Apparently ~3000 UK charities have Royal patrons. About 200 have this week lost their relationship with Prince Andrew. Securing and maintaining a relationship with a Royal is work, and is it worth it? It seems that nobody knows. Giving Evidence is going to investigate.
This is a question about donor effectiveness: the patrons probably think that they are helping the charities, but donors are often rather less helpful than they think they are. It’s reasonable – and possible – to assess the effectiveness of donors, as we have said elsewhere. It is also a question about charity effectiveness: how should charities best allocate their scarce resources? We will specifically be looking at whether & how much & when Royals patrons – and with luck other celeb patrons – help charities.
I had the idea to do this a few years ago, after I heard that when Kate Middleton visits a charity of which she’s patron, the charity has to pay for her security. It was the charity’s director’s spouse who told me that, and it turns out not to be true actually, but anyway, that made me wonder about the cost/benefit to charities of royal patrons, and whether /when / how much they do help. Reportedly some US charities reportedly pay their celebs. One charity told us this week that it fired its royal patron because they were more effort than they were worth.
I worked out a research method with an academic statistician, and a volunteer gathered some of the relevant data as a feasibility test. It seems feasible.
Obviously, the ideal way to see the effect of a Royal / celeb patron would be to take a load of charities, randomly divide them in half, have the patron take on one half (the numbers have to be big enough to be statistically significant), and then compare the performance of those ‘patron-ee’ charities with the performance of the non-patronee ones. Pretty obviously, we can’t do that. So we need to construct a difference comparison set. There are ways of doing that, which we’re currently assessing. It will likely be some form of regression discontinuity analysis (the discontinuity being when the patronage starts) with a synthetic comparator.
We have some funding and will analyse as many patrons (Royal and other) as we can within that funding. A bigger dataset means more reliable findings: if you’d like to donate to enlarge this project, please get in touch.
Giving Evidence will do this as proper research. i.e,. we will publish the method, data & analysis in full – as we did with our ground-breaking analysis of charities’ admin costs.
If you are a Royal or celebrity patron and would like to be involved, do get in touch. Equally, if you are a charity with a Royal or celebrity patron and would like to be involved, do get in touch.
Note that we will probably not be able to assess the effect of Prince Andrew’s departure for a while. That is because a primary outcome that we’ll assess is the charities’ revenue (this being the sole dataset that will certainly be available and comparable for all charities we analyse), and we’d need revenue data for at least one full year after the departure (and ideally longer) and obviously that won’t be available for a while. Similarly, we’re unlikely to be able to include any of Meghan’s patronages because they’re too new to have produced results yet.