Innovation In Giving

Money for Good

Jen Lexmond

Last Thursday Nesta hosted the launch of the UK’s largest ever survey into donor motivations. The research was conducted by New Philanthropy Capital and published in their report Money for Good.

A few of the key findings:

  • There is opportunity to increase the size of the pie. The UK public would give £665m— nine times as much as was raised by Comic Relief’s most recent Red Nose Day  —more to charity every year if organisations provided more information about the things they care about, such as how their money is spent and evidence of impact.
  • But the giving culture      in the UK is weak. Less than half of donors think people should      donate to charity if they have the means. This figure is based on a sample      of those who gave over £50 in the last year, which is only around four in      ten people in the total population. The sense of duty to donate may be      even lower in those who donate at a lower level or not at all.
  • Donors are loyal in      their key charity relationships. 70% of mainstream      donors have given for the last three years to the organisation where they      made their largest donation, and 90% intend to give to the same      organisation next year.
  • Donors care about      impact.      Three in five pay close or extremely close attention to how their donation      will be used. Donors say they pay little attention to being thanked for      their donation.

In addition to producing a range of findings about levels and approach to giving money and time, the researchers also developed a new segmentation model, crucially based on motivations to giving rather than standard demographic profiles. We know, for example, that it is a better starting point for designing a fundraising approach to ask ‘what do you care about more – giving to a cause you identify with, or knowing that your money is making the most impact possible?’ than it is to ask ‘what region of the UK do you live in, and what is your gender?’. Although there are some differences in giving according to demographics, it is likely that these differences originate from aggregate differences in motivation to give across these groups. The evidence suggests that segmentations will be more accurate if driven by data on motivations rather than demographics.

For me, the key outcome of the event was the clear consensus that we the success of this research is predicated on the successful application of findings into practice. Everyone recognised need for more experimentation – taking the segmentation model developed and making it live by using real donor data from charity fundraising teams to segment real donor populations, and creating new marketing materials that speak to the motivations and interests of each group. Taking an experimental approach to such work would allow us to quickly and cost effectively test new approaches to increasing giving. The trend towards open data will certainly help. For example, the cost of acquiring new users is coming down as available knowledge about users’ interests and attitudes increases through social media.

Social media also allows new approaches to targeting influential donors through network analysis, as Nick Mason, Head of Fundraising Strategy & Development at RNIB, shared on the panel in his response to the research findings. You could imagine designing a fundraising or volunteering strategy that targeted people at the centre of social networks – the social lynchpins you might say – using what we know about the power of peer suggestion in motivating giving and volunteering behaviour. If these central figures can be targeted accurately and effectively, they will exert their influence on the network around them, effectively taking on some of the work of generating new users that a traditional fundraising team would be responsible for.

At Nesta, our aims in delivering the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund, are to invest in, support and grow innovative ideas that bring about a step-change in levels of giving and exchange and which have a credible route to being self-sustaining in the longer term. A major part of our approach has been to bring about a greater understanding of what motivates people to give, testing that out on the ground through the work of our many awardees. We have particularly found the role of reciprocity & reward, personal networks, and collective social action important motivating factors in giving, as well as seeing a central role for technology in reducing barriers to giving and creating smoother giving journeys. The rigorous and wide-scale survey work that NPC has conducted brings an important additional perspective to the insights we have developed. We’ll be continuing to pursue ways to bridge the research and practice divide, making the findings as relevant and practical as possible for the charity sector.

A summary of social media activity around the launch can be found here.

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