EDITORIAL: Does the answer to finding donors lie in the States?

LUCY MAGGS

Fundraisers are constantly on a quest to find the big donors. A committed big giver can provide a more stable source of income for an organisation than relying on the bits and pieces that come from small donors.

Attracting big givers, however, is a competitive business. Donors, it seem, are looking more and more for some kind of return on their investment.

For ideas of how to pursue the big givers, UK fundraisers often look across the pond to the US where big charitable gifts are the norm for the wealthy.

In the US, individuals typically give 1.9 per cent of their income to charity while in the UK, people on average give less than 1 per cent of their income to charity.

So why is this? One frequently quoted answer is that it's a cultural difference, we find it difficult to ask for money and are uncomfortable about requests to give. UK donors may not respond well to the more up front US fundraising style so it becomes a trickier game over here. The other reason often given is that the UK has a history of state provision and we don't want to be giving money to charities doing work we expect our taxes to pay for.

As a way of encouraging wealthy donors the Giving Campaign is looking into the possibility of introducing the US system of planned giving here.

Ideally anyone who makes a financial plan will automatically include donating to good causes in it.

UK charities have been wary of this kind of approach because of previous scandals involving the financial services industry. There is also concern that an association with an industry that has a reputation for hard selling and big profits could well put the public off. But convincing donors to make long-term giving plans means charities would have an income they can really rely on.

Planned giving products in the US usually give the donor some kind of advantage in the form of an income, which can provide a useful incentive.

Looking to the States in this case could provide a welcome boost to charitable income.

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