England Anonymity promised, includes 2 supermarkets,2 retail banks, a restaurant, agambling company and an administrative office within a larger institution. Fieldwork took place between August 2011 and May
  17. 17. Findings1. Corporate philanthropy remains primarily controlled from the top and driven by a business case2. Despite some devolution of decision-making, the company expects some alignment with companyobjectives3. Staff involvement in selecting charitable beneficiaries can be rather tokenistic4. Staff do not always take up the offer of participation5. Decision-making by shop floor staff reflects personal experiences and preferences6. The spread of more democratic procedures favours more established charities and ‘safer’ causes7. Despite selecting serious causes, shop floor staff expect that the process of supporting charity willbe fun and will enliven their working lives8. As well as opportunities for light-hearted fun, employee fundraising also creates temporaryopportunities to challenge corporate hierarchies
  18. 18. SF fundraising = ‘good enough’ cause + fun“You’ve got to make it fun, cos you don’t get many fun days down there, believe me. Down there onthe shop floor. You know, it’s hard work. People are working constantly. They come in and do a longshift, lugging boxes, putting things on the shelves, bringing things out of the chillers you know, andthey do work hard.So it’s nice to have a bit of fun. You go down the chilled meat, and there’s some guy standing therein a blue wig and some Elton John blue sunglasses. It’s just a bit of fun and the customers love it aswell, they comment and they chat to them then.”“Last year we had all of our section leaders and half our managers having their legs waxed andchests waxed. [More animated voice] Yeah! It was cool. We were meant to have a waxer come in,but she let me down at the last minute so we let the colleagues come and do it [lots of laughter].Yeahh! [more laughter]. Some of them had their chests done, some of them had their backs done,some of them had their legs done.”
  19. 19. Why do people give – a simplerexplanation?
  20. 20. So what?... some overall conclusions• Charitable giving and philanthropy is – and always have been – supply-led rather than demand-driven.• Donor autonomy - the freedom to distribute as much as one wants, to whom one chooses - is whatdifferentiates giving from paying tax.• Policies may affect levels of giving, but it is donors’ tastes, experiences, enthusiasms and opinions thatdrive their specific giving decisions.• Despite hopes apparent in much philanthropy policy making, donors resist the notion of giving as asubstitute for public spending.• Despite other hopes by people concerned about democracy and social change, these are not primaryconcerns of donors.• Philanthropy can enrich both the public good and donors’ lives, but it cannot be relied upon to ‘fill thegaps’ in public sector spending cuts nor to create a more democratic society.Wt cannotw.s, passions
  21. 21. Can philanthropy create a more democratic society?Yes, of course it can – but there’s no reason why it should.How could we ‘nudge’ that along?1. Donor incentives (e.g. matched funding / preferential tax breaks)2. Charity / Cause support – e.g. strategic funding for capacity building3. Social norms – greater celebration / affirmation for certain types of giving?
  22. 22. Please feel free to stay in touchDr Beth BreezeCentre for PhilanthropyUniversity of KentEmail: @UKCPhilanthropyBlog: