“Nudging” people to give could generate tens of millions for charity – new report

28 May 2013

“Nudging” people to give could generate tens of millions of pounds extra for good causes, according to ground-breaking studies published today.
Simply reminding people making out their Will that many others choose to leave a legacy to charity or including a photograph in an appeal can double or treble the numbers of people giving. 

The study was conducted by the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team in partnership with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and the University of Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation. CAF promotes charitable giving and provides financial services and social finance to not-for-profit organisations.

Trials conducted around the country showed that simple messages can also encourage people to up-rate regular donations with inflation or increase the numbers of people joining fund-raising initiatives.

The trials include:

  • One project conducted in partnership with the charity Remember a Charity showed that asking the question “many of our customers like to leave money to a charity in their Will, are there any causes you are passionate about?” trebled the number of people including a charity in their will and increased the amount given.
  • Automatically enrolling people to annual increases in regular donations through their payroll giving schemes such as CAF Give As You Earn dramatically increased the proportion of people increasing their donations (from 6 to 49%), which could raise an extra £40m a year for charities if rolled out.
  • Including a photograph of an employee who gives to charity on a company appeal doubled the number of people agreeing to give.
  • Sending staff a personalised message about a fund-raising drive from the Chief Executive of a large investment bank helped treble fund-raising and raised £500,000 in one day.

“Behavioural insights” are designed to encourage, support and enable people to make better decisions for themselves. The Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team conducted five controlled trials with charities and companies across the country to test ways of encouraging people to give.

The report, published today, recommends making it as easy and attractive as possible to give. Suggestions include matching donations or personalising messages, using colleagues or prominent people to send out messages about giving, and choosing the best timing for charity appeals.

John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “We know that Britain is one of the world’s most charitable countries - it’s in our very nature to do all we can to support the causes we care about.
“British people are hugely positive about charities and they are already enthusiastic about their giving, but this research points to what might yet be possible if potential donors are inspired by others, connect personally to a cause and feel it is easy to give.

“At a time when as many as one in six charities fear they may have to close, it is more important than ever to find new ways of transforming general enthusiasm for charities into committed regular giving and build strong connections with the causes people care about.”

Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said: “We are working with partners to see how we can make it easier and more compelling to give.  This study shows how generous people are prepared to be, if asked in the right way.”

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