Many charities mistakenly believe that demonstrating basic compliance and good practice will be enough to attract major donors, the academic Beth Breeze has said.
Speaking at the first day of Third Sector’s Annual Fundraising Conference, Breeze, who is director of the Centre for Philanthropy at Kent University and produces an annual report on million-pound donors, said some charities tended to confuse what she described as "hygiene factors" such as filing annual accounts on time with qualities that would motivate and reassure donors.
She compared the situation with a workplace, saying most staff would expect to have a safe working environment and the equipment they needed for their jobs.
"Those kind of things don’t make us satisfied and happy," she said. "Those are the things we just expect to be there.
"Donors expect the charity to be solvent, well led and well thought of, and to be known to fulfil its mission. Those things don’t attract donations, but their absence does deter donations."
In the workplace analogy, a supportive work environment and good management added to workers’ happiness, she said – similarly, in order to motivate donors, charities needed to gratify them on a psychological level.
"It’s things like getting appropriate recognition, having a personal relationship with the leadership, feeling like part of the family and having access to interesting and enjoyable experiences they couldn’t otherwise have had," she said.
"So simply ensuring the charity is hygienic is not enough: we need to go above and beyond that."
Breeze said donors were also more likely to respond positively to requests they saw as helping to fulfil a bold dream or vision, rather than simply fulfilling a basic need for the charity, such as replacing a lost funding stream or ensuring the charity had to do less fundraising elsewhere as a result of the donation.