All posts by Beth Breeze

What is Effective Altruism?

This blog post is written by Dr. Eddy Hogg, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent

Discussions of effective altruism have been around for some time, but they have gained momentum in recent times with the publication of William MacAskill’s Doing Good Better – Effective Altruism And a Radical Way to Make a Difference. MacAskill argues that as donors we should consider how what we give can be most effective. If it costs £1,000 to save a life in the UK but only £1 to do so in Sub-Saharan African, our donation can be 1,000 times more effective in Africa than at home. MacAskill, a philosopher, advances this argument convincingly. But one tweet this weekend left me reflecting on the weaknesses of this way of operating.

I donate monthly to a charity run by a friend of mine, the Free Kicks Foundation. Free Kicks fund and organise days out at football matches, often as mascot or guest of honour, for deserving kids. These may be terminally ill children, young carers or boys and girls suffering many other types of hardship. Free Kicks doesn’t save lives. Nor does it stop hardship occurring. Through the lens of effective altruism, my monthly donation is about as ineffective as it could be.

On Saturday my team and the team of Free Kicks’ founders Peterborough, were playing away at Sheffield United. As usual, Free Kicks had worked with Sheffield United to provide a day out for a local boy, Aiden Dodd, a Sheffield United supporting 6 year old who has leukaemia. As I sat on the train home, delayed just outside Leicester, I saw a tweet from Aiden’s mum which read:

For one day we forgot that Aiden has leukaemia, thank you [to Free Kicks Foundation] for an amazing day.

Free Kicks are superb at looking after their donors. While my monthly donation doesn’t save lives or prevent terrible things happening, it gives children and families in terrible situations some comfort and an unforgettable experience. Is my giving to Free Kicks effective by MacAskill’s definition? No. But what this tweet shows is the impact that something quite mundane, certainly not lifesaving, can have on a family going through something awful.

This perfectly highlights my issues with the effective altruism argument. Of course we as donors want to see our donations used efficiently and wisely. But we want to know that what we are giving makes a difference to something we care about. I saw Aiden lead Sheffield United out onto the field, and in his mum’s tweet saw what this meant to Aiden and his family. To me, that’s effective altruism

Charity Shops: Between a rock and a kind face

This post is written by Dr Triona Fitton, Pears Philanthropy Fellow at the University of Kent.

A recent report published by the True and Fair Foundation (TFF) into income generation in the charity sector has once again brought to public attention the dilemma facing charitable organisations with a retail arm: What are charity shops really for?

The report highlights the low profit margins of charity shops, averaging 17%, with some large charities such as Scope making only a 5% profit margin in their shops; 13% less than high street giant Next, using for-profit retailers as a benchmark for charity shop success. Recommendations for a reduction in charity shop mandatory rate relief (they currently pay 80% less than other high street retailers, with the option for local councils to grant a discretionary 100% rate relief) also suggests that charity shops should not be treated any differently to for-profit shops. The comparisons in the report treats charities as ‘for-profits in disguise’, to paraphrase Burton Weisbrod; where their commercial output is more important than their charitable cause.

The TFF report has been criticised for its misrepresentation of statistics and flawed analysis, with several umbrella bodies and charities featured in the report such as Sue Ryder and Guide Dogs for the Blind speaking out against inaccuracies that undermine the work of their charity shops. Nevertheless, I would argue that the problem with the report goes beyond that of misrepresentation or poor quality research. Crucially, the report has fundamentally misunderstood the value of charity shops.

Firstly, charity shops are an important resource for those on low incomes for everyday items, as well as for second-hand bargain hunters in search of unique purchases. In spite of claims that they are becoming prohibitively expensive, Avril Maddrell and Susan Horne argue in their book Charity Shops: Retailing, Consumption and Society that many charity shops price their goods dependent upon what local people can afford, ensuring they don’t price themselves out of their local market. My own research into charity shops also found that a smaller shop without the pressure of competition within a chain of shops was more likely to price goods down rather than up. Also, haggling prices down or ‘letting people off’ a few pounds continues to occur.

Secondly, a charity shop provides some welcome relief from consumerism and its malcontents. The tendency towards ‘fast fashion’ and the disposal of items before they are at the end of their use is balanced by the donation of these goods to charity. The Giving Something Back report by Demos reports that the reuse of goods sold in charity shops reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 3.7 million tonnes a year – a figure similar to the entire carbon footprint of Iceland. Charity shops are, according to a report by WRAP UK, the most common source for pre-owned clothing in the UK, which goes some way towards reducing the £140m worth of clothing that ends up in landfill each year.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, charity shops are the public face of a charity on the British high street. They raise awareness of smaller organisations that do not already have a high public profile; they work to embed a charity within a community through recruitment of volunteers and involvement in local events; and they provide a friendly, welcoming environment where browsing and chatting is encouraged. They are also a gateway point for entry into the local job market, with people of all ages learning skills and progressing to paid roles through volunteering in a charity shop.

Whilst charities more generally have been subject to a great deal of scrutiny in the past year for their fundraising practices and executive salaries; charity retail has, until now, emerged mostly unscathed. In response to this form of criticism, charity shops have an opportunity to defend the valuable asset they are to society; not only as an income source for charities but as an employability resource, a recycling site and as the ‘kind face’ of the UK high street.

Zuckerberg: the applause, the criticism and the need to discuss philanthropy

Our blog has gone a bit quiet over the past few months whilst we’ve focused on lots of research projects and getting our new Masters degree in Philanthropic Studies off the ground. But today philanthropy is headline news again, as Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan celebrate the birth of their daughter by donating 99% of their Facebook shares “to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation”.

Many people will applaud this decision, and inevitably some will chip in to question it.

The applauders will rightly point to the importance of this power couple as role models for their generation, and how their decision helps to redefine ‘success’ as involving both the creation and distribution of great wealth: the Millennials aspire to give and take, unlike their ‘Loadsamoney’ predecessors.

The questioners will worry about philanthropic power being concentrated in the hands of people who already have power in abundance, and point to the creation of a new organization the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as evidence that the ‘new philanthropists’ prefer to retain control rather than trust existing charitable initiatives.

Applauders can respond by noting that setting up a new initiative guarantees the donors’ ongoing involvement, and that the gift of time, knowledge and contacts helps to multiply the value of the financial donation. Whilst Zuckerberg has insisted in the letter to his daughter explaining his plans that he will “continue to serve as Facebook’s CEO “for many, many years to come”. But he is still only 31 and has plenty of time for a ‘Second Act’ as a full-time philanthropist, following in the footsteps of Bill Gates – the first great tech ‘billanthropist’ – who stepped down from running Microsoft at the age of 49 to focus on running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The questioners will no doubt still have an array of concerns, including the re-direction of public funds to private philanthropic choices via charitable tax reliefs, the relationship between Facebook’s tax status and it’s founder’s private generosity, and the likelihood that Zuckerberg’s political and cultural influence will be enhanced as a result of this decision.

Philanthropy is an arena in which such debates thrive because there is no fixed agreement on exactly what philanthropy is, why it exists or what it can and should achieve. This is what makes it such an interesting part of life to study and think about. Understanding philanthropy is our central purpose in the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. However heated the debates become over the merits and implications of the Chan Zuckerberg announcement we welcome the spotlight returning to this most fascinating of topics.



Philanthropy (or not) on the stage: a review of ‘The Money’ by Kaleider theatre company

‘The Money’ is a piece of participative theatre in which half the audience (the ‘benefactors’) get to decide how to spend a pile of cash whilst the other half (‘silent witnesses’) have to watch and hold their tongue, unless they decide to add at least £10 to the pile and become a benefactor.

It was absolutely enthralling to watch ordinary people discussing money and what they could – and should – do with it. Some were lobbying for their favourite causes from the start, many suggested sending it to help the relief effort in Nepal, but the over-riding consensus was that large charities were worthy but ‘boring’ and it would be preferable to do something more creative. A popular suggestion was to hide £5 notes within the leaves of library books, which led to an interesting side discussion of whether a note should be included asking the lucky recipients to report to the group on how they spent their windfall; some liked the idea of interacting with their beneficiaries and others rejected the enforced gratitude this might create. Other creative ideas including buying a group dog, saving it to buy a huge wreath for the first person in the group to die, or simply putting the money behind the bar after the show.

Tension was injected when one benefactor insisted that unless he receive 50% of the cash (to spend on himself) he would not sign the final agreement, which the rules state has to be unanimous. Without a unanimous decision, the money rolls over to the next show. It was only at this point that a number of silent witnesses stepped in and paid £10 to join the discussion in order to encourage this man to change his mind. He stayed firm but admitted afterwards he was surprised that the audience (benefactors and silent witnesses) turned on him so forcefully, when his strategy was within the rules of the game and (one could also argue) reflects the expectations of a society in which the pursuit of self-interest is understood as the rational way to behave.

The final decision was a rather dispiriting decision that everyone would take away an equal share (which was essentially a refund of the £10 they had paid to be a benefactor) and do whatever they liked with it, then report their actions on a blog to be set up by one of the group. I think this reflected their primary desire to have an ‘experience’, rather than to do some collective good, and their reluctance for that experience to end when the show ended.

Despite the outcome being 20 or so affluent Londoners choosing individual consumption over collective altruism, it was a truly insightful evening that I will be thinking about for a long time. Money is still a deeply taboo subject in the UK – we’d rather talk about absolutely anything else – so it was an utter privilege to spend 90 minutes watching a group of strangers wrestle with the meaning and potential of a pile of banknotes.

Here’s the Guardian’s review of the play. It’s on for one more night at Battersea Arts Centre in London (Fri 1st May 7pm) – if you can get there, then get there!

7 days is also a long time in philanthropy

The political sphere normally lays claim to a monopoly on momentum, with the oft-quoted line: ‘a week is a long time in politics’. But the last 7 days have seen a huge amount of activity and new developments for philanthropy in the UK.

Firstly the 2015 Beacon awards were announced – including an extremely well deserved celebration of Trevor Pears, whose family foundation has generously supported our newest colleague, Pears Philanthropy Fellow Dr Triona Fitton.

Secondly, the annual Giving List, published as part of the annual Sunday Times Rich List in association with CAF, reported that the richest members of our society collectively gave away £2.6 billion last year, an 8% increase on the previous year, and including four people who gave away 9-figure sums (£100 million or more). Whilst the top spot on the main Rich List is now held by Len Blavatnik, who made one of the UK’s biggest-ever donations in 2010 (£75m to Oxford University), another generous donor, Richard Ross, has ‘donated himself off the Rich List’ by giving so much away.

Thirdly, a new academic centre has been launched at the LSE, which will help to advance the nascent field of philanthropic studies. All of us at Kent welcome the creation of The Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship and congratulate the founders and donors, Paul Marshall and Sir Tom Hughes Hallett, who discuss the thinking behind their exciting initiative in this article.

Here’s hoping the next 7 days are full of even more positive news for UK philanthropy.

Kent: The Philanthropy Story

This blog post is written by Dr Triona Fitton, Research Associate in the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent

The University of Kent, much like the ancient Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, has a long history of philanthropic donations. As one of the 1960s ‘plate-glass’ Universities – founded as part of a post-war drive to open up access to Higher Education, spearheaded by the then Government’s University Grants Committee (UGC) – the importance of their philanthropic foundations are often overlooked because these Universities are, to this day, treated as wholly state-funded institutions.

My current research into philanthropy in Higher Education has indicated that the uncelebrated early gifts that enabled the University to flourish are long overdue their fanfare. Key buildings on our campus (such as the Gulbenkian Theatre and the Colyer-Fergusson Building) would not have existed. The library would be understocked; our prestigious Law Clinic would be a pipe-dream; the beautiful art that appears across our campus would not have been commissioned; many scholarships and funded Chairs would not be possible to sustain.

Back in 1959, prior to the University having a site secured, the necessary presence of philanthropy was causing controversy. A proposal for a University of Thanet, by Thanet Technical College in what is now Broadstairs, Kent, was sent to the Kent Education Committee. It recommended the siting of the University at the old Ramsgate Airport, a small 90 acre space in East Kent.

Committee members did not accept the proposal, citing several conditions including the airport site being “too small”; “costs underestimated”; and most crucially, that the body of potential sponsors simply “lacked influential people.” At that time, the University Grants Committee required a University bid to demonstrate “ample evidence of strong local support” which would translate to at least 10% of capital funds being from private donations. Without this philanthropic support (both fiscally, and through endorsement), the proposal would not be accepted by the UGC.

As a result, Thanet did not receive its own University. The University of Kent was eventually built in Canterbury, on a hill top near Giles Lane. The dismissal of the Thanet Proposal was one of the first acknowledgements of the importance of fundraising for the Universities; but it would not be the last…

A Beacon Project at the Centre for Philanthropy aims to bring this, and other untold stories, to the fore by celebrating 50 years of philanthropic gifts to the University of Kent in a book, provisionally entitled ‘Kent: The Philanthropy Story’. The book will be launched at a major conference on “Understanding Philanthropy” to be held at the University of Kent on Monday 29th June 2015. The conference will welcome speakers from across the globe, both practitioners and theorists, to examine the meaning and mission of philanthropy in contemporary society. Our keynote speakers are Professor Michael Moody, author of ‘Understanding Philanthropy’, and Dr. René Bekkers, co-author of A Literature Review of Empirical Studies of Philanthropy.’

The conference is open to all, but registration is essential. Click here to register.

In addition, the Centre will be holding 2 debates on the role of philanthropy in Higher Education, one on our Canterbury Campus on 10th March and one on our Medway Campus on 10th April. The debates will be a discussion of the moral and practical implications of philanthropic funding for research and innovation. For more information please click here (Canterbury) or here (Medway).

Follow the Kent: The Philanthropy Story blog here.

Tweet: @50yearsofgifts

Why teach and study philanthropy at UK universities?

This blog is about why we are trying to build the field of philanthropic studies in our Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. Over this holiday period we are recruiting for a new colleague to help us develop and teach new courses on philanthropy – but why?

In the 1850s a wise person wrote:

“The profession of philanthropy, like every other, can be safely and serviceably practiced only by those who have mastered its principles and graduated in its soundest schools. It is as dangerous to practice charity, as to practice physic [medicine] without a diploma. He who should benefit mankind must first qualify himself for the task”.

Yet 160 years later there is minimal university-level provision on philanthropy (as this paper by Charle Keidan sets out), and little clarity on what is needed to qualify people for the task of working in the philanthropy sector, or the task of being philanthropists.

Philanthropy is a complicated topic for university-level teaching because it is both a noun and a verb – it is a thing that exists (like a charitable foundation that has a building, staff, policies and procedures) and it is a thing that people do (like figuring out how to use their resources to improve the world around them). This raises important issues for those of us trying to build the field of philanthropic studies in the UK

Firstly: is the focus on scholarship about philanthropy (history, ethics, concepts etc) or the skills to work in the philanthropy sector/be a philanthropist? At Kent we are focused on the former – our students gain a thorough understanding of the meaning, mission and purpose of philanthropy rather than a ‘license to practice’, though they inevitably gain a lot of insight into the sector as our team includes former practitioners and the Centre is highly engaged with charity leaders, staff, volunteers and donors.

Other disciplines have faced a similar scholarship/skills issue, because philanthropy is not the only thing that people both do and think about: law, politics, music, art, drama, languages, architecture, archaeology, medicine, business – these are all practical professions that benefit from extensive Higher Education provision at undergraduate and postgraduate level. And they are also all subjects of extensive analytical academic enquiry, with their own journals, PhD students, established streams of research funding and all the other paraphernalia that turns a topic into a discipline. So we can learn from their experiences, and be confident that there is room on campus both for those who want to do it and those with a more theoretical bent.

We can also take heart from similar professions that have trodden a similar path in the relatively recent past. For example, until the mid 20th century, social work was a profoundly practical activity – something done, not studied. It didn’t become an academic discipline until 1954 when the Carnegie UK Trust funded the first courses in social work at the LSE because they believed the profession needed a body of core knowledge and trained practitioners. There are now 848 courses on social work being offered by UK universities.

Many other subjects have travelled the same trajectory and become established disciplines in a relatively short period of time. The deputy vice chancellor at my university, Professor Keith Mander has been very supportive of our efforts to build the Centre for Philanthropy by providing initial seed funding and matched funding for donations that we receive. When I recently asked why he took such an interest, he told me that when he started out as a junior lecturer in computer science in the 1970s, older academics questioned the legitimacy of his subject. One said that as computers were just machines, it made as much sense to study lawnmowers! But of course Prof Mander had the last laugh because computer science is now an established academic discipline and UK universities now offer over 2,300 courses in different aspects of computer science.

In my department at the University of Kent, the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Policy, our most popular undergraduate degree is now Criminology. Yet this discipline only got going in the UK in the 1960s, largely as a result of a donation from the Wolfson Foundation to create the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University. Today almost every university in the UK offers criminology courses. When I look at my over-worked Criminology colleagues teaching hundreds of students who are willing to pay £9,000 a year to undertake the scientific study of crime and criminal behaviour, I can’t help asking: wouldn’t similar numbers want to undertake what is essentially its opposite, the scientific study of philanthropy and philanthropic behavior? It seems rather like the distinction between War Studies and Peace Studies – they draw on much of the same literature and ideas, so what’s in a name?

So we have decided to follow our hunch and invest the time and effort in trying to establish the field of philanthropic studies. We believe we have all the ingredients necessary for an academic subject to go from marginal to mainstream:

  1. Demand from students and industry – the modules we currently offer on fundraising and philanthropyvolunteering and the third sector in modern society are very popular, we are turning away good potential PhD students because we haven’t got the capacity to supervise them, and our practitioner colleagues say they struggle to find suitably equipped candidates, especially for fundraising posts (as this report on the fundraising workforce in HEIs notes)
  2. The existence of academics willing to build a field as well as work in it – this of course includes our team at Kent, as well as excellent colleagues at other universities such as Tobias Jung at St AndrewsSiobhan Daly at NorthumbriaAdrian Sargeant at Plymouth and Peter Grant at Cass Business School.
  3. Enlightened funders willing to provide resources to make it happen – we are immensely lucky to have the support of some philanthropic funders, in particular Pears Foundation is generously providing funding for the new 3-year teaching post that we are currently recruiting – information and application are available online here.

We do hope that some excellent candidates will apply, and join us in our exciting endeavour to build a new field in UK higher education.

We are proud of our achievements so far at Kent and excited about what we will achieve when our team expands, but we are also very glad that some other universities are with on this same journey. We know there is no ‘one stop’ solution to providing philanthropy education. Growing a new field, pretty much from scratch, requires multiple providers across the UK to ensure there’s room for diverse interests, approaches and emphases. It would make as little sense to have just one academic department of Social Work in the whole of the UK, or just one Business School, as it would be to have only one functioning centre of philanthropy.

We are glad to work together with others to come to a shared view on what is needed and who is best placed to do what, because we cannot afford to waste time in duplication and unnecessary competition, nor do we want to leave important areas untouched, if we are serious – as I know we all are – about making philanthropy education a perfectly normal part of higher education provision in the UK.

The Morality of Charity: Five Key Questions

This blog is written by Dr Eddy Hogg, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent

On Friday myself and 5 Kent colleagues attended a seminar at Cass Business School on The Peculiar Institution of Charity – the morality of charitable giving and receiving.  As a relatively new topic of academic study, the day threw up more questions than answers for me. Here are my five key questions:

  1. Does distance affect morality?

Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer uses the example of a drowning child  to explore the question of distance between donor and recipient: if you saw a child drowning and could save them but in the process ruin your £50 trainers, of course you would save the child – to walk past would be seen by all but the most cold-hearted as immoral. Yet when your £50 could be spent on trainers or could be donated to save the life of a child thousands of miles away, is this the same moral decision? To what extent should distance affect morality?

  1. Are tax breaks on charitable giving morally defensible?

The UK’s Gift Aid scheme allows charities to reclaim tax on charitable donations. When a donation is made using Gift Aid, therefore, the government loses tax income. In 2012, this was estimated to be worth over £1 billion in lost revenue for the government. Is it moral that such a significant sum is redirected away from government spending and into causes which are preferred by donors?

  1. How moral is fundraising?

Fundraising is a crucial and well-regulated function of the charitable sector. Research shows that being asked to give is the most common reason that people donate. Therefore, while the ask may feel uncomfortable for some donors, that fundraisers continue to ask is essential to the work of the sector. Users are generally relatively pragmatic about how charities fundraise – work by my colleague Beth Breeze and Jon Dean  found that recipients of charity understand the need to bring in money and the role that a heartstring-tugging advert can play in that.

  1. Is choosing which charities to give to a moral decision?

Is it moral to donate to donkeys while children starve? It is moral to volunteer at a foodbank while not protesting against policies in the name of austerity which continue to sanction people into poverty? The voluntary nature of giving means that donors can choose whether or not to engage with the question of whether it is more moral to give to one cause over another.

  1. Where is power in all this?

In the donor-charity-recipient relationship, who has the power? Donors can dictate which organisations are well resourced. The organisations can choose where to spend their funds. What power do the recipients have, apart from to refuse a gift?

The final question, of course, is what do we do next? Should we accept that such moral questions are inevitable given the voluntary nature of giving, and if so should we be encouraging donors to think more about them? Or should we seek to find answers to these questions, in doing so accepting the risk of imposing an absolute morality on what are voluntary decisions?



Loneliness in Older Age: How Can Volunteering Help?

 This is a guest blog from my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg

Research by the International Longevity Centre and the charity Independent Age demonstrates the growing problem of loneliness in older age, particularly for men (report – My own research, undertaken in collaboration with Age UK, shows that volunteering can be a really powerful way of overcoming this loneliness and developing the social networks that help sustain a happy and healthy older age.

As we increasingly live longer and as divorce rates continue to rise, an increasing number of older men are living alone. While retirement, divorce and widowhood can all be contributing factors to loneliness, they can also be triggers to engage in volunteering, either for the first time or as continuation of previous engagement.

Volunteering is inherently a social activity, generally undertaken alongside others in a spirit of camaraderie and a desire to do something worthwhile. While what volunteering consists of differs enormously from role to role, these social and self-esteem benefits occur whether an older volunteer is a school reading buddy or plants trees for a wildlife organisation.

Where older people volunteer in support of other older people, the benefits are doubled – not only is the recipient of the support alleviated of loneliness and other issues they may have, but also the volunteer has a purpose and the beginnings of a social network. As a result, charities across Britain are increasingly looking to ways whereby they can connect older people in ‘buddy’ schemes which encourage mutual help and support.

In the debate about loneliness and support in older age, volunteering should be placed centre stage.

Secrets of online fundraising success

This blog is written by my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg:

Next month my wonderful Mum turns 70. To celebrate she is asking her family and friends to donate to the British Red Cross as she has volunteered for the British Red Cross Refugee Project since her retirement. To do so, she has made a page on JustGiving and sent details to all 107 people invited to her birthday barn dance. I was interested, then, to read a new working paper from the University of Warwick which looks at data from over 400,000 fundraisers who used JustGiving.

The type of fundraising that my Mum is doing – on her own and not part of a mass participation event – is in the minority. Only 17% of fundraisers who use JustGiving are not taking part in mass events such as Cancer Research UK’s ‘Race for Life‘ or the London Marathon. However, fundraisers who go it alone are the most successful on the site – they have a higher average number of donations and raise on average significantly a higher sums. So far, so good, but what else can my Mum (and other fundraisers, of course) do to raise as much for her chosen charity as possible?

Firstly, the paper (called ‘Online fundraising: the perfect ask?’) shows the value of setting targets. Campaigns with a target raise on average £122 more than those without, with donation size peaking as the target approaches, as donors try to be the one who pushes the campaign to its goal. The paper also shows the importance of the size of the first few donations – after one large donation, on average all subsequent donations are higher than those before the larger donation. One small donation has the opposite effect, with all subsequent donations being on average smaller than those that preceded the small donation.

The research by Abigail Payne (of McMaster University), Kimberley Scharf (of Warwick University) and Sarah Smith (of the University of Bristol) also contains a fascinating insight into the importance of who asks for online donations. Nearly three quarters of us always give when a family members asks us to, and almost two-thirds respond positively when a friend asks. In contrast, fewer than a quarter of us always give when a neighbour asks, just 10% of us give when a friend of a friend asks and fewer than 6% of us give when asked by a charity representative.

It seems, then, that my Mum’s Red Cross fundraising has done all the right things so far. Fingers crossed she reaches her £1,000 target!

The Warwick University report ‘Online Fundraising – the perfect ask?’ is available for free here and my Mum’s JustGiving page is here.

Winning the Philanthropy World Cup

This blog post is written by my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg, in the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent

Last Sunday the World Cup Final was won by Germany in Rio de Janeiro, watched by an estimated one billion viewers across the globe. One of Germany’s victorious side, Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, announced on his Facebook page the day after the final that he would use his winner’s bonus to pay for the surgery of twenty-three Brazilian children as part of the BigShoe charity campaign, one for each member of Germany’s squad. Özil is not the only world cup star to donate his winnings to charity: the Algerian squad have donated their entire prize fund to humanitarian aid in Gaza, striker Islam Slimani commenting that “they need it more than us”, while Greece’s national team have asked for their bonuses to be used to build a new national football centre. Even England’s much-maligned squad donate all of their match bonuses to a range of charities selected by the team.

Much of this philanthropic activity goes unnoticed and unheralded, but Özil’s donation seems to have struck a chord. Maybe because it is part of a wider narrative of a successful team who have respected their hosts – as well as Özil’s gift, the brand new training and hotel facility that the Germans built for themselves in Brazil will now become a community resource for the local people. Maybe though it has struck a chord because the morning after the biggest match of his career, a footballer is thinking about others rather than his own glory and has chosen to make a personal donation to a universally appreciated cause: poorly children.

Beyond the impact on his own image – and there is no denying that Özil’s reputation will benefit from his generosity – what is the likely impact of this very public donation? Our research shows that donors often use famous and respected individuals as guides for their own philanthropy – role models who guide their giving. Özil – a global superstar and now a World Cup winner – holds the respect and adoration of football fans across the globe. Faced with a decision of whether to donate to charity, and what causes to donate to, our research suggests that people who admire footballers may well look to Özil and follow his lead in donating to worthy causes.

Bossy Boots’ best books on philanthropy

In 2009 I blogged about how much I love being asked to suggest good books on philanthropy. I like to think it’s a type of gift to share suggestions, but I’m willing to accept it’s just another form of bossiness to try to nudge other people to read the books I’m into.

I’m slightly shocked to see that the 3 books I named in that previous blog are pretty much still the same books I’d suggest today. Has nothing changed in five years? I would actually add a few newbies: Oliver Zunz’s majestic history of US philanthropy (though why oh why is there no UK equivalent?); Angie Eikenberry’s insightful study of giving circles (glad to report that Angie and I are now working on a UK equivalent); and Caroline Fiennes’ thought provoking and readable ‘It Ain’t What You Give It’s the Way that You Give It‘ have all been good reads in the last few years. But I still keep recommending the same top 3 as I picked last decade:

1. Peter Frumkin (2006) ‘Strategic Giving: the art and science of philanthropy’.

2. Robert Payton & Michael Moody (2008) ‘Understanding Philanthropy: It’s meaning and mission’.

3. Matthew Bishop & Michael Green (2008) ‘Philanthropcapitalism‘.

My colleague Eddy Hogg is running a virtual book group. His first pick is Philanthrocapitalism.  In that blog way back in 2009  I wrote: “If you only read one book, this is the one to go for” and I stand by that. You can read a full review here and there’s more material on the book’s website, which is regularly updated. So here’s my contribution to the book group discussion:

This book is essential reading because it provides the most comprehensive and well-researched review of contemporary global giving that exists to date. Bishop and Green authoritatively map out the terrain of philanthropy at the start of the 21st century, contextualise that account within recent history and offer a balanced summary of the pros and cons of new developments, making space to air criticisms of the techniques, individuals and organisations that they ultimately endorse. The book also provides useful potted histories of many relevant organisations and extremely insightful pen-pictures of key individuals who are involved in contemporary philanthropy.

NB: I used to curate the ‘Book Review’ pages on the Philanthropy UK website, and it still exists in a new incarnation for Philanthropy Impact, so do take a look here if you want more bossy suggestions.


Volunteers are philanthropists too

This blogpost is written by my colleague, Dr Eddy Hogg

This week is the 30th annual National Volunteers Week, a week of celebrations across the United Kingdom of the contributions that volunteering makes to individuals and communities.  In a recent blog, the volunteering guru Justin Davis Smith, notes some remarkable consistency over the last 30 years – around 40% of adults volunteer each and every year – yet the level of support offered to volunteers has increased significantly.

The voluntary sector – a disparate collection of organisations that take their shared identity from the fact of having voluntary input – has professionalised enormously over this period, with a wide range of professions now calling the sector home.  Volunteer management is a big part of this, with the Association of Volunteer Managers stating that some 300,000 UK LinkedIn members list it as one of their skills.

 In the Centre for Philanthropy, despite our name implying (to some) a greater interest in gifts of  money rather than time, we are passionate about supporting the volunteers and volunteer managers of the present and future.

At undergraduate level we run a module called Kent Student Certificate in Volunteering, Platinum award.  This is the highest level of volunteering accreditation that the University of Kent offers, and is aimed at those students who are already committed volunteers.  It encourages and supports them in reflecting on the volunteering they do and how they benefit themselves and their communities through what they do.  My own research is clear that engaging in volunteering when you are young is great way of making voluntary engagement part of your life, with participation often lasting a lifetime across one or many organisations.

At postgraduate level we are developing a module on volunteering with a strong volunteer management element.  Many of the students who currently take our Fundraising and Philanthropy postgraduate module are voluntary sector professionals, and we recognise how important it is to provide academically robust and practically focussed teaching for those who work in the sector.

In all our teaching and module development, the needs of charities and those who work in them are paramount.  National Volunteers Week is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of volunteers and those who make volunteering happen.  We are proud of our contribution to this, and looking forward to contributing even more in the near future.

Making the most of baby boomer volunteers

This guest blog post is written by my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg, whose research focuses on volunteering:

This week sees the launch of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing’s report Age of Opportunity: putting the ageing society of tomorrow on the agenda of the voluntary sector today. The report begins by noting that:

The country is experiencing a huge demographic shift. By 2033 nearly a quarter of the population will be over 65 years old, tipping the balance between the number of working people and those receiving pensions as birth rates decline. The scale and nature of such changes will present both a significant challenge and an opportunity for charities, funders, social enterprises and other voluntary organisations.

The baby boomers who are retiring now are not only the largest group of retirees we have ever seen, they are also the healthiest.  Many of those retiring now can look forward to a decade or more of fit, active and healthy life.  Volunteering is one of a wide range of activities that people might take part in at this stage of life, either as a new activity or as a continuation of a lifetime of community engagement.

Lynne Berry (chair of the Commission) urges charities to go out and make contact with potential volunteers, seeking out those with particular skills, and suggesting that the voluntary sector should:

“Act now to take advantage of the huge opportunities a changing demography will create.”

My research shows  that people are more likely to engage if they are asked by a peer, friend or family member. Volunteering in older age is usually an extremely social activity, so this outreach to needs to come from across the organisation, by both paid staff and other volunteers.

Good volunteer managers realise that older volunteers bring with them a complex life history, which may or may not have included giving away their time for free. Understanding the prior experiences that older volunteers have had will allow charity managers to understand what new skills and passions can be brought to the organisation. If volunteers’ needs are understood and their engagement in a suitable role is supported during the transition to retirement, then those who only did occasional or event-based volunteering may be supported to take on important roles in retirement – such as helping with fundraising, serving as an organisation’s treasurer or secretary or helping to manage a site.

Lynne Berry is right to urge organisations to search out the specialist skills that older people have, but my research also shows that charities need to understand that while some people are motivated by a desire to build on what they can already do, other older volunteers are keen to develop new knowledge and abilities.  While one retired school teacher may be delighted to continue using her professional skills, another may never want to see a classroom or a lesson plan again!  If charities can understand these nuances, and harness the needs and enthusiasm of fit and healthy retirees, then the baby boomers’ retirement offers an unprecedented opportunity for all who work in, and care about, our  voluntary sector.


Making sense of the #nomakeupselfie trend

One of the great benefits of teaching is the amount you learn from your students. My current ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ class are a particular delight – full of ideas and not afraid to express them.

A few weeks ago we discussed why people are so unwilling to admit to being charitable donors, despite generosity being a  generally admired trait. The students noted that they post endless items on social media about their nights out, photos of what they’re about to eat and  information about things they’ve bought (such as new shoes) but would never in a million years share on social media the fact that they’ve just made a donation to a good cause. The only exception might be sharing the fact they’d sponsored someone doing a charity challenge, but only to help raise awareness and  never mentioning the amount given.

As a class we agreed to experiment and ask our loves ones what they would think of people who did publicise their giving. The response was immediate and clear: only idiots/show offs/those wanting to make others feel guilty, would ever do such a thing. So that seemed clear, until a rather unusual trend hit social media this week.

The #nomakeupselfie trend is pretty self-explanatory up to a point. Women post photos of themselves without any make-up on – but many also make a donation to a cancer research charity, and let their friends know that they did so. Shock, horror! People being willing to admit they are generous, what is the world coming to?

The genesis of the idea seems to be a marketing campaign. According to Closer magazine:

The craze originally kicked off in September 2013, when beauty retailer launched the nationwide DareToBare campaign for women across the UK to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer Care.

However, as women started sending donations to whichever cancer research charity they preferred/knew of, some got organised to steer donations their way: Cancer Research UK – the UK’s biggest fundraising charity by a mile – advertised a text donation line (text BEAT to 70099) and have so far raised over £1m according to Civil Society magazine.

So, now my students are back on the case, trying to work out what’s going on. Has there been an attitudinal change? Is it the fun element and the small amount requested (£3) that makes it ‘ok’ to go public? Or  is a more cynical interpretation required – might the donation be a useful cover to show the world how great you look without make-up?

If you understand what’s happening then do let me know!



Inspirational Fundraising & moral philosophy in action

You may have already seen this advert as it has had more than 12 million views on YouTube,  but I only became aware of it thanks to today’s online edition of Third Sector which featured it as ‘film of the week’.

I spend much of my working life trying to understand donor decision making, and it is a rare gift to be able to watch in action as people are confronted with a situation of need and decide whether or not to respond.

The film, created by the Norwegian branch of SOS Children’s Villages, shows a young actor shivering at a bus stop because he has lost his coat. Passersby who encounter him must decide whether or not to respond and if so how. It is fascinating to watch their faces as they struggle with deciding what to do – then cheering as the vast majority give him a coat, scarf or gloves.

The point being made by the charity is that many Syrian children are facing a freezing cold winter and need help. The film is a 200 second encapsulation of the point made by the philosopher Peter Singer, whose famous ‘Drowning Child analogy argues that we have a moral obligation to help others if we can, and that obligation is not removed by geographical distance.

You can watch the ad here. I hope that some of the 12m YouTube viewers decided to donate – it certainly prompted me to do so.


Top marks for donor appreciation

I’m buzzing after spending the morning at our university’s ‘Donor Appreciation Day’. This was a super initiative, led by Anne-Marie Rigley in our development office, that involved inviting all the generous people who donate to the University of Kent to drop by for a coffee, pastries and heart-shaped chocolates (well, it is Valentine’s day and we do love our donors).

The wide range of people who joined us today – despite the wind and the rain – included those giving smaller and larger gifts, each one valued because of the difference it makes to the beneficiaries. The development office tell me that in the last academic year 1,029 donors gave to Kent, 920 of whom were alumni. I also learnt that our youngest donor is just 19 years old – a great age to have begun their philanthropic journey.

Many of our guests donate to the Kent Opportunity Fund which supports excellent students to complete their studies. An extra nice touch today was the presence of some of those students – all bright and smiley, and carrying cards saying ‘Thank you for supporting me’.

The donors seemed to enjoy seeing in the flesh how their money was being used. And I’m sure they were glad to be at an event that was purely about thanking – with no hint of “thanks but how about making another/bigger gift?”

It will be very interesting to see how this first class example of donor stewardship translates into income in the coming year – I’ll post an update if I can get the figures!


Debunking Philanthropic Myths

Just a quick blog today, as I start teaching the new intake of students on our Masters-level class in ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ this afternoon.

But I couldn’t resist sharing this link to an article called ‘Debunking Philanthropic Myths’ in the new edition of Alliance magazine. The title is a bit grandiose, as it only presents findings from a survey of US private foundation donors (it took me years to realise that many people use the word ‘philanthropy’ when they really mean ‘foundation philanthropy’). But nonetheless the report is worth a look.

Two main findings  jumped out at me:

Firstly, when asked, ‘How do you typically identify organizations for potential grants?’ 85.6% of respondents said, ‘We mostly find and choose organizations ourselves’ and only 7.9 % said, ‘We mostly fund organizations that submit proposals/requests to our foundation.’ If this situation is any where near comparable in the UK, that’s a lot of trust and foundation fundraisers who are on a hiding to nothing.

Secondly, impact is simply not as high a priority for the surveyed donors as we might imagine. To quote directly from the article:

Many in the philanthropic sector believe that if non-profits could provide hard evidence of results, donors would give more to the best-performing organizations. [But] our survey indicates that this isn’t necessarily the most important criterion. While 37.4 per cent cited ‘personal knowledge of/previous experience with the organization’ as the most important factor in determining whether to grant to a non-profit, only 25.6 per cent cited ‘clear evidence of demonstrable impact’.

This article is from the current online edition of Alliance magazine, if you’re not familiar with them, they will send a free sample edition for potential subscribers.

How I learnt that charity begins at home

This is a guest post written by Caroline Walsh,  Honorary Research Associate in the Kent Centre for Philanthropy:

The question of how we decide what causes to support, and whether or not charity begins at home, came into acute focus last November. Two major fundraising appeals were launched in the same week – the first to raise money for the victims in the Philippines of Typhoon Haiyan and the second was the annual BBC Children In Need appeal, raising funds for young people in the UK.

The Director of our Centre for Philanthropy, Dr Beth Breeze, appeared on Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme to discuss the question of whether or not charity begins at home (listen again here) but the question hit me in a far more personal way that month.

Research published by the Centre of Philanthropy (published in a report called How Donors Choose Charities) shows that donors give to charities that reflect their own personal passions and experiences. I found myself profoundly mirroring these findings and reflecting on this when my grandmother died in November 2013. As a scuba diver my donations of time and money have always been closely linked to this hobby, as I give time and money to marine conservation and related charities. Being born disabled I also have a strong affinity to social justice and social equality organisations. One could note that, perhaps selfishly, my philanthropic patterns have always reflected what had happened to me and my own personal experiences. or so I thought until my grandmother died and we lost her after 3.5 long years of having dementia. Giving to a health related charity, and asking others to collectively do the same, was outside my normal pattern of philanthropic behaviour, because dementia hadn’t happened to me – or so I thought until I reflected upon this a bit deeper.

Dementia has a profound and overwhelming effect on both the individual and the family. Some well-intentioned kind souls would perhaps argue that rather than losing my grandmother in November, we actually lost my grandmother three and a half years ago when her dementia came to light in the acutest sense. Others, prior to gran’s demise, might argue that we lost her when (I have to add – with extreme guilt at being inadequate to care for her needs) we succumbed to “give up” gran to the care system – although we ‘stubbornly’ hung in there to be part of her life. It was for this reason rather than any other that we were determined after her death that, as a family, we would encourage our family and friends to donate to charity rather than have funeral flowers. I know my family are no means unique in this respect but I hadn’t quite understood the motivation behind such public and visible acts of philanthropy, especially as you are in a sense asking others to give up their own free choice of which charity to support. Imposing a philanthropic preference on others is something I had previously felt uncomfortable with and had shied away from. Mindful of this, and in our great need and desire to help other families who may be faced with the same heartache as we had suffered over the last few years, we chose a charity whose mission we best felt would support families in their time of crisis, Dementia UK.

I deeply regret not having the courage to contact charities such as Dementia UK at the beginning of our journey with grandma, and hope that our family’s collective philanthropic effort will help another family through those dark days.

Having always previously believed that my own philanthropic tendencies, particularly with regard to giving of time (i.e. volunteering), were solely based and shaped by my own experiences of life and the world around me, I no longer believe this to be the case. As a personal response to my grandmother’s death I withdrew into my favourite hobby of family history. I started to revisit my grandmother’s own personal and family history and to my amazement I found my philanthropic roots had been staring me in the face! Not only had my own parents done youth volunteering in their formative years, undertaking activities such as helping to renovate a local church shrine, running a youth club and leading a local cub group, but my own grandmother’s life had been dedicated to philanthropic activities from a very young age and had continued until quite recently. She started her lifelong commitment to volunteering in the Girls Brigade and subsequently used the first aid and organisational skills gained from her time at the Girls Brigade in her role as a community volunteer during the Second World War. Her passion and dedication to volunteering continued and was sustained into married life – she and my grandfather regularly undertook political volunteering. As a mother, she volunteered with the church, the local cubs and scouts, and helped out with school sports activities. Her tea and cake making skills were infamous at my uncle’s school cricket events, as were her ‘light’ lunches for the home team! As a grandmother, and in later life, her volunteering included helping to organise and run several community groups. Two such groups were the local ASBAH (now called SHINE) and Arthritis Care group, where her volunteer roles included acting as secretary, treasurer and chairperson.

Reflecting on my grandmother’s lifelong volunteering, I revisited the academic research I had previously explored on volunteering over the life course by Kent Centre for Philanthropy’s Dr Eddy Hogg. Using Eddy’s typology, my grandmother’s volunteering can be classed as ‘constant’. Her lifelong volunteering had changed in nature and in type but had been a constant in, and throughout her life. She started on the ‘frontline’ and over her life course had used her life experiences to move into more ‘managerial’ and organisational roles. Interestingly, her commitment to volunteering did not diminish post-retirement. In fact, after the death of my grandfather the number of hours she devoted in her 70s and 80s increased – until the onset of ill health. Even then her philanthropic activities did not diminish but became more strategic and took the form of giving of money instead of time.

So, what impact did the lifelong philanthropic activities of my grandmother have on me? I have learned that the socialisation I received from my family meant that giving time and money was a norm, something that people like me did. This simple fact, which research also shows is a prime driver of philanthropic behaviour – had been staring me in the face but I hadn’t seen it. My grandmother was a philanthropist – despite being an ordinary woman from a working class background who was first and foremost a mother and a homemaker. Like many in her generation and class she gave her time and money for the betterment of her community, those she perceived to be less well off and others in need of support.

For me, charity and philanthropy really did begin at home!

Giving quietly or ostentatiously?: The case of the Teddy Bear Toss

This is a guest post from my new colleague, Dr Eddy Hogg

Research published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) last week showed that Britain is the sixth most generous country in the world, in terms of people’s propensity to help strangers, donate money and to volunteer their time.  Our giving is comparable with other Western democracies – the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and the Netherlands all join the UK in the top 10 most generous nations.  And we are generous – in the last few weeks we have seen Children in Need raise a record £31m on-the-night total, while the DEC appeal for the Philippines has already raised £69m. 

A video I saw this week highlighted, though, how different the character of our giving is to other generous nations.  If you haven’t already seen it, the goal celebration after the first goal of Canadian ice hockey’s 19th annual Teddy Bear Ross Game between Calgary Hitmen and Medicine Hat Tigers will take your breath away.  Words can’t describe it, so have a watch:

You’d have to have a better imagination than me to picture Anfield being covered in teddies after Daniel Sturridge opens the scoring for Liverpool or the Lords outfield being turned multi-coloured with toys as Alastair Cook scores the first century of the English summer.  In England, we’re more likely to put money into a collection bucket outside the ground, an understated act of generosity that, unlike the Teddy Bear Toss, may go unnoticed even to those you are with.

Can Britain learn from ostentatious displays of giving?  The Calgary match saw over 25,000 teddies donated by a crowd of around 6,000.  That’s about as mass participation as you can get.  Would more overt displays of giving make more people give, as they see their peers doing so in vast numbers?   Or would it make the giving of gifts less voluntary, taking away a defining characteristic of donating to charity?  In our research, we’ve found that nearly all major donors give some of their gifts anonymously and are also happy to be have their named attached to other gifts. The decision to go public or not depends on what’s appropriate in a given situation, rather than from an overriding desire to be covert or overt.  Events like Children in Need encourage groups of people to come together in schools, workplaces and other communities to give together while having a fun.  These aren’t all that different to the Teddy Bear Toss, maybe a little more understated but coming from the same tradition of shared giving.  Perhaps all donors, wherever they are in the world, then, make decisions about when to give publicly with others and when to give quietly on their own.

Something worth blogging about: Open Philanthropy UK

One of the paradoxes of engaging in social media is that the busier you are doing things that are actually worth blogging or tweeting about, the less time you have to blog and tweet.

These past 4 months I have been immersed in rich data on rich givers – writing up a year of in-depth study of UK philanthropists for a new book Richer Lives: why rich people give, co-authored with the wonderful Theresa Lloyd, which thankfully – after many many late nights of writing and re-writing – was sent off to the printers last week and will be published on the 30th September.

I’ll write more about the findings once I don’t risk spoiling the media embargo, and once I’ve got off my chest all the things I’ve wanted to write about but have been too busy to breathe never mind blog.

The first ‘something worth blogging about’ is a new effort to encourage more open data on philanthropic activity. The Indigo Trust  is helping to promote an important initiative to encourage UK donors to be more transparent in their grant making. As a researcher, I’m obviously all for people sharing the detail of how much they give and to what causes, but there is a much more important agenda at stake here than making the lives of researchers that bit easier. Opacity favours none and causes concern to many – we all know there is a climate of suspicion about philanthropy and philanthropists in the UK, so why not dispel some misconceptions about the shady goings-on of rich givers and cast a light on what they actually do, rather than what the cynics think they do?

In a note of the first meeting to discuss this initiative, Indigo explain the benefits better than I can:

We believe that being transparent in itself is the right thing to do, but the reasons for encouraging openness go far beyond this.  In summary, openness makes grant making better.  We believe that opening up grant data will enable more effective collaboration amongst funders and between civil society and funders, allow for more effective strategic planning which will ensure that money gets to where it’s needed the most, enable grant-makers to assess their impact and demonstrate this to the public and enable analysis of interventions across a whole sector such as health or higher education.

If you want to keep up with developments then check out the Open Philanthropy UK blog  – and if you’re a philanthropist keen to emerge from the shadows and shine a spotlight on your giving decisions, then do get in touch!

Guest blog: Reflections on Social Justice Philanthropy conference

I am delighted to introduce this blog, written by my good colleagues Dr Balihar Sanghera and Dr Kate Bradley, who have spent the past year running a project on Social Justice Philanthropy:

The end-of-project conference, held at NCVO in London on Friday 1 March 2013, was an excellent opportunity to bring practitioners and academics together to discuss the state and future of social justice philanthropy.

The morning part of the conference explored the more philosophical and theoretical dimensions of what social justice philanthropy is, and what it might be. The first session brought together speakers from a wide range of organisations, and likewise a diverse range of viewpoints. This session opened up an extremely useful consideration of the historical development of social justice philanthropy (Stephen Pittam) and a case study of social justice philanthropy (Sara Llewellin), as well as reflective criticism on what exactly we mean by ‘social justice philanthropy’ and its purposes (Andrew Barnett). Issues raised included the idea of whether the sector is ‘retro-fitting’ social justice to philanthropic activities, the need to consider the structural issues that create inequality in a rigorous and critical manner, and to avoid creating an industry that serves its own ends rather than the needs of the disadvantaged (Matthew Taylor, Paul Hackett and Samantha Callan – Callan’s response is here). The second session brought in discussion of our project findings, which drew attention to how grant-making foundations often reject the label ‘social justice’ and only partly realise the liberal ideas of social justice. The session also heard Diana Leat’s reflections on how foundations might change over time.

The afternoon part of the conference heard a rich collection of case studies from practitioners and academics that explored the potential and limitations of social justice philanthropy. Gareth Morgan discussed the implications of the Charities Act 2011 for small grant-making trusts and foundations, pointing out the political significance of the public benefit test. Sinead Gormally presented a comprehensive model of social justice to community development, drawing upon her case study of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

Some speakers critically examined the implications for social justice of ‘new’ and ‘venture’ philanthropy,’ Stephen Ball argued how corporate and family foundations and philanthropic individuals are beginning to assume socio-moral duties that were previously assigned to the state, and pointed out some negative consequences in the education sector. Niamh McCrea also provided a fascinating study on how practices associated with ‘performance-based funding’ can enable and inhibit relationships of love, care and solidarity.

In addition, the delegates heard a variety of practices and experiences from activists, who pursue social justice, peace and civic participation. Representing the radical philanthropy Edge Fund, Sophie Pritchard posed the question that given that most foundations are set up by those who have benefitted from the economic and political systems that produce social inequalities, how will they challenge the status quo? Carolyn Hayman and Tom Gillhespy from Peace Direct shared their ideas on the theory of change and how to evaluate the impact of peacebuilding grants, drawing upon several case studies of conflict resolution. Rob Williamson (Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation) and Cathy Elliott Community Foundations for Lancashire & Merseyside) discussed how Vital Signs UK assesses the vitality and aspirations of local communities, identifies local social needs, and opens a debate on the contribution that local philanthropists can make to address them. Natalie Branosky from InclusionUS examined how the concept of ‘philanthropub’ can promote community engagement, volunteerism and civic participation.

We feel that the social justice philanthropy journey is still at a relatively early stage in its development. Foundations who seek to promote social justice and peace should take time to reflect on how they can best embed it in their practices. For example, moving into (or expanding) social investment would increase the impact of foundation cash, by opening up a further front on which foundations can help communities in need. We also need to scrutinise to what extent the income from endowments and philanthropic donations are earned and deserving, as well as to focus on addressing the unhealthy levels of concentrated wealth and power in the UK and overseas. Ways of increasing the input that marginalised groups have into how resources are provided to their communities should be explored. Such activity could range from inviting more people with experience of poverty and deprivation to serve on the trustee boards, setting up advisory boards as well as focus groups. Including previous grantees and other frontline groups in the governance processes of foundations would also be welcome. Social justice philanthropy is a process, and with critical reflection and creative thinking, foundations can continue to progress towards their aims. We hope that the conference on 1 March starts or continues a reflexive conversation about what social justice is.


This blog was written by Dr Balihar Sanghera and Dr Kate Bradley, University of Kent

Why do people avoid fundraisers?

This time of year in a university is pretty full-on. We finished teaching last week, and need to tackle the mountain of assignments to be marked before the larger mountain of exam scripts appears.

So it was with a spring in my step that I escaped campus last week to attend a stimulating conference on ‘Generosity and Well Being’ organised by two of the brightest minds and nicest people in our field: Prof Kim Scharf of Warwick University and Prof Sarah Smith of Bristol University. Kim and Sarah convened a fascinating group of people from different disciplines (economics, psychology, sociology and social policy) from across the UK as well as from the Netherlands, the US and Canada.

On the day I gave my paper (exploring enjoyment as a driver of giving) the programme was dominated by psychologists. This was undoubtedly some psychic balancing of my joy at having a ‘thinking day’ instead of a ‘marking day’, because I sometimes struggle to know what to make of psychological research into charitable giving. As a fundraiser, it doesn’t help much to know that certain personality types are more or less likely to give – unless there’s a database of ‘introverts’ and ‘extroverts’ with their names and addresses, how do we apply that knowledge? I also have issues with many laboratory experiments, which never seem capable of replicating the real world where subjects have opinions about real causes and charitable organisations, and bring with them their own history of donative behaviour. Perhaps they didn’t give in the lab setting because they already make a regular gift to that cause area, or hold a settled view on that particular organisation?

However, the psychologists attending the Warwick conference proved me wrong, not least Jen Shang’s work on how social information can increase donation size . So when a fellow attendee emailed me a link to a paper presenting psychological research on Avoiding the Ask, I read it with far more gusto than normal, and am glad I did. The paper begins:

“If people get joy from giving, then why might they avoid fundraisers?”

Good question! The authors (James Andreoni, Justin M Rao and Hannah Trachtman) conclude that avoidance (which is so easily interpreted as just plain mean) is in fact often a self-regulation mechanism for those who know that being asked will trigger an empathetic response they feel they can’t afford.

The paper presents findings of a natural field experiment, where Salvation Army fundraisers were positioned by store doors and either made no contact with passerby or made a simple polite request for a donation. The results are astonishing:

“adding the simple verbal request of ‘please give’ is about as effective as adding an additional silent fundraiser”.

These are useful findings for fundraisers. Don’t have enough people to shake your tins? Then train those you do have to interact nicely with potential donors and watch the coins start dropping. And tell your collectors not to  take it personally when people swerve to avoid the ask – they’re just scared of their better selves, and those that don’t swerve will give more. Thanks psychologists!

Great Greek Grads & Giving Pledge Goes Global

I’ve been in Athens this week, teaching a condensed version of my ‘fundraising and philanthropy’ masters level course, to 16 University of Kent students who are based in that fascinating city, studying for a masters degree in Heritage Management. It makes perfect sense to pursue that degree in a city where there’s the equivalent of a Stonehenge on every street corner. The course leader, Dr Evangelos Kyriakidis is a dynamic and energetic academic, who has not only designed this course but has managed to engage the support of a number of philanthropic individuals and charitable foundations so that full scholarships (fees and living expenses) are available every year to a cohort of students from developing countries. This initiative combines support for bright young scholars with a longer-term contribution to development, as their careers should eventually help to attract tourists to visit the heritage sites in their home countries. An excellent win-win for philanthropists seeking to make a difference in the world.

Talking of which, I returned to the UK to read the excellent news that 12 more names have been added to the Giving Pledge, including 4 in the UK. The pledge is a public commitment, now signed by more than 100 individuals and families, to give the larger part of their wealth to good causes. When this pledge was first launched in 2010, it was suggested that such a public statement of intent would not appeal to individuals and families outside of the USA, so it is heartening to find that is not the case. Here’s some comment on this development from the UK’s Matthew Bishop, co-coiner of the term ‘philanthrocapitalism’, whose opinion is always worth reading.

A victory that needs to be front page news

Last week’s front page of The Times made many people’s hearts sink – including mine.

The Times had exposed a scam that takes advantage of charity tax relief to enable unscrupulous individuals to claim millions of pounds without actually making any meaningful contribution to charitable activity.

Unsurprisingly, some made the link between this revelation and last year’s Budget which attempted to cap charity tax reliefs. Along with many others, I had argued at the time that it was mathematically impossible to enrich oneself by donating, despite widespread public suspicions that tax avoidance was a major motive behind philanthropy.

So thank god for the news, reported in Third Sector, that the attempt to defraud the tax system and damage the image of philanthropy has failed.

But it is still an awful shame that this story was not nipped in the bud the moment it surfaced. The Charity Commission’s statement that it was “not comfortable” with the set up is hardly the kind of firm regulation we need to ensure public confidence in giving and philanthropy.

I hope the Times gives equal, front-page coverage to the news that this scam has failed – otherwise our chances of growing a stronger culture of philanthropy in the UK will become that bit more remote.

The Secrets of Fundraising Success

Happy New Year!

2013 is going to be a good year for lots of reasons. But the one I’m thinking about today is that I’ll soon be starting a new project on the art of fundraising, kindly funded by the Leverhulme Trust,

The main reason that people give money to charity is because someone asks them to – but despite an increasing body of research into donors, we know next to nothing about those who do the asking. My 3-year study will examine the finest  volunteer and paid staff fundraisers in the country to try and work out what it is they do and say that makes this magic transaction happen.There’s an article about my study here on the ESRC website if you want to know more.

I don’t get going on this study until May, but couldn’t resist an invitation from the good people at Civil Society, who publish Fundraising magazine, to write this column about the ‘secret ingredients’ to fundraising success. The article is published today and contains not just the results of a survey of fundraising directors but  a joke too. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fundraising pearls of wisdom – and all for free

I’m an avid follower of the Institute of Fundraising’s LinkedIn discussion pages. If you have even a passing interest in how fundraising works, and the issues that challenge people trying to raise money for good causes, then I recommend taking a  look. It’s worth joining the Institute of Fundraising just to get access to this resource.

One particularly impressive feature is the fabulous, free advice given by the titans of the fundraising profession to anyone who asks. Just this morning someone asked for help, clearly struggling to bring in the money her cause needs. Her question was: ‘How big does a fundraising team need to be to make it effective?’ Giles Pegram (of NSPPC Full Stop campaign fame, which raised £250m), immediately gave this frank and comprehensive reply, which is worth quoting in full:

I said at the beginning of this topic (How big does a fundraising team need to be to make it effective) that my answer is ‘one’, and I still believe it. I presume your finances are in a bad way, or you would appoint a full time fundraiser. Take your Trustees and donors with you.

First, concentrate on researching and then crafting applications to 20 Trusts and Foundations. That will give you some quick money. Which you can use to appoint a full-time fundraiser. 

Secondly, write to all your donors, and lay out your position clearly. Ask them to become regular givers at £2 a month. ( I assume there is someone in finance who could help with this ), or give a cah gift, and at the same time invite them to an open day, in your offices to hear from the CEO. Less than 10% will come, but the others will appreciate being asked. Be totally honest with them. 

Thirdly, set up a stewardship scheme for all your supporters. Write to them regularly about your work. From time to time ask if they would like to upgrade their regular gift ? become a regular giver, or give a cash gift. Connect them with the cause 

Fourthly, ask your Trustees for help. Get them, at least to invite their conacts to the open day. They are responsible for the financial stability of the Charity. And, get them to form a fundraising sub-committee to help. 

By now, you must have raised enough to appoint a full time, experienced fundraiser, who can do a proper audit, and create a longer term plan. I said at the beginning, my answer was ‘ one ‘ and I still believe it.

People normally have to pay a lot of money to get advice from people with a fraction of the experience of someone like Giles. The Institute should be congratulated for facilitating this excellent mentoring, and the more people who take advantage of this opportunity, the better our asking culture will become.

More Million Pound Donors but fall in total value of their donations

I’ll blog properly soon about the latest Million Pound Donors Report, released today. But for now here’s the press release:

The annual Coutts Million Pound Donor Report, released on 10 December and produced in association with the Centre for Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice (CPHSJ) at the University of Kent, has found a record total of 232 separate ‘million pound or more’ philanthropic donations made by individuals, trusts and corporations in the UK during 20010/11.

This is the largest total identified by the report in any one year since the study began in 2008, up by 58 donations compared to last year. There has also been a big increase in the number of million pound donors, with 130 different donors identified, up from 73 the previous year (this includes individuals, charitable trusts, foundations and corporations, some of whom made more than one donation worth £1 million or more).

The total value of these donations was £1.241 billion. This is lower than the total value recorded in previous years, down from £1.312 billion in last year’s report, which covered donations made in 2009/10.

More than half of the million pound donations made in 2010/11 were donated by 93 individual donors, with a total value of £763 million. Living individuals therefore continue to be the most significant source of the largest donations.

Higher Education, Arts and Culture and International Development remain the most popular destinations for the largest gifts amongst both individual and institutional donors. But support for environmental causes increased in 2010/11, and all types of charities attract some support from million pound donors.

This annual report, which is now in its fifth year of publication, tracks size, scale and recipients of donations worth £1m or more from individuals, trusts and corporations in the UK and is illustrated with a number of case studies of donors and recipients, who discuss their experience.

The Coutts report also finds that despite the fall in the overall value of ‘million pound donations’, the amount that went directly to charities, rather than being ‘banked’ in foundations, increased from £631m to £747m, indicating a shift towards getting funds out onto the ‘front line’ to charities, many of which are struggling to raise funds from other sources.

One hundred and ninety-one organisations received million pound donations in 2010/11. This is far higher than the 154 recipients identified in 2009/10. The vast majority (166) received only one gift of this size. Organisations that received multiple million pound donations tended to be the oldest universities (notably Oxford and Cambridge) or national arts and cultural institutions.

As in every year that the report has been published, the most frequent size of donation is worth exactly £1m, indicating that ‘giving a million’ has both economic and psychological significance for donors, and is the size of gift that establishes a donor amongst the ‘top rank’ of UK philanthropists.

Dr Beth Breeze, of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and author of the report, said: ‘At a time when ordinary donors are finding it tough to maintain their support for charities, it is heartening to see those with a greater capacity to give are stepping up to the challenge in increased numbers. A seven-figure donation is obviously a major commitment, and it is not surprising that people start by making a gift of £1 million, rather than – say- £10 million. But experience shows that if donors feel their money is well spent, and that their contribution is appreciated and makes a tangible difference to the causes they care about, then they will continue to give at this level, and quite possibly increase their contributions. You very rarely meet an ex-philanthropist!

 ‘Before we started this annual study of million pound donations, there was no clear understanding of the scale, role and significance of the largest philanthropic acts in the UK. That was an important gap in our knowledge that needed filling, because we need a proper understanding of current levels of support in order to make robust plans for developing this much-needed source of income in the future. The data and analysis provided by the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent is helping charities, fundraisers and policymakers to build a decent knowledge base about major giving and gain a better understanding of the main trends in contemporary UK philanthropy, which should help the UK to develop a stronger culture of philanthropy.’

Maya Prabhu, Executive Director, Philanthropy Services at Coutts, said: ‘It’s extremely encouraging for the development of UK philanthropy to note that this is the highest number of donors and donations since we began compiling this report in 2008. Large scale philanthropy is on the increase and the more donors there are and the more they communicate about the benefits their philanthropy brings to society and what it means to them personally, the more it will grow and strengthen a new generation of philanthropists. 

‘Despite the scepticism suggesting that many large scale donors are simply looking to make the most of ‘tax breaks’ on offer, our experience, as backed up by this report, is that the reality is very different. Today, the majority of the philanthropists we meet are self-made individuals, many of whom have witnessed first hand the highs and lows of building a business, and on occasion, the possibility of losing everything. It’s a strong desire to make a contribution to the world that has afforded them so many opportunities, whilst also enriching their own lives, their families and the lives of others that we see as the main driver for their philanthropy.’ 

The Coutts Million Pound Donor Report has been published annually since 2008, all five reports are freely available online here.

If anyone would like a hard copy of the 2012 report, please email me at b.breeze(at)

Philanthropy, Fairness and Democracy

The past year has been a turbulent one for philanthropy in the UK.

Whilst progress has been made in doing more to celebrate and encourage those who give away some of their private wealth to promote the public good, the repercussions of last Spring’s Budget continue. The proposal to impose a cap on charity tax relief was announced, roundly criticised, and eventually (and thankfully) dropped. But the pain it caused to philanthropists, who found themselves labelled as tax dodgers and accused of contributing to ‘dodgy charities’, goes on. Earlier this week when the topic came up in a roomful of donors, the emotional impact was apparent. A man who has given generously to a range of causes said he was ‘apoplectic’, and in fact seemed to still be in a state of apoplexy.

So at a time when the motives of philanthropists and the purpose of philanthropy is under such scrutiny,  it is welcome that this year’s Attlee lecture focused on this very topic. Sir Stuart Etherington’s lecture, called Philanthropy, Fairness and Democracy is well worth a read. Here’s the concluding paragraph to whet your whist:

Society is a better place thanks to the altruism and reciprocity of us all: rich and poor, young and old, donors of time and money. And whatever the weaknesses inherent in philanthropy and voluntarism, the value and values they bring mean we should nurture and celebrate them. 

The wonderful world of fundraising, plus another grumble

Just a quickie today, more to draw attention to what someone else has written than to share anything original from my desk. But with an added complaint as bonus material.

I enjoyed this blog on ‘Fundraising around the World’ by Jenna Pudelek at Third Sector magazine. The description of the successful launch of face-to-face fundraising in the poor country of Nicaragua is a real one-in-the-eye for those who moan about people asking for money for good causes in this wealthy country.

For the purposes of balance, an item in today’s Civil Society Media (still known as Professional Fundraising to most of us) annoyed me, for a similar reason to the item in Third Sector magazine that I wrote about in my last blog.

It is incredibly frustrating when the media (especially the charity sector media who ought to know better) focus on costs to the exclusion of taking an interest in outcomes and impact. Last time my complaint was an excessive focus on the cost of charity re-brands, and today it’s an otherwise nice article about a new legacy campaign from the Red Cross, which contains this sentence:

While he wouldn’t be drawn on the cost of the campaign, Jacques said that: “For the British Red Cross, this is a significant investment.”

Too right he wouldn’t be drawn on the costs – but I bet he’d have been willing to have a discussion about the projected return on investment.

Come on charity sector media – leave this sort of nonsense to the tabloids and write articles that reflect the reality of running professional organisations in the 21st century.


The real cost of headlines about charity re-brands

Today’s Third Sector carries an article about a re-brand of a major UK charity. The headline is:

Institute of Cancer Research launches £187k rebrand

This is not a neutral headline – it’s a ‘Hey did you hear how much a charity supported by little old ladies and schoolkids has spent on crazy designer people?’.

I normally don’t read this kind of article as it makes my blood boil. But today I clicked to read it and my blood boiled at an even higher temperature when I read, buried underneath the insinuation that honest folks’ money has been wasted, the following sentence:

[ICR] provided the first convincing evidence that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer, laying the foundation for the now universally accepted idea that cancer is a genetic disease.

So let’s get this right – it’s a really good charity with proven impact that decided it needed to spend some money on a new logo to raise its profile and attract more donors? Hold that front page….

I look forward to future articles on how much the NSPCC dares to spend on heating its offices, and how much the  Royal British Legion wastes on paying people to answer the phone.

Our sector is held back by assumptions that it’s possible to run cutting-edge organisations without spending a penny on anything other than core costs. And the newspaper that leads coverage of our sector ought to know better than to spread insinuations that reputable charities are wasting donors’ money. Shame on you Third Sector!

How paying tax differs from giving to charity

The debate about the relationship between taxes and philanthropy was opened up by this year’s Budget and its (thankfully) ill-fated proposal to cap tax reliefs on major donations.

But whilst that proposal went away, the important issues it pushed to the forefront about the nature of the difference between paying tax and making voluntary contributions remain pertinent but so far unanswered.

A US commentator, Mark Rosenman, has written this interesting piece about these issues in his country. He notes that research shows when taxes go down, there is no concomitant rise in donations, and he also notes that philanthropically-funded institutions do not meet the same needs or serve the same people as those that democratically elected governments tend to prioritise.

Mark’s piece may be – as ever – about the US but it contains many interesting points for those of us in the UK who are concerned about similar issues, and is well worth a read.

Rich ghettos deplete generosity

Fascinating new research from the US finds that living in rich-only enclaves rather than in mixed income communities is related to lower levels of philanthropy.

The study was conducted by specialist US newspaper The Chronicle of Philanthropy (how I wish we had a UK equivalent!), which cross-checked giving patterns with zip codes (postcodes). The article about the study is here, and this is the finding that jumped out at me:

Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a ZIP code, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for all itemizers earning $200,000 or more.

It looks like gated communities don’t just keep out the riff raff – they close the gates on generosity too.

Views from the receiving end of charity

After a media launch with a comment piece in the Guardian last week, we spent today mailing out copies of our new report User Views on Fundraising to everyone we could think of who might like a copy.

It’s tricky doing such mail outs, trying to balance the potential of clogging up someone’s doormat with unwanted mail versus leaving someone else’s bookshelf bereft of a report they’d find interesting. If we got it wrong and you’d like a hard copy then please just drop me a line at b.breeze(at)

The report presents and discusses the findings of 5 focus groups held around the UK with young people living in homeless hostels. In the light of suggestions that some fundraising materials amount to ‘poverty porn’, using exploitative pictures of beneficiaries to secure donations, we wanted to find out how those depicted feel about the images used in fundraising campaigns.

We found that this group of charitable beneficiaries were largely supportive of whatever methods raise the most money, but they also expressed a preference for fundraising imagery that elicits empathy and ‘tells stories’ about how people find themselves in need of charitable assistance, rather than pictures that provoke pity and depict them at their lowest ebb.

Please do take a look at the Guardian article which summarises the findings, and at the full report itself. And do let us know what you think.


U-turn is the best Jubilee gift for charities

Yesterday the Chancellor announced he would not proceed with the proposed limits on tax reliefs for charitable donations. This was a surprising, yet deeply welcome move. Despite the proposal being unworkable, unfair, uninformed by evidence, and opposed by a unique coalition of donors, charities and public opinion – the government seemed unlikely to pursue the only ‘U’ anyone wanted: a full U-turn.

In the ten weeks since this proposal was first announced in the March Budget, the mood music from the Treasury has shifted from insulting (“philanthropists are tax dodgers”) to intransigent (“this will happen”) and finally to face-saving (“how can we fix this without looking bad”). The desire to save face and avoid a politically-dreaded U-turn, made a watered-down version of the original proposal seem the most likely outcome. So yesterday’s announcement was a welcome bombshell – the best Jubilee gift for all those reliant on raising funds from the rich.

Language Matters: do we ‘manage’ or ‘respect’ our donors?

Yesterday I enjoyed taking part in a lively online discussion organised by the Guardian newspaper’s Voluntary Sector Network. The topic was ‘Managing Major Donors’ and a good panel of experts was assembled to field questions on this topic, which is of increasing importance to charities up and down the country.

Over two hours, we addressed issues such as how to initiate relationships with people who have the potential to make major gifts, how individuals differ from corporate donors, and the extent to which impact reporting matters. The transcript of the whole discussion is available here and I hope it makes useful reading for people looking for advice in this area.

But all through the session I had a niggling worry about the title. Do the generous, wealthy people who choose to share their resources (including money, time and expertise) with good causes really want – or expect – to be ‘managed’ by the charities they support? This is part of a wider problem of the language used in the fundraising profession, whereby anyone we hope might support us becomes a ‘prospect’, who is then put into a ‘prospect pipeline’ and invited to ‘cultivation events’ before becoming a donor who is ‘managed’ or ‘key worked’.

One of the worst examples I heard was a senior fundraising consultant say – in front of a seriously major donor – ‘how can we extract more funds from people like X?’ Extract? Are we taking out teeth or inviting people to join us in creating a better world?

I am just as guilty of making flippant comments and using intemperate language, and was rightly put in my place a while back by a major philanthropist who gently suggested that perhaps we could all have a bit more respect when talking about the people who choose to use their private wealth to promote the public good.

So my mid-new year’s resolution is to stop saying things that I wouldn’t say if the donor could hear me. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has noticed a similar problem in their organisation.

Charity tax relief cap: what the politicians are saying

Nearly a month after the Chancellor dropped his bombshell in the Budget, announcing a cap on tax reliefs for charitable donors, the House of Commons finally had a chance to discuss the matter in yesterday’s debate on the Finance Bill. Here’s an extract from the debate:

Rachel Reeves (Labour, shadow chief secretary to the treasury): …included in the Government’s definition of tax avoidance is tax relief for donations to charities including UNICEF, Macmillan Cancer Support, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Oxfam and many others. The fact that the Government cannot tell the difference between that and real tax avoidance shows how incompetent and out of touch they are.

Mrs McGuire (Labour MP): Does my hon. Friend agree that it might have been more appropriate for the Chancellor to discuss with the charity commissioners whether bogus charities were taking part in tax evasion schemes than to have come up with an ill-considered tax proposal?

Rachel Reeves: I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She is absolutely right: instead of the Government making up policy as they go along, without bothering to talk to anybody who is affected by it, they should have consulted the Charity Commission and the charities affected. The Press Association reports that the Government are doing a U-turn; perhaps we will get clarification on that from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, if he is bothering to listen to anything that is being said this afternoon. Will he confirm what the PA says—that there is a U-turn on charities tax relief? The fact is that nobody knows: the Government and the Prime Minister do not seem to know what is happening with their own policy, and we have had no clarification in the House this afternoon.

Charlie Elphicke (Tory MP) rose 

Rachel Reeves: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has a clue what is going on with the Government’s policy on charities tax relief.

Charlie Elphicke: It is clear that we should crack down on tax avoidance, but I want to know whether the hon. Lady is serious about doing so. Will she condemn the tax avoidance of people such as Ken Livingstone, or is this just more crocodile tears from the Labour party?

Rachel Reeves: We are serious about cracking down on tax avoidance, but tax avoidance is not the same as giving donations to UNICEF, Macmillan nurses, the Red Cross, the National Trust and thousands of charities in this country that rely on the money they get to do their important work, often supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society. If the Government cannot tell the difference between tax avoidance and doing the right thing and supporting valuable charity work, it shows the extent to which they have lost their grip on reality.

Mr Ben Wallace (Tory MP): Does the hon. Lady agree that before people give money to charity, they must also fund their obligation to society? They must do that first, before they start funding charity.

Rachel Reeves: If the hon. Gentleman extended that logic, there would be no tax relief for giving to charities. I am not sure if that is what the Government are proposing. People who give money to charities should be supported. We have heard a lot from the Prime Minister about the big society, but all those words about philanthropy and giving seem to have gone out of the window. It would be interesting to know whether the Chief Secretary thinks he has performed a U-turn this afternoon in the Chamber, as is being reported.

As the British Red Cross said, “Not only is such a measure at odds with the Government’s own announced agenda of increasing and facilitating philanthropy, it would reduce our ability to achieve our charitable objectives and reduce our help to people in a crisis.” Is that really what the Government intended when they announced these changes to tax relief in the Budget? Indeed, after the performance of the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury on the radio this morning, it seems that, along

with “expansionary fiscal contraction” and “we’re all in this together”, the latest casualty from the Conservative lexicon is the big society.

Christopher Pincher (Tory MP): Earlier the hon. Lady was extolling the virtues of the United States. She will know that even the US, which is possibly the most philanthropic society in the world, has a cap in place on philanthropic donations, so is she opposed to the principle of what the Government are doing, or does she accept that there is a role for a cap?

Rachel Reeves: In the US there is much more generous tax relief for legacies, for example, so it is a very different tax system. In many ways it is more generous than the system in this country. What I would like to see is policy being made in the proper way, which is by consulting the people who will be affected by it—consulting the charities, which stand to lose tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of pounds and which do such good work. Like the Red Cross, they say that their ability to do their work will be hampered by the changes in tax relief. That consultation should have happened before, rather than after, the Government’s policies were announced and the financial changes to Treasury revenues were introduced.

Calling people who give to charities tax dodgers, as this Government imply, and referring to charities as dodgy, when those charities include Macmillan, Red Cross, UNICEF and Oxfam, is unhelpful. If the Government truly want to increase giving, the language should be tempered and people who try to do the right thing and support worthwhile causes should be encouraged, not insulted, for what they do.

7 days is a long time in philanthropy

Just over a week ago, I was relaxing after giving one of the final lectures on my ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ course, anticipating the chance to get out and enjoy the sunny weather. Readers, I was wrong. That afternoon, George Osborne gave his Budget and dropped the bombshell of a new cap on all personal tax reliefs.

If the sun has shone since that fateful day, I would’t know about it (though I haven’t put in nearly as many hours as the heroic Karl Wilding at NCVO who launched the GiveItBackGeorge campaign before Osborne had sat down).

Unlike colleagues who immediately understood this was madness and all efforts had to be immediately activated to stop it, I originally thought it was just a mistake. Given the iron core of pro-philanthropy sentiment running through this government, they couldn’t possibly mean to include charity reliefs in the cap, and as soon as they realised their mistake they’d issue a clarification and we could all go back to sunbathing. Reader, I was very wrong again.

When Third Sector magazine reported HMRC had confirmed they did indeed mean to include charity reliefs, my heart sank even further and I realised the extent of the battle now being faced by everyone who cares about promoting a philanthropic culture in this country.

For now, the focus is on doing the maths and explaining the complex issue of tax reliefs in as simple a way as possible, to prove that this cap will hurt charities and their beneficiaries. Everybody’s brain is aching – mine more than most as I don’t count numeracy amongst my limited range of skills. So three cheers for Rhodri Davies of the Charities Aid Foundation, who has written this superb blog containing worked-out examples of the impact of the Budget measures on giving. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

For those of us who are tired, innumerate and still reeling with disbelief, there is something we can do that doesn’t involve being as clever as Rhodri or as irrepressible as Karl: Click onto this page right now and back the GiveItBackGeorge campaign.


Are donors really giving all they can?

The headline in yesterday’s Third Sector news made depressing news: ‘Almost half of donors are giving all they can, says Institute of Fundraising survey’. Really? Do monthly gifts of £11 (the median monthly donation reported in UK Giving 2011) really represent around half the nation at full altruistic stretch? Is it true that so many of us can afford 37p a day and not a penny more, to support all the good work being done by charities up and down the country and around the world? Surely not. Fortunately, things are unlikely to be as clear cut as the headline suggests.

For a start – and it’s not the IoF’s fault as they presumably didn’t write the headline – it should have read: ‘Almost half of donors claim that they are giving all they can’. There is a big difference, because this is attitudinal rather than behavioural research, based on what people say about what they do, don’t do, might do, won’t do – rather than research into reportable actions and tangible behaviours. Attitudinal research is notoriously inaccurate as there is a great gulf between thinking and doing.

As an interesting anti-market research argument notes: it’s widely accepted that what people say they’ll do is often very different from what they actually do. Observational research – watching what consumers do and analysing their behaviour – yields more useful data. In this case, donors might think they have nothing to spare, but the year-on-year increase in funds raised by many charities tells a different story. When faced with a persuasive ask, made  by a credible and trustworthy organisation, it turns out people can dig a little deeper.

Just look at the money that will come flooding in this weekend to Sport Relief – times are still tough post-recession, and the government’s cuts are starting to hurt, but the fundraising genius’ at Sport Relief will undoubtedly generate yet another impressive sum.


Turning the anti-philanthropy media tide?

The Guardian newspaper is my paper of choice, and read by pretty much everyone that I know and like. I met my husband with the help of the Guardian Soulmates service, and a highlight of last summer was our son’s joke being published in the Guardian kids page. So it’s fair to say that the Guardian is the most significant brand in my life and the one aspect of living in the UK I miss the most when I can’t get my daily fix.

But no relationship is perfect, and that paper’s coverage of philanthropy has long been the imperfection I’ve put up with in return for getting a reliable update on what’s going on in the world, and for the joy of reading my favourite columnists (thank you Tim, Lucy, Hadley, Zoe). If you don’t agree, or never noticed, that the Guardian has it in for generous rich people, here’s two particular low points in their coverage of philanthropy:

(1) Michelle Hanson’s barbed response to news that Bill Gates was committing over $30 billion to good causes:

“Bill Gates is giving millions [sic] to charity. So? Why not? What else could he possibly do with all his money except coat himself in treacle and roll in banknotes?” (28/11/06).

(2) Simon Jenkins’ comment on Warren Buffett’s decision to add another $30+ billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“when the world’s second-richest man gives most of his money to the world’s richest man, we do well to count our spoons” (28/06/06).  (If anyone can tell me what he means, I’d be glad to hear it).

So the broadly positive article on philanthropy, published  in yesterday’s Guardian, asking why the UK public is so suspicious of philanthropists, was a very welcome novelty. Granted, I’m quoted in it a few times – that’s nice and good for our university ‘impact’ scores – but I am genuinely delighted to see someone (thank you Jon Henley) make the argument that it’s time to cheer, rather than jeer, at wealthy people who decide to use some of their private wealth for the public good.

Plenty of fellow Guardian readers disagree, as the comments beneath the online version of the article make clear. But as Jenkins might say: when the world’s best newspaper provokes the world’s best readership, we do well to count our spoons.

Best Books on Corporate Philanthropy

I love being asked to recommend books, in fact one of the favourite parts of my job is writing book reviews and brief notices of new books and reports on the Philanthropy UK website.

The last time someone asked me to recommend a book came via Twitter, and as it’s not really possible to say much in 140 characters, I thought I’d write a blog about it instead.

The very personable and knowledgable Caroline Fiennes asked a few fellow tweeters ‘What’s the best thing you’ve ever read about corporate philanthropy?’. My answer is below – it’s the reading list for a lecture on corporate philanthropy that I’ll be giving next month, as part of a new course on ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ within a new Masters degree in Civil Society Studies at the University of Kent. If I had to pick a top 3, I’d go for Burlingame & Young, Sargeant and Jay and either Friedman for provocation or Emerson Andrews for a more thoughtful approach.

I’d be delighted to hear if anyone else agrees, disagrees, or has other books to suggest.


Best books on Corporate Philanthropy

Dwight Burlingame and Dennis Young (1996) Corporate Philanthropy at the Crossroads Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Thomas W. Dunfee (2011) The Unfulfilled Promise of Corporate Philanthropy in Illingworth, P., Pogge, T. and Wenar, L. (eds) Giving Well: The ethics of philanthropy. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Frank Emerson Andrews (1992) Corporate Giving. Rutgers, NJ: Transaction publishers

Milton Friedman ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its profits’ in New York Times magazine

Kym Madden and Wendy Scaife (2008) Corporate Philanthropy: Who gives and why?’ in Sargeant, A. and Wymer, W. (eds) The Routledge Companion to Nonprofit Marketing. London: Routledge

Valerie Morton (2002) Corporate Fundraising (3rd edition). London: Directory of Social Change

Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay (2010) Fundraising Management: Analysis, planning and practice. London: Routledge (chapter 11 Corporate Fundraising)

UK Donors to watch in 2012

I love a challenge, so I couldn’t resist it when Martin Brookes asked me to name the UK equivalent of the US ‘donors to watch in 2012’ list. Here goes:

1. Jamie and Chris Cooper-Hohn – the hedge fund couple who have so far put £1bn into their Childrens’ Investment Fund Foundation, have been on the receiving end of some criticism for not distributing it fast enough. But in the 2011 Million Pound Donors Report, seven of the donations came from this philanthropic power couple, and it seems likely their momentum will only increase. Impact and transformation are the key words for the Cooper-Hohns. When Jamie was profiled in the 2008 edition of the £M Donors Report, she said, “When we give million pound grants,it is definitely an investment and not a gift. We want to know what the organisation will do in a really big and meaningful way that it wouldn’t have done otherwise”.

2. John Stone – not a very well-known name yet, but another philanthropist taking a slow and steady approach who seems on the verge of spending big. His Stone Family Foundation now holds over £40m  and last year made grants to a wide range of charities, from just £2k to almost half a million pounds. John has received advice from both New Philanthropy Capital and Coutts, and told the 2011 £M Donors Report: “It has taken me five years to scale up my philanthropy… I wanted to be sure that my money would be put to the best possible use and have the biggest impact on those I chose to help. It does take time to give strategically in this way, but I believe it is better to proceed slowly and carefully to ensure that philanthropic donations are committed wisely”.

3. HSBC – I choose a bank rather than an individual because HSBC are at the forefront of providing a new way of giving in the UK, through the ATM or ‘hole in the wall’ cash machines. Whilst it may take some time for people to think about this transaction as an opportunity to give money away, rather than take it out, it undoubtedly has the potential to become a major new giving vehicle, given the ubiquity of ATMs on every high street. Interestingly, the six charities named on the ATM screen are selected by a democratic vote open to all HSBC staff. As the selections are only reviewed every two years, smart charities will no doubt be looking to make their case for inclusion in the next round.

4. Instead of an individual, my 4th suggestion is ‘the next generation’, as the children of some of the UK’s big philanthropic names are now coming to the forefront as trustees, spokespeople and decisions-makers for their family foundations. For example Anita Roddick’s children, Justine and Sam, have a controlling role in their mother’s £50m+ charitable legacy. The large philanthropic Sainsbury family now has 17 charitable trusts and foundations, some controlled by supermarket heirs in their 20s and 30s. And the next generation are now running the Wates Family Foundation, as patriarch Andrew Wates told the 2011 £M Donors Report: “Many of the applications are being initiated by the family members themselves. It has been a real joy to see the participation of the next generation in our family philanthropy. They are now running it and it gives me tremendous satisfaction to see that”. As in most families, the younger Sainsburys, Roddicks and Wates are likely to have different interests and concerns than their parents, but how much do any of us know about who they are and what they care about?

5. My 5th and final choice is even more abstract: the donors who are choosing to spend out the entire capital of their foundations, rather than distributing a percentage in order to follow the traditional model of existing in perpetuity. Whilst endowments are a good thing and the right way to fund certain causes, the ‘spend out’ model will hopefully be considered as an option by an increasing number of philanthropists whose causes require urgent and large investments, rather than slow and steady support. The idea of giving it all away in a defined time period is gaining popularity, not least since Bill & Melinda Gates adopted this strategy. In the UK a couple of useful reports have studied the phenomena, including one from the Institute for Philanthropy and from the Tubney Trust, which closes this year after spending £65m in the past decade and a half, leaving behind this valuable reflection on its experience. Might 2012 be the year to ask ambitious and impatient donors to ‘give it all away’ rather than asking for a tiny fraction of their philanthropic pie?

It’s been fun thinking about this question, I hope others will be inspired to disagree and suggest other names and types of donor.

What’s the point of the Million Pound Donors Report?

There’s only one question on people’s lips when we launch each new edition of the annual ‘Coutts Million Pound Donors Report’: “Who are they?” Instead of a 30 page document full of statistics and stories about mega-giving, we’d get a much better reception if we just distributed a piece of A4 listing names and addresses. But this is research, not prospect research – and there’s a significant difference between the two, that I have written about elsewhere. The purpose of the Million Pound Donors Reports is to shine a light on the scale, scope and importance of giving at this level and to lift the lid on the experience of both making and receiving 7 (or more)-figure gifts.

The 2011 report is the fourth edition, in which yet again we describe and discuss all that we have been able to discover about charitable donations worth £1 million or more, that were made by UK donors or given to UK charities in the preceding financial year. We always begin the report by admitting upfront that we’re sure to have missed some of these biggest donations and that our data is likely to under-estimate the true value of this largest level of philanthropy. No one has a duty to report their involvement in a million pound charitable transaction, and they can be tricky to track down if they’re made anonymously, or have not appeared in an identifiable form on the public record. Nor does our report include very big donations that fall below the lower threshold of £1 million, so we cannot claim to capture all instances of significant giving, as gifts of £10,000 – £999,999 are still of great importance to the causes they benefit. But we do maintain that ‘million pound donations’ remain a useful unit of analysis because – to borrow the phrase of a donor mentioned in the 2011 report – giving a “one-er” is economically, culturally and psychologically significant to all concerned. It is the size of gift that establishes a donor amongst the ‘top rank’ of UK philanthropists.

The most recent report, launched in December 2011, covers gifts made in 2009/10 and finds that this top rank is somewhat depleted. There were decreases in both the number of separate occasions on which million pound donations were made (we found 174, compared to 201 the previous year) and in the cumulative value of these donations, which were worth £1.312 billion, compared to £1.548 billion for the preceding twelve month period. In other respects the data shows remarkable stability – Higher Education continues to be the favoured cause, almost half (44%) are worth under £2m, just 10% are worth £10m or more, and a larger fraction (52%) is ‘banked’ into charitable trusts or foundations for distribution at a later date, rather than given directly to front-line or operational charities for spending in the nearer future.

But – as anticipated – most media coverage of the report was dominated by the change (for which, read: decline) in the headline figures, despite our efforts to emphasise that it’s not sensible to read too much into the year-on-year trends in a dataset of this size. If you don’t believe us, then we quote data guru Karl Wilding, Head of Research at NCVO who says:

“They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and it’s also true that one data point does not make a trend. The ups and downs in the number and value of million pound donations looks to me like the sort of natural undulation you would expect to find in this sort of dataset.”

So, what is the big story in the 2011 report, if it doesn’t reveal new names for fundraisers to pursue, nor offer a tale of doom and decline? I believe that the comparison with major giving in the US is the most interesting angle to emerge. The Million Dollar Donor List (now freely available on a swanky website charts gifts of $1m+ by calendar year, and finds a drop from $12.87 billion in 2008, to $4.97 billion in 2009 and $4.44 in 2010. That drop of more than a half far outstrips the UK’s dip of 15% – which is surely good news for a country that constantly compares itself unfavourably to the philanthropy of our Transatlantic cousins?

The whole 2011 report is available here on the University of Kent website  – please take a look, let me know what you think, and feel free to give feedback so we can improve the 2012 edition.

FT coverage of 2011 Million Pound Donors Report

As the first coverage of our new report on donors making gifts worth £1m or more is hidden behind a paywall, I’ll paste it here – until someone tells me I have to take it down!


Donors say: give us more of a break

By Elaine Moore

Financial Times, Saturday 10th December 2011
The government hopes to encourage greater charitable giving by introducing tax incentives for donors – but wealth managers are unsure whether lower tax bills will reverse a decline in philanthropy.

Between the 2009 and 2010 tax years, the number of large donations of more than £1m fell by 15 per cent, according to the latest Million Pound Donors report from Coutts.

This fall “mirrors the general sentiment in the economy and financial markets in the year 2009/10”, the private bank says – and matches a similar fall in the US.

As a result, UK charities are facing new challenges. Multimillion pound donations still largely go to the same causes: universities and arts institutions. That leaves charities with less money to compete for, as the value of large donations has also fallen from £1.5bn to £1.3bn in the space of a year. And their funding is running out sooner, as the time that individuals take to make a decision about giving has increased.

To boost the depressed level of donations, the government has confirmed plans to introduce a lower rate of inheritance tax (IHT) for charitable donors.

As of April 6 2012, a new 36 per cent rate of IHT – down from 40 per cent – will apply to those who leave at least 10 per cent of their estates to charity.

This tax rate will apply to the remainder of their estates – including jointly-owned property and some trust assets.
However, the complexity of implementing the rules could limit its impact, say tax advisers.
Law firm Boodle Hatfield points out that the new inheritance tax rule will apply to just 3 per cent of estates. Other advisers, including PwC, have therefore asked whether there is a simpler way to encourage the wealthiest members of society to increase their giving.

Some have called for the introduction of “charitable remainder trusts” in the UK – a form of tax relief available to US donors who promise to give away an asset to charity after death. So far, there has been no positive response from the government, but advisers believe the possibility remains open.

Philanthropy offices in Britain’s private banks agree that favourable tax treatment alone will not change the culture.
Research in the government’s philanthropy green paper, published last year, reveals the scale of the gap between levels of UK and US philanthropy. In the UK, individuals give on average 0.5 to 0.8 per cent of their investable assets to charity. In the US, investors give up to 3.5 per cent of their annual assets.

Coutts says this is partly due to the tradition of charitable donations, differing tax systems and the sophistication of US fundraising schemes.

Several high-profile individuals are now trying to promote philanthropy in the UK through a campaign titled Legacy 10.
Its aim is to persuade the wealthiest members of society to leave at least 10 per cent of their estates to charity.
Such “clubs” are already established in the US, where mega-donors – such as billionaire investor Warren Buffett – encourage their peers to donate half of their wealth in their lifetime. But the impact of the economic slowdown is expected to maintain downward pressure on giving.

“We think that, in the years directly after the financial crisis, donors were still honouring pledges they had made in the years preceding it,” says Beth Breeze from the Centre for Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice at the University of Kent. “Now we see donors approaching things a little differently.”

In straitened times, charities are becoming more imaginative in their approach to fundraising.
Social impact bonds, already used by public institutions to raise money from private investors, are being utilised by the charity sector to gain revenue.

Scope, the disabilities charity, has entered capital markets with a £20m bond issue on the Luxembourg-based Euro MTF stock market, designed to pay for new retail and fundraising operations.

“The charity bond programme operates in a similar way to the corporate bond products,” says Geoff Burnand at Investing for Good, which set up the bond.

“Charities using the programme will be able to issue tranches of debt at varying amounts, maturity dates and coupon rates which gives them certainty over their cost of funds and away from dependencies on irregular donation flows.”

Government “matching” schemes have also proved successful. Support for higher education was boosted by a scheme that promised to match any contribution from an individual to a university.

Some of my best friends are prospect researchers, but…

I’m not a fan of confrontation but I recently felt the need to pick a fight with those people who knock fundraising research and say things like “why not just give all the money to charity instead of spending it on researching fundraising?” So I emailed Stephen Cook, editor of Third Sector magazine, and asked if I could write an article about this. He kindly said yes, and I felt much better once I’d got it off my chest. Time trundled on and now here we are a few weeks later and today my comment piece was published here.

I must admit to being a bit worried about the reaction because I’d trotted out a few cliches about academics (self-indulgent, long-winded, inscrutable) and I’d suggested there’s a difference between ‘prospect research’ and ‘proper research’. The crux of my argument is in this para:

Research into fundraising will always leave fundraisers feeling dissatisfied because, however much their heads are interested in the bigger picture, what their heart really desires is the names and addresses of sure-fire donors. It’s even worse in face-to-face encounters. Me: “I research philanthropy.” Other: “Oh good, do you know anyone who’ll give me some money for this wonderful project?” Me: “No, but we could talk about how life experiences affect giving patterns.” Other: “???”

It’s a good job I’m not a fan of confrontation because it turns out I’m pretty hopeless at picking fights. No one is offended, plenty seem to agree and lots of people have emailed and tweeted approving comments. Best of all, my invitation to give a talk at the Prospect Researchers conference in London next month has not been rescinded (yet).

‘Thankyou’ is not the hardest word

Today I finally heard some common sense from the Manchester gathering of Tories, as Ed Vaizey MP told his party conference that charity chief executives have to roll their sleeves up and get properly involved in the tough but essential job of raising the funds that keep their organisations going.

It reminded me of an American I met when working at the Institute for Philanthropy, who told me about a dinner party in London where it seemed more acceptable to discuss the BO of the person she was sat next to, than to ask them about their charitable giving.

The British cultural problem with money encompasses donations as well as earnings, and extends to the most curious places, including the colleagues of fundraisers who manage to persuade themselves that raising the income to keep the charity going (never mind to keep their salaries being paid) is not their job and therefore nothing to do with them. I remember asking a colleague for help with approaching a tricky but valuable prospect – he refused, despite agreeing it sounded a tough job, and offered the sage advice: “but hey, that’s fundraising!” I made a mental note that not a penny of any income raised from that source should be used for his projects!

Sadly Mr Vaizey went on to rather spoil his message by churning out the usual nonsense about charities being useless at thanking and recognising donors. I’m sure a few are, but on the whole charities (or more to the point, their fundraisers) work extremely hard to ensure that donations are promptly and properly acknowledged, and donors are thanked in as proper and personal way as funds allow. But it’s one of those classic damned if you do/don’t scenarios – for every donor who feels unappreciated by their chosen charity, there’ll be another who thinks its a horrendous waste of money to be sent any sort of follow-up communication after their gift.

I simply don’t believe that none of the charities supported by Mr Vaizey have failed to engage or thank him, and I wish he had balanced his remarks by sharing examples of good donor care. These are tough times for charities and we need helpful policy support, not populist, crowd-pleasing posturing.

Media friendly or media tart?

Now I’ve been back from maternity leave for a few weeks, it’s time to get into the swing of one of the best bits of my job – media work. I always prefer writing 800 words of lively prose for a general educated audience over writing a 5,000 word academic paper for a Journal, which will be read by a handful of people (at least half of whom know in advance they don’t agree with me) – even if the latter will do far more to advance my career.

Not being shy of media coverage myself, I read with some trepidation a good blog post taking issue with academics who try to get their name all over the press, whether or not they know what they’re talking about or have the data to back up their positions.

Which makes me all the more hesitant to admit that I’m pleased to have a piece on today’s Guardian website about my recent research into how donors choose charities. I MUST try to get these findings published in a journal soon. But for today I shall enjoy what I believe is technically known as ‘impact’, otherwise known as ‘something to show your family to prove you do have a proper job’.

Media overload and the role of ‘disaster porn’

As others have noted, there is too much news at the moment. The current UK riots are the latest massive story to grab the headlines after a succession of other major incidents that would normally hold media and public attention for much longer. 2011  is the year in which developments of global significance happen simultaneously – the Eurozone crisis, the Norwegian massacres, the News International scandal and the American debt crisis, to name just four from recent days and weeks.

At huge risk of being lost in this superabundance of significance, is the drought in East Africa, where ten million people face starvation and tens of thousands of people have already died. Today’s Guardian reports that less money has been raised than for other recent major fundraising appeals run by the Disasters Emergency Committee, such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the Asian tsunami in 2004.

One reason offered for the inability of this humanitarian emergency to compete with the glut of other issues crowding the media agenda, is the absence of sufficiently compelling visual images from the crisis-hit area. Inaccessibility and safety concerns are preventing journalists from reaching the heart of the disaster area where they can produce TV footage and press photographs that conveys the full horror unfolding in east Africa. It seems that donors need visual proof, or at least visual prompts, to encourage them to reach for their wallets. Yet when such footage and photos are available, it can create concerns about the ethics of exploiting the suffering of those depicted, as effectively encapsulated in the term ‘disaster porn’.

So what are we to do? Use the pictures that are most likely to elicit the largest donations, or insist the dignity of potential beneficiaries is respected, even if that results in less successful fundraising?

We are exploring this tricky issue with a small study undertaken as part of our work within the ESRC Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy. Our research uses focus groups to find out what people who use the services of homelessness charities think about the images of homeless people that appear in fundraising materials. The interim findings, available here, suggest that the beneficiaries are more relaxed about the use of images than might be predicted. Participants do note that fundraising adverts are often too simple, using images of atypical homeless people, many of which look “fake” or “staged”, or use images that are too generic and fail to help donors understand to the issues surrounding homelessness. Yet our focus group  participants strongly viewed the maximisation of income as the most important outcome, and understood that the most powerful images may not be either educational or accurate. In the words of one young man:

“When you’re in the situation and you ain’t got no money of your own your ain’t got time to be judgemental, so if the organisations haven’t got their money in the first place to help you then the whole system breaks down, really and truly, Just get the money, hook or crook, y’know? “

Clearly there are important differences between domestic causes helping young adults, and international development charities helping the starving, including babies and children who cannot consent to the use of their images. But if the lack of effective imagery is indeed a key factor behind the slow start to the East Africa appeal, might that cause anyone to rethink their views on the dangers of using the most provocative pictures?

Why does the philanthropy sector ignore fundraisers?

Wonderful to spend time at the Institute of Fundraising convention last week. I bumped into lots of great colleagues and enjoyed hearing Adrian Sargeant, Joe Saxton, Bernard Ross and Glen Fendley give provocative talks at the Growing Philanthropy Summit.

Unfortunately my visit was cut short by being taken ill – huge thanks to all who helped me, especially Amanda Delew – a few days of tests shows it’s nothing too serious and I hope to be back out at events once I’ve got the problem under control.

From the few hours I was there, the comment that stuck with me was this seemingly innocuous remark: “Fundraisers raise £10 billion every year”.

Do they?

Do fundraisers raise money? Or do donors give money? Most of us see the fundraiser/donor relationship as two sides of the same coin, but recently the Institute has complained of a failure to acknowledge the role that fundraisers play in generating donations. Whether fundraisers raise funds or donors donate, is something I’ve written about in an earlier blog.Having begun my career as a fundraiser, I know that donations have to be inspired and collected as well as given. People are generous, but their altruistic impulses are often nurtured and sustained by the efforts of people working in fundraising departments.

But the philanthropy sector often forgets to acknowledge the role of the fundraising profession because donors so rarely attribute their gifts to any interventions by fundraisers. Donors describe an internal impulse to use their money to do something good. They talk about their passion for a cause, their empathy for beneficiaries and their desire to help. They don’t say “I only gave because s/he told me to”. As Alec Reed, one of the UK’s most loveable philanthropists says, in a case study in the 2009 Million Pound Donor Report, “most people prefer to buy than be sold to – a concept frequently applied in retail but almost unheard of in the charity world”.

I think Sir Alec is absolutely right. A couple of analogies that strike me: we all want double glazing in our homes but no one likes double glazing salesmen; and we’re obsessed with buying and selling houses but despise estate agents. It might be unfair and untrue to write fundraisers out of the picture, but so long as funds are raised does it really matter who gets the credit? It would be wonderful if, at the next Institute of Fundraising convention, it was acknowledged that donations are not just raised, they are given.

Learning to love ‘appalling’ and ‘quease-making’ philanthropists

Today is my first day back at work after a blissful 8 months of maternity leave. I’ll miss hanging out with little Meredith but am also delighted to be back in the wonderful world of philanthropy.

Towards the end of mat leave, this bliss was slightly punctured by coming across yet another anti-philanthropy rant in my newspaper of choice, the Guardian. Columnist Zoe Williams is not a fan of rich people giving their money away to good causes. She writes that philanthropy ‘appals‘ her and that philanthropists maker her feel ‘queasy‘. But the stand-out phrase for me is when she writes: “I object to high-net-worth philanthropy in principle”. What, all of it? Every instance of someone with resources choosing to use it to help others, rather than to help themselves?

I couldn’t resist firing off this letter to the Editor which also questions her assertion that “inequality is a precondition of this kind of lavish spending”. I think of ‘lavish spending’ as being about buying jewels or a massive yacht, rather than education for poor kids, but maybe that’s just me.

The problem with this sort of column is that regular use of words like ‘unpleasant’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘obscene’ to refer to rich donors, impacts on the decisions of the wealthy about whether, and how much, to give away. As Theresa Lloyd’s study of ‘Why Rich People Give’ shows in these quotes from potential donors:

“Why are the media nasty? They don’t do good news. They are snide and they pander to jealousy. The obituaries of philanthropists are nice but during their lifetime journalists dig. There’s nothing to be done” (Lloyd 2004, p.232)

“Reforming the press is a hopeless cause. We won’t be able to change their negative approach. You need to accept from the outset that whatever you do will be rubbished in newspapers” (p.234)

Many Guardian readers will have enjoyed Williams’ rant, because in the UK many people conflate ‘philanthropist’ and ‘tax dodger’, and make assumptions that all fortunes have dubious origins. Tell that to the recipients of Anita Roddick’s massive charitable legacy, who benefited from the wealth created by her ethically-sourced peppermint foot cream.

First day back at work and I’m already drafting plans for my next research project: ‘How can the UK learn to love philanthropists?’.

Jimi Heselden, multi-million pound philanthropist, R.I.P.

I was very sad to read about the untimely death of UK philanthropist Jimi Heselden, in a tragic accident yesterday.

Mr Heselden kindly agreed to appear in a case study in the 2009 Coutts Million Pound Donors report, to talk about his path from poverty to philanthropy.

He  had a fascinating story to tell of  a man who was born and brought up in a poor suburb of South Leeds (which is also my home city), and who wanted to give something back when he became a successful entrepreneur. He told me, “I feel a very strong connection to those parts of that city. I’m interested in giving other people a chance to get on in life”.

He also said, “when I make a decision, I like to act fast” and was more than true to his word. Within just 4 days of meeting the chief executive of the Leeds Community Foundation, he made an initial donation of £10m, and I’ve read that his total philanthropy has since exceeded £20m.

His case study ended with these words: “What’s most important to me is knowing that so far I’ve been able to help out 61 good projects in parts of Leeds that mean something to me, and knowing that the money I’ve got banked in the Community Foundation means I can carry on giving something back by supporting many more local projects in the future”.

It’s terribly sad that Jimi Heselden won’t be around to see the difference his generosity will make, but his decision to share a big chunk of his wealth will be felt far into the future and the ongoing impact of his philanthropy will hopefully bring some comfort to the loved ones he has left behind.

Does philanthropy enhance or replace government spending?

Good news over the weekend about John Sainsbury’s £25 million gift to the British museum. That is a seriously large donation by UK standards, from a man who has already committed many millions to good causes over the years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the climate of cuts, a common media angle has been to ask whether this type of philanthropy is about replacing or enhancing government spending. Today’s Guardian coverage quotes culture secretary Jeremy Hunt making a rather contradictory statement about the proper role of philanthropic donations. On the one hand Hunt, “insisted the government was not relying on private generosity to fill the gap left by cuts of more than 25% to the culture budget”. Yet in the same breath, “he said he wanted more philanthropists like John Sainsbury, 82, to bankroll institutions.”

No one can blame ministers – and indeed charity chief executives – for hoping that private donors will step up to plug the gaps created by the massive cuts to public spending that are soon to be announced. But the trouble with this hope is that it doesn’t square with how donors view the purpose of their donations. Donors have no interest in plugging gaps. They want their contribution to make something extra happen, something special that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible without their generosity. To end up millions of pounds worse off, only for the thing you fund to be maintained rather than enhanced, is not exactly a tempting offer for potential donors.

This point is further proved by the fact that John Sainsbury hasn’t given £25m to help with running costs. He is funding a new and exciting facility at the British Museum: an exhibition space and conservation centre designed by Lord Rogers. Fundraisers know that donors like to fund innovative and high profile projects that they can feel proud of being associated with. If government has even the vaguest hope that philanthropy is the answer to their prayers then they need to think again about who will pay the utility bills, the staff salaries and all the other expensive annual ‘core costs’ required to keep these organisations going.

A wizard of a £10m philanthropic gift

In today’s news we learn that Harry Potter author JK Rowling is giving £10 million to the University of Edinburgh to fund a new research clinic investigating Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as well as other degenerative neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease.

The clinic is to be named after her mother – The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic – who died from complications relating to MS at the age of 45. Interestingly, JK Rowling herself turns 45 this year, proving yet again that our philanthropic choices are directly linked to our autobiographies. As our recent research on How Donors Choose Charities illustrates, it is donors’ personal experiences, rather than objective assessments of needs, that are the prime drivers of giving and philanthropy in contemporary UK society.

It’s also interesting that this donation has been given to a university rather than to one of the MS charities. Our annual study of charitable donations worth £1m or more, finds that Higher Education Institutions are by far and away the most popular destination for these largest of gifts. Universities receive around 40% of the total value of ‘million pound donations’, a far larger slice of the philanthropic pie than any other type of beneficiary: the arts and culture sector receives just under 30%, international aid and development receive around 13% and no other cause is on the receiving end of more than 10% of the total value of £1m+ gifts.

In the 2009 edition of the report, we quote Joanna Motion from CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) who explains why universities are so popular amongst the richest donors. She says, “donors see universities as the places where we have the best chance of  tackling the big challenges facing society… They are robust, here for the long haul and used to managing large and complex projects”.

It appears that universities have the edge on charities in attracting the biggest donations because donors have more faith that their money will be well managed, well spent and result in meaningful impact. And that’s a magic combination for any type of donor, not just Harry Potter’s creator.

Fundraising is about raising money not changing behaviour

Nice to see New Philanthropy Capital’s blog about our research on How Donors Choose Charities, which argues that charitable giving is more often ‘taste based’ than ‘needs based’.

Jane Thomas, the author of the NPC blog post, raises an interesting question about what that finding means for fundraisers. She asks: “Does it mean that fundraisers should be putting more focus on tapping into donors’ personal preferences in their fundraising material, rather than pushing the message on ‘needs’? It ultimately raises the question of whether fundraisers should be looking to change behaviour, (ie, by getting donors to think more about need), or should be catering for existing behaviour (ie, focusing on donor’s passions and personal interests).”

My answer to her question is that it means the latter because the job of the fundraiser is to raise as much money as possible for their cause. Bringing about behavioural change amongst donors – and indeed the wider public – is important, but cannot be the responsibility of those charged with raising the funds to keep the charity going. When I worked as a fundraiser my targets were all financial, not behavioural. I don’t think the charity chief exec would have been overly impressed if I’d said, “sorry not to have raised enough money to cover our outgoings, but you’ll be glad to hear our supporters are thinking much more clearly about need”.

The next research project I’m working on is looking at another dimension of this problem. We’ve been running focus groups with charity users to ask their opinion on whether fundraising literature ought to use the most accurate and authentic images of beneficiaries, or ought to use the images most likely to raise the largest sums of money. On the whole, charity users seem to take a pragmatic approach. A typical comment being: “The money’s the main thing… If the organisations haven’t got their money in the first place to help you then the whole system breaks down… Just get the money, by hook or by crook”.

We’ll be presenting the interim findings of this research at the NCVO/VSSN conference, which takes place on the 6th & 7th September in Leeds. Further info about the conference is online here.

3 research projects, 2 deadlines and 1 baby

Summers are meant to be quiet times in universities but the pace of my work seems to have increased these past weeks. Two big reports are occupying my waking hours: Firstly, the 2010 edition of the Coutts Million Pound Donor report should be our best yet, not least because we have got more – and more substantial – case studies of those who give and receive donations worth £1m or more. Secondly, I’m working on a a study of university fundraising across all 27 members of the European Union. The deadline is the end of October and as my second baby is due in November, that deadline is pretty immovable!

I’m also still busy disseminating the findings from a recently-completed project on ‘How Donors Choose Charities’. The report is available online here and I wrote the briefest of summaries of the findings in a recent edition of Third Sector magazine – trying to condense over a year’s worth of research into a 300 word article is no mean feat.

I’ll be presenting the research in person on the 7th October at the Institute of Fundraising South East conference, which is being held at the Burford Bridge Hotel near Dorking. Further info and bookings can be made by emailing