Clara gives more than Maria – nonprofit research makes fundraisers clever (6/2014)

This article first appeared on the website of the Fundraiser Magazin.

Two twin sisters, Clara and Maria, are raised together at the same place, go to the same school, remain both in the same neighborhood. Yet, Clara is donating five times as much as Maria. Why is that? It’s probably because Clara is attending church service almost every week, whereas Maria, by contrast, makes a big circle around Lord’s house.

Rene Bekkers, researcher at the Institute “Philanthropy Studies” at the Vrije University of Amsterdam was able to show in the first twin study of donor research: Each church service, that one twin is attending more often than her sibling, correlates with 20 Euro higher amount of annual donation. Nice, but do we need to know?

Clara and Maria differ in another respect: Maria attended a college, Clara applied for a job right after school. Although Maria is now earning more than Clara, she is donating much less. Actually, the twin study by Rene Bekker reveals: The mere level of education has no effect on the donor behavior. Correlations in other studies are thus rather based on the parental home (which in turn affects the level of education of the children).

What does that mean for us fundraisers? Religiosity is a very important factor for the inclination to donate. We knew that already. And the level of education does not matter. This is a surprise! Apparently, the educational degree is influenced by the parental home. This means for fundraising: A segmentation by socio-cultural milieus is probably more promising than a differentiation solely based on the level of education.

The example is taken from a workshop of the 11th International Conference on Third Sector Research, held in late July in the German city of Münster – a bi-annual conference of the most prominent nonprofit researchers worldwide. For four days they discussed about donor motives, types of volunteers, benchmarks in nonprofit management and trends of civil society – and remained among themselves. Practitioners from non-profit organizations, professional fundraiser even, were not present.

They could have learnt a lot. For example, that the famous U-curve theory (explaining the proportion of donations depending on the donor’s income), is not true, according to a recent study by the Center on Philanthropy at the University of Indianapolis (USA). Or that the highly vaunted heirs are not such good donors – in comparison to the people who have earned their wealth themselves.

There may be research with little practical relevance. The donor and non-profit research is certainly not one of them. Worldwide, a small but fine research community exists on this issue – with centers in Indianapolis, Amsterdam, Birmingham, but as well in Heidelberg, Münster and Vienna.

Scientists have something to say to us practitioners – particularly to us fundraisers. We should talk with them. Even though, we do not always easily understand their vocabulary. But after a cheerful evening in an traditional German pub I can assure: They are really quite nice, the NPO researchers!

Clara gibt mehr als Maria – NPO-Forschung macht Fundraiser schlau (6/2014)

Dieser Artikel erschien zunächst auf der Website des Fundraiser-Magazins.

Zwei Zwillingsschwestern, Clara und Maria, wachsen zusammen im selben Ort auf, gehen auf dieselbe Schule, bleiben beide im selben Viertel wohnen. Und doch spendet Clara fünfmal so viel wie Maria. Woran liegt das? Aller Wahrscheinlichkeit daran, dass Clara fast jede Woche in die Kirche geht, Maria dagegen einen großen Bogen um das Gotteshaus macht.

Rene Bekkers vom Institut „Philanthropie Studien“ an der Vrije Universität Amsterdam konnte in der ersten Zwillingsstudie der Spenderforschung zeigen: Jeder Kirchenbesuch, den ein Zwilling im Jahr häufiger in die Kirche geht als sein Geschwister, korreliert mit einer um 20 Euro höheren jährlichen Spendensumme. Schön, aber müssen wir das wissen?

Clara und Maria unterscheidet noch etwas: Maria ist auf ein College gegangen, Clara hat gleich ein Ausbildung gemacht. Obwohl Maria nun auch etwas mehr verdient als Clara, spendet sie deutlich weniger. Tatsächlich zeigt die Zwillingsstudie von Rene Bekker: Der reine Ausbildungsgrad hat keinen Einfluss auf das Spendenverhalten. Korrelationen in anderen Studien dürften also eher auf dem Elternhaus beruhen (das wiederum Einfluss auf den Ausbildungsgrad der Kinder hat).

Was heißt das für uns Fundraiser? Religiosität ist ein ganz wesentlicher Faktor für die Spendenbereitschaft. Das wussten wir schon. Und der Ausbildungsgrad spielt keine Rolle. Das überrascht. Offenbar wirkt sich im Ausbildungsgrad das Elternhaus aus. Für das Fundraising heißt das: Eine Segmentierung nach sozio-kulturellen Milieus ist wahrscheinlich erfolgversprechender als eine Differenzierung allein nach Bildungsgrad.

Das Beispiel stammt aus einem Workshop der 11. International Conference on Third Sector Research, die Ende Juli in Münster stattfand – eine alle zwei Jahre stattfindende Konferenz der wichtigsten Nonprofit-Forscher weltweit. Vier Tage diskutierten sie über Spendenmotive, Typologien von Freiwilligen, Benchmarks im Nonprofit-Management und über zivilgesellschaftliche Trends weltweit – und blieben dabei unter sich. Praktiker aus Nonprofit-Organisationen und Verbänden, professionelle Fundraiser gar, waren nicht zugegen.

Dabei hätten sie eine Menge mitnehmen können. Etwa dass die in allen gängigen Fundraising Lehrbüchern verbreitete U-Kurven-Theorie (die den Spendenanteil in Abhängigkeit vom Einkommen erklärt) nach aktuellen Studien des Center on Philanthropy an der Universität von Indianapolis (USA) nicht stimmt. Oder dass die viel beschworenen Erben gar keine so guten Spender sind – im Vergleich zu den Menschen, die sich ihr Vermögen selbst erarbeitet haben.

Es mag Forschungen mit wenig praktischer Relevanz geben. Die Spender- und Nonprofit-Forschung gehört sicherlich nicht dazu. Es gibt weltweit eine kleine, aber feine Forschungsgemeinschaft zu diesem Thema – mit Zentren in Indianapolis, Amsterdam, Birmingham, aber auch Heidelberg, Münster und Wien.

Die Wissenschaftler haben uns Praktikern – gerade auch uns Fundraisern – etwas zu sagen. Wir sollten uns mit ihnen unterhalten. Auch wenn wir ihr Vokabular nicht immer leicht verstehen. Aber nach einem feucht-fröhlichen Abend in einer Münsteraner Traditionskneipe kann ich versichern: Sie sind wirklich ganz nett, die NPO-Forscher!

Münster Konferenz

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

This blog entry is an English translation of my article on www.sozialmarketing.de.

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.