Generous managers are most effective at persuading staff to give, says Michael Sanders of the nudge unit

Research by the Behavioural Insights Team finds that when managers make the ask, it is far more effective than requests made by charities or CSR departments

Michael Sanders
Michael Sanders

Generous managers are much more effective than charities or corporate social responsibility departments at getting staff to donate to their companies’ charity partners, according to new research from the Behavioural Insights Team.

The research into companies that had formed fundraising partnerships with charities found that getting managers who were particularly generous to ask their staff to donate as well resulted in gifts from 42 per cent of people; but when charities or the companies’ CSR departments made the ask, only 6 per cent of people responded.

"It was quite a big increase," said Michael Sanders, head of research at the BIT, also known as the "nudge unit". "Employees don’t really care about the CSR department of their firm; what they care about is their boss.

"There is some hierarchical element to this, but we found the ask was actually most effective when managers were asking the people directly above them to donate: people were more likely to feel ‘guilted’ into it by a subordinate than by their boss."

Sanders said this concept was known as "network giving".

The team also researched ways in which people who have agreed to fundraise on behalf of charities can be encouraged to follow through on their commitment.

It found that 60 per cent of people who had agreed to fundraise but had not yet done any, did so once they were told how enjoyable other people had found it. By comparison, 50 per cent of such people given practical advice as to how to go about the activity then embarked on fundraising.

"We found that giving people messages from others who find fundraising a rewarding and enjoyable activity is much more effective than telling them how easy it is," said Sanders.

For the full interview with Sanders, click here.

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