Why do charities ignore millions of donors?

Despite my giving £200 to Cancer Research UK through JustGiving when a friend did a sponsored something, I never heard a bean from Cancer Research UK about it. A year later, I gave £100 to another charity when another friend did a sponsored something. Heard nothing. And last month, I gave to a third charity when a third friend did a sponsored something. Again heard nothing.

What a dreadful experience.

And what idiotic behaviour by those charities. They act as though they had no interest in me or my money or support. I’ve not given to any of them again, though as it happens, I’m passionate about cancer and would have given loads more since then if only they’d asked.

Maybe JustGiving is deterring half the nation’s donors

Nearly half of donors in the UK give through the sponsorship website JustGiving*. I wonder whether they all have as thankless and uninspiring an experience as I did.

Charities claim to be terribly keen to get new donors, and know that recruiting new donors costs five times as much as retaining existing donors. Given the chatter in Charity Land about increasing giving and recruiting new donors, charities should surely be focusing hard on sponsorship because it’s such a good entry point – sponsoring a friend is very natural and very popular. Half the nation doesn’t give at all, and charities need to do much better than this to encourage them to start.

What should happen

“I’m so glad I did that. I’m really going to make sure that I do it again” is how charities should leave donors feeling. So at the very least, charities need to:

  • Thank donors for the donation
  • Give some indication of what they can do with that amount of money (“Your £200 will enable us to answer 57 calls to our helpline from people concerned about cancer”, or somesuch)
  • Offer to stay in touch in future, preferably with inspiring good news stories about what they’re achieving

It would be clever of them also to tell me about the number of other people who also give to that charity:  social norming is strong and I want to feel that I‘m part of some big club. They should have their letter written or ghosted by some celebrity or somebody whom the charity’s helped, so the donor feels a personal connection (“I was so worried when my dad got cancer last year. He was cured of it, and I’m so grateful to people like you who’ve given to support Cancer Research UK’s work who found how to cure him. Together we can beat this…” or something).

Does JustGiving make this hard?

Maybe it’s difficult for charities to contact donors through JustGiving. I don’t know: perhaps it only lets charities ‘see’ the marathon runners (or whatever) but not the friends who sponsor them. In which case, charities need to better arm their marathon runners to pass on thanks to their donors.

Have you had similar or better experiences with sponsorship?

I’m very interested in whether my three dismal experiences are typical and there’s a systemic problem, or whether the sponsorship experience is generally better.

When you’ve sponsored people, have you heard from the charities? Nicely? Did it encourage you to give again?

(First published here, which gathered much discussion.)


*JustGiving claims to have channelled donations from 13 million people. NCVO/CAF think that 28 million adults give in a typical month.

Sources: http://www.justgiving.com/about-us/press/latest-news/facts-and-figureshttp://www.cafonline.org/pdf/UK%20Giving%202010_101210.pdf

Chatter about increasing giving: The Cabinet Office’s Green PaperThe Philanthropy ReviewThe Giving Pledge etc etc.

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