Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Why do evangelicals give money away?

Every time a donor makes a decision to support a particular charity or to ignore their request the reasons underlying this decision are in some ways specific to their affiliation with that charity and their perception of the charity’s needs. However, it is also likely that there exist a variety of overarching motivations which the donor considers, consciously and unconsciously, every time they are presented with an invitation to give.

In order to throw some light on the general factors that are likely to influence an evangelical donor’s ‘give/not give’ decisions, we asked participants of our Christian Giving survey to tell us which of 14 potential reasons would feature in their thinking about whether or not to support a charity. The responses outlined in Table 4.1 offer several helpful insights.

Why do evangelicals give to charities?

2009 (%)
The charity offers a free gift in return for a donation 1%
The charity is promoted by a celebrity you like 3%
The charity might help you in the future 4%
The charity has helped people that you care about 4%
The charity helps you feel good about yourself 7%
The charity has presence in conferences and festivals 7%
The charity's appeals are very moving 8%
The charity offers convenient ways for giving 16%
The charity's work is covered in the Christian press 21%
The charity is recommended by friends 22%
The charity offers involvement in interesting work 43%
The charity helps people in an area of interest to you 50%
The donors has first-hand experience of a charity's work 73%
The charity is trustworthy and transparent about money 78%

Table 4.1.

As you can see from the data in Table 4.1 the most compelling reasons for giving are: trust in a charity’s effectiveness and transparency about how the money is used (78%), followed by donor’s having first-hand experience of a charity’s work (73%) and personal interest in the people or the area where the charity is helping (50%).

The factors that appear to motivate relatively few people include: receiving free gifts, endorsements by celebrities, an expectation of receiving help from the charity in the future, or the fact that the charity has helped someone the donor cares about.

While conducting market research projects for Christian charity clients we have learned that while Christian celebrities (e.g. respected Bible teachers, writers, artists, pastors, etc.) might not have the ability to cause a donation, their endorsements count a great deal when it comes to getting a potential donor’s attention.

So, when a Christian celebrity endorses a charity at a Christian event or, when they speak on behalf of that charity to potential donors, they make it possible for the promotional messages of that charity to receive a hearing in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

However, the credibility of the celebrity does not get transferred to the charity in the longer term. If the donor has made a gift or signed a standing order form because of the prompting from a celebrity they will in time evaluate the charity themselves in terms of trustworthiness and transparency.

Another way we interpreted this data is by grouping the responses under six categories. The category that emerged as the front-runner was that which related to a high match between the charity’s areas of work and the priorities and interests of donors (93%), followed by trustworthiness of the charity (78%) and having first hand experience of its work (73%).

Next were the charity’s marketing efforts (52%) followed by endorsements by others (24%) and personal benefits (16%).

Here are some useful questions to consider if you are working for a Christian charity:

1. Wwhat do you know about the priorities and interests of your donors?

2. How are you using that information to shape your fundraising

3. In what ways are you communicating to current and potential donors the
fact that your charity is trustworthy and accountable?

4. What have you got in place to offer donors firsthand experience of
your charity's work? If they can't travel to the mission field in what
ways can you bring a taste of the mission field to them?

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