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Why People Don't Give - UK Study

23 August 2005 at 1:08 pm
Staff Reporter
UK experts believe that some people neglect to give because they assume someone else will take care of it while others are waiting for a Not for Profit to help them get involved!

Staff Reporter | 23 August 2005 at 1:08 pm


Why People Don't Give - UK Study
23 August 2005 at 1:08 pm

Their views are published in a pamphlet called “Charitable Giving and Donor Motivations” by the Economic & and Social Research Council in England.

It’s based on presentations by Dr Tom Farsides, of the University of Sussex, and Dr Sally Hibbert, of the University of Nottingham, who examine donor motivations, why some people do not support charities, and how
everyone might be persuaded to give – and to give more.

It was produced to accompany a special seminar on Giving, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in collaboration with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NVCO), during our UK-wide Social Science Week in June 2005.

Dr Sally Hibbert BA PhD is a senior lecturer in marketing at Nottingham University Business School, where she focuses on motivation and consumer choice/decision making in service sectors and in both non-profit and commercial areas.

Dr. Hibert believes that the it’s the non-donors who rationalise that older, wealthier people are giving enough.

Dr Tom Farsides BA MSc PhD is a social psychology lecturer at the University of Sussex. His principal research interest is factors which facilitate or inhibit ‘positive other-regard’.This includes activism, altruism, campaigning, charity, citizenship, consideration, courtesy, donating (e.g., blood, organs), helping, prejudice-reduction, volunteering, and a variety of other pro-social behaviours.

Dr. Farsides believes that the fault lies with the charities who are not doing enough to involve potential donors.

So this booklet looks at what motivates people to make charitable donations and why some decide giving is not for them. It goes on to consider what else charities and policy makers might do to encourage more people to give, and to give more.

Here are some of the outcomes:

– A variety of psychological conditions and processes may underlie the decision not to give. Some non-givers may not hold the core value that we should help other people; some may feel that giving to charity is not the right way to help.

– There are sector-wide problems such as lack of trust in charities, and certain methods of fundraising may be putting off donors.

– Amongst those who express negative attitudes, there may be some who genuinely believe these arguments, but there may be others for whom it is a means of excusing their own lack of support.

– In contrast, whilst a large proportion of non-givers no doubt share the positive attitudes of donors, they do not behave accordingly.

Charities may be able to tap into new and different sources of funds if they can understand how donors rationalise not giving to their particular cause.

Dr Sally Hibbert says the techniques of neutralisation may be used by non-donors to try to justify their attitudes, or to cope with feelings of guilt and threats to self-esteem when their actions appear at odds with their true attitudes and values.

She says the big challenge for charities and policy makers is to find acceptable ways of countering these techniques, though research is needed first.

Dr Tom Farsides says charities have a choice of offering to satisfy people’s selfish or altruistic goals, or both, by fostering exchange or communal relationships with donors.

Broadly, he says these appear to be mutually exclusive.

– Trying to meet selfish goals involves negotiating an exchange relationship, in which charities offer deals that satisfy potential donors’ desires: You give us what we want (your money, time, blood, etc.) and we’ll give you what you want (a magazine, a trek to Peru, admiration, etc.).

– Charities would do well to foster altruism as well as communal relations among their supporters, acknowledging that people have many reasons for doing what they do and that these change over time, place, and situation, etc. They can also point out to their donors the many benefits of giving.

– Nevertheless, fundraisers should take every opportunity they can to indicate that at least part of the reason their supporters do what they do is that they genuinely want to help others.

– Organisations do not have to stop giving things of value to their supporters, such as free parachute jumps or even praise and esteem. All that is needed is to make clear that these are not bribes but expressions of thanks and acknowledgments of selflessness on the part of donors.

– Organisations must be clear that helping their intended beneficiaries is their primary goal, and that everything they do is intended to further this aim. Where charities’ actions might be seen in another light, they need to convey the truth as they see it to all interested parties.

– Appearing to coerce donors and treat people solely as a means to an end, however worthy that end, could be perceived as neither altruistic nor communal.

– Aggressively competing with other charities for support is likely to be seen in a similar way.

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