A few weeks ago I read a blog musing on how charities fundraise in a consumer-driven environment. It suggested that charitable giving should be marketed as aspirational, as a lifestyle statement. The author is not part of the fundraising world, but he touched on the important question of how to make giving relevant to people who don’t necessarily connect with a cause.

A week or so later, I was chatting with a friend about her experiences of volunteering abroad. She cared a great deal about the communities in which she had worked, but felt frustrated by the experience of giving through the same organisations once she returned to the UK. She had lost that sense of personal involvement.

Earlier this week, I sponsored another friend who cycled from London to Brighton to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease. He and nine colleagues completed the 60-mile challenge as a tribute to their friend who recently died of the illness, and who was a keen cyclist.

Here are three very different accounts of people’s giving. The first raises questions to do with social standing and the idea of giving as a public act. The second illustrates that becoming a volunteer can be crucial in generating a real commitment to a cause. The third is an example of giving based on relationships; the colleagues’ relationship with the friend they lost, and mine with my friend undertaking the challenge.

Perhaps I’m noticing these differences more than usual at the moment because—after ten months’ work—we’re finally writing up the findings of our study into donor motivations, Money for Good. At our Impact Leadership Conference last month, we gave the first sneaky peek at some important differences between the reasons people give. Unlike a lot of research in this area, we asked people not only about their giving, but also about their general motivations and what matters in their lives, to see how the two interact.

The research is based on a survey of 3,000 respondents, the data of which has been used to create a segmentation of donors. The respondents included a substantial sample of higher income donors, which has provided some interesting insight into the type of donor that has the capacity to make a real difference to charitable contributions. And so we hope it will be a really useful resource for fundraising charities and others working in the sector in understanding what makes different donors tick.

We’ve been especially fascinated by findings surrounding the social norms for giving, satisfaction with charity performance, and the information donors use to make decisions… Keep your eyes peeled for the launch of the report in mid March to hear more!

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