The Beth Breeze report on barriers to philanthropy

It says a lack of awareness and poor opinions of charity leaders are the main factors stopping business people from donating time and money

Beth Breeze says good experiences of the charity sector will 'chip away' at prejudice
Beth Breeze says good experiences of the charity sector will 'chip away' at prejudice

A recent report by Beth Breeze, the director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, says charities need to provide greater support to people on their "philanthropic journeys" in order to create a culture of long-term giving and volunteering.

Its other main message for charities is they need to address the fear of some that their time and money will be wasted by well-intentioned but poor- performing charity leaders.

The report, Philanthropic Journeys, says a lack of awareness of opportunities and a poor opinion of charity management are among the biggest barriers preventing senior business people donating more of their time and money.

Of the 227 people surveyed by Breeze - most of them high-earning, middle-aged men - 66 per cent said that not knowing how to find appropriate volunteering opportunities - coupled with a fear that their private sector skills would not be useful to charities - had prevented them from donating more of their time and money to the sector.

Concerns about the professionalism of charity managers was also clear among respondents - 44 per cent said it had been a factor in limiting their volunteering and donations.

We should not assume people who are successful in their professional lives have the skills and knowledge to develop other aspects of their lives as successfully

Cathy Pharoah, professor of charity fundraising at Cass Business School

Breeze tells Third Sector: "If we can collectively promote a good experience of the charity sector - whether it's a piece of direct mail from a fundraiser or a charity event - perhaps we can chip away at the prejudices about the sector being badly managed."

But Michael Sanders, principal adviser and head of research at the Behavioural Insights Team, the "nudge unit" that advises the government, warns charities against reading too much into surveys of motivations. "The things we think we care about when we're in a cold, non-emotional state and what we care about when we're actually asked to hand over cash can be quite different," he says.

Sanders cites a study by the economic psychologist George Loewenstein that found people were more likely to donate when shown an endearing picture of a child and hearing the child's story than when given information about the professionalism of the charity that would benefit the child.

The respondents to Breeze's survey were mostly males aged from 45 to 54 earning between £37,401 and £150,000 a year, and who were taking part in time-limited volunteering placements organised by the mentoring charity Pilotlight, which matches private sector professionals with charities to help them develop business plans. Of the respondents who said lack of awareness of opportunities was a barrier to them donating and volunteering more, 66 per cent overcame this barrier after taking part in a Pilotlight placement; 76 per cent of those deterred by their poor perception of charities changed their minds once they engaged in the volunteering scheme.

Joe Saxton (right), founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, says: "The research shows you can take people who never thought they had the time or money to help charities and persuade them to be much more strategic about it. The problem is that those people need to have the time to try volunteering in the first place."

Cathy Pharaoh, professor of charity funding at Cass Business School, says: "We should not assume people who are successful in their professional lives have the skills and knowledge to develop other aspects of their lives as successfully. Appropriate 'bridges' to the right kinds of charitable activity are a powerful tool for encouraging more volunteering and donating in a group with a lot to bring to the table."

The report recommends that charities should provide a range of opportunities that meet potential supporters' goals and use a personal approach to invite and welcome new donors. It says that instead of making "fatalistic assumptions" about potential supporters, charities should focus on tackling the barriers to volunteering and donating.

Andy McLellan, a freelance charity consultant, says: "The report might be a tad idealistic, but it does include some proposals to effect a culture change on giving. For example, getting charities to address the impression that they are unprofessional, and to articulate more clearly what they want from volunteers and what they can offer in return."

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