Charity Support, Advice, Impact Measurement, Philanthropy Impact – NPC

Digging down into donor motivation

At NPC we are passionate about helping the voluntary sector achieve as much as it can; helping charities and funders make the biggest possible difference to the lives of the people they help. One of the ways we do this is by trying to get donors—especially wealthy donors with a lot of money to give—to think hard about who they give to and the impact that giving has. But in order to do this successfully, we need to know why these high-net-worth individuals give to charity in the first place: what motivates them?

In 2009/10, US firm Hope Consulting carried out research into the motivations behind giving amongst wealthy Americans. One of their major findings was that donors were willing to give more if their giving experience better met their needs. They estimated that improved segmentation of donors, allowing charities to target and communicate with them better, could potentially unlock another $20bn in donations.

Just as any retail operation needs to understand what motivates its customers if it wants to maximise sales, so charities need to know as much as they can about the type of donors they’re trying to appeal to. Hope Consulting’s research suggests that understanding the different motivations of wealthy donors can increase the amount of money raised for charities doing good work. But it can also increase the impact of this funding—if charities can communicate with donors in a targeted way, more donors receive the information they need to make thoughtful, impact-focused choices.

With this in mind, we are delighted that NPC will soon be able to announce the details of a major new survey we will be carrying out looking into questions around donor motivation. We have secured funding which means we will be able to reproduce the study done in the USA that led to massively increased insights into donor motivations. So far we have had to rely on the findings from the Hope Consulting study as a guide to what may be going on here in the UK. But the two countries are very different, and the motivations of UK donors don’t necessarily mirror those of the USA. For one thing, in the USA there is a lot more faith-based and alma mater giving than here.

In the next few weeks we will say a bit more about this research. We hope to involve a number of experts from the sector as part of an advisory group so we can make sure our results are as useful as possible for the whole sector.

If we get it right, our research could help bring about a marked improvement in both the amount of charitable giving and the impact that giving has—increasing donor engagement, growing the size of the ‘funding pie’ and helping donors focus on where their money can make the biggest difference.