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What do donors really care about?

By Lucy de Las Casas 8 March 2013

Next Thursday we’re launching Money for Good UK—research based on a survey of 3000 respondents looking at donor behaviour and motivations. There are interesting findings aplenty, including insights into donor satisfaction with charities, the potential for donors to change the level and destination of their giving, and the characteristics of high income donors (with an annual household income over £150,000) compared to other donors.

As you’d expect from a survey of this size—developed with input from our partners, Ipsos Mori and US-based Hope Consulting, our funders, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nesta, Oak Foundation and Pears Foundation, and an advisory group—there is considerable richness in the output.

NPC wanted to add to the already existing knowledge base in the UK about donor behaviour, and felt that research based on the Hope Consulting approach would achieve that. The first to try and understand the information that American donors do—and don’t—want when donating to charity, Hope Consulting aimed to identify what organisations can do to tap into greater market opportunities. As importantly, we wanted the research to further our mission of helping charities and funders to be more effective, ultimately delivering the most they can for beneficiaries.

So how does Money for Good UK support this?  We want donors to think about what a charity achieves before they give to it. Ideally, we’d like them to do research into the impact a charity has, but we appreciate the philanthrogeek segment of the population is pretty small. At the very least, we’d like donors to make sure they’ve seen some convincing information that a charity achieves what it sets out to do—a step up from the semi-automatic mental process people go through to check it’s a genuine charity and does something they care about.

To achieve this, we need to know what donors currently do. Only then can we can begin to think about how to support and encourage donors in this quest for evidence based on results. Money for Good UK illuminates this, and  it’s been fascinating to see just how much of the donor population tunes in to this kind of information. It’s been even more interesting to get stuck into what the different donor segments think: whether and why they care about impact, how much they engage in research, and to what extent they might change the amount or destination of their giving if charities were to change.

Of course, we also want charities to look at what they achieve and whether they can do it better. Our recent research, Making an Impact, showed that three-quarters of charities, to varying extents, already measure their impact. It also revealed that funder demands are a key driver of this. Increased emphasis on results from government, trusts and foundations, means that charities supported by these funders have a greater motivation to measure  their impact. The Money for Good UK research clearly shows that individual donors provide an added incentive for all charities to measure and communicate what they’re achieving.

Look out for the full report next Thursday 14 March—and for NPC’s further work in this area.