New initiative aims to get donors to give better

Many people look at getting people to give more. Giving Evidence and the Social Enterprise Initiative at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business are starting work looking at getting people to give better. First, we’re developing a ‘white paper’, to be published early in 2015, to collate what is known about effective giving, what isn’t yet known, and what would be useful for researchers to find out.

The way donors give is important, so perhaps persuading them to give better would have the same social effect as getting them to give more. For instance: the cost of raising capital for charities is about 20–40 per cent, against only about 3–5 per cent for companies, and charities turn away some donors who are fiddly to deal with. Plus money doesn’t always go where it’s most needed: for example, about 90 per cent of global health spending goes on 10 per cent of the disease burden. And making many small gifts is demonstrably more wasteful than making a few large ones.

Furthermore, perhaps it’s easier to get somebody to give better than to get them to give more.

We aim to identify questions which non-profits, funders and other practitioners want answered about making giving better, and to encourage researchers to address them. Those questions include the following:

  • How do various donors (including foundations, corporates, individuals) define a ‘successful gift’?
  • Is success affected by (eg):
    • being hands-on?
    • gift size?
    • donors working together (eg in giving circles)?
    • how and whether the grant is tracked?
    • whether the donor gives, lends or invests?
  • What does it cost to raise and manage grants of different sizes?
  • How and when can one influence the cause that a person supports?
  • How do donors choose causes, charities or grantees, and how influence-able is that?
  • How do donors choose processes (eg for sourcing grantees, selecting which to support)?

However one defines success for a grant, it would be useful to know (wouldn’t it?) whether and when and how the chance of success is affected by how the donor gives.

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