Stop obsessing about defending yourselves against critics, charities told

In a London speech, Santanu Chakrabarti of Oxfam says people who criticise administration costs and salaries are often justifying not giving to charity

Oxfam
Oxfam

Charities should stop wasting resources defending themselves against critics who say they spend too much money on administration costs and salaries, according to the head of Oxfam’s market insight team.

Santanu Chakrabarti, who has been leading Oxfam’s in-house research into behavioural psychology, gave a speech on why people give to charity at the Market Research Society in London last night.

He said the critics were people who had already decided they would not donate to the charity and were using administration and salary costs as a justification for that decision.

"This entire hoopla about charity chief executives – how much they earn, what they spend on – has no statistical relationship with whether people give or not," he said. "We want people – especially within Oxfam – to stop obsessing and spending valuable time trying to give people evidence about how much we spend. Transparency is important, but we don’t want to respond every single time someone says they don’t give to you because you spend too much money on admin."

Chakrabarti said that studying Oxfam’s database had shown that its regular givers – the ones who make monthly or quarterly donations to the charity – were not actually the most committed supporters because 84 per cent of them did not support the charity in other ways.

In contrast, half of the charity’s campaigners supported Oxfam in one or two other ways, such as by donating money, fundraising in their communities or donating goods to the charity’s shops.

Chakrabarti said that Oxfam invested a lot of resources in trying to get people to do different things, such as increasing their monthly donations from £5 to £7, for example, or giving clothes as well as money.

But he warned charities that the resources invested in these attempts "shouldn’t be disproportionate to the yield, because we know very well that most of your cross-selling will not work".

"The fact that your regular giver is in a relationship with you doesn’t mean they want to be pecked on the cheek every day," he said.

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