Rogare (5/2015)

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All fundraisers are talking about overheads. But how relevant are they really? Which donors are how strongly influenced by them? For which philanthropic purposes do they play a major role in the donation decision, where not? All fundraisers are aiming at religious donors. But how relevant is the influence of religiosity really? How does the willingness to donate depend on the kind of religion? And which religion is most likely to donate for which purposes?

All fundraisers do relationship fundraising. But everyone builds up his relations his own way. Insights from psychology, sociology or marketing theory, scientific studies of motives, processes and factors of relationships of different types and between different actors are rarely consulted or considered.

There are answers to all these questions. Only nobody knows them. They hide in university libraries, academic databases and on occasional scientific seminars. They lie fallow in international philanthropy research (constantly overlooked by fundraisers), but also in completely different scientific disciplines.

Scientists and fundraiser rarely come across each other. And that’s too bad! Because it leaves not only many questions unanswered, many questions are not asked in the first place. Scientists of philanthropy and NPO research often do not know what the fundraiser “on the road” is concerned about, for which questions they would like to have answers.

Hence, some time ago the fundraising think tank Rogare was founded at one of the leading research institutes for Philanthropy worldwide, the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at the University of Plymouth (UK). Rogare is Latin and means “to bring” and “to ask”. And that’s what does Rogare. under the direction of Ian MacQuillin it brings together scientists and fundraisers from all over the world. And it asks the right questions – to the scientists and to the fundraisers.

The declared aim of Rogare is to take the results of science – eg from donor psychology, NPO-sector research, CSR research and marketing theory – to those who can use them most, the fundraisers. And, conversely, the questions of the fundraisers to the scientists. Important current topics of the think tank are the perception of fundraising in the public, the importance of behavioral science for fundraising and the above-mentioned relationship fundraising.

This interface has been lacking. I am pleased – and feel honored –to participate in this task in the next two years as Advisory Board Member of Rogare in to assume for Rogare the bridging function into the German-speaking fundraising community – also via this blog. Because asking educates.

PS: Rogare also has its own, highly recommendable blog – the Critical Fundraising blog – with articles and comments by the members of Rogare on current debates and issues of fundraising.

PPS: Here you’ll find the press release on the new Advisory Board Members of Rogare.

Child Sponsorships – a Wonderful Fundraising Instrument (4/2014)

This blog entry is an English translation of my article on

Plan International has more than three hundred thousand of them, World Vision still half of it, and SOS Children’s Village has become the most successful German charity with their help – child sponsors.

No question, Germans love child sponsorships. No matter whether their sponsoring is funding joint projects or communities – as is the case with most major child sponsorship organizations – or whether the sponsoring really goes to the individual children, e.g. in form of school fees. Through sponsorships people can do what they – as we fundraisers have long known – prefer to do: giving to people – changing personal lives.

What we otherwise are trying to build through storytelling, happens by itself. By communicating with their sponsored children, donors are participating directly in the life of another person. The stories do not have to be told, the donor is part of the story.

And as if by magic something else happens, which makes the donor happy. They feel to belong – being part of the community of children, village, charity and donors, painting a small patch of earth green.

And the charities? They love sponsorships as well. Nowhere is the bond to the donor so strong, nowhere donations pour in so continuously (on average eight to nine years) and predictably. Child sponsors are not only emotional, but also interested donors. They talk about their child and his/her progress – as they would do with their own children. Children sponsors are excellent multipliers!

Remain some serious counter-arguments. There is hardly a more costly fundraising tool. For small organizations sponsorships mean “only” a lot of volunteer work. But in professional organizations often a third of the sponsorship fee is needed for the communication between sponsors and children.

Is this reprehensible? Only if the donor does not know this fact and is suggested that one hundred percent of donations would benefit his/her sponsored child. If the sponsor is aware of the administrative burden everything is fine. In this case, the sponsor is willing to pay exactly the additional amount for the direct communication with the child.

Sponsorships support individual children. Such is the basic idea. That means in reverse: other children – for example from the same village – are not supported. This will lead to social tensions in every community. Therefore, large organizations nowadays use sponsorships to build up and support the whole community which the children belong to.

But even the classic individual help for children – as still realized by many small organizations – is not per se unethical. However, the selection of children must not be done externally, subjectively or by random. If the children are selected by authorities, that have been elected or are recognized by the community (e.g. chiefs) and according to predefined criteria (e.g. need, academic performance), then the help is accepted and welcomed. And by a variety of ways (e.g. by an overall higher income of the village community) everyone is benefiting.

Sponsorships illustrate in a wonderful way that each charity has two clients. On the one hand, the people whom they are serving according to its mission in the best possible way. On the other hand, those who make this help possible. And who – by doing so – want to make themselves as happy as possible, the donors.

Many donors feel happiest as child sponsors. I am delighted they do.