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.

Springtime in China (1/2015)

This article is an excerpt of the article “Tender buds of philanthropy” in the magazine DIE STIFTUNG (6/2014).

by Christian Gahrmann and Li Yiqiong

It’s springtime in China. Not with regard to the weather conditions, of course. But the atmosphere of re-building the country has finally reached the nonprofit sector. Only a few years ago neither NGOs nor a donor market existed in China. Now we can observe the first – though very rare and tiny – buds of a carefully unfolding nonprofit sector. And foundations are in the front of this development.

The emergence of the first foundations is one of the most important developments of the Chinese nonprofit sector in recent years. Statistics show that Chinese foundations could accumulate in 2013 capital assets of 93 billion Yuan (11.3 billion EUR) and realizing annual revenues of 35 billion Yuan (4.3 billion EUR). A big share of the foundation’s funds is spent for educational projects (three out of ten funded projects come from this area). But Chinese foundations also like to promote health as well as children’s and women’s projects.

Foundations in China can be differentiated into public foundations, usually founded by the state, and private foundations, that were set up by individuals or companies. Public foundations are legitimized to raise funds. Private foundations this is only permitted within narrow limits and after a complicated application procedure. Hence, some private foundations are cooperating with public foundations and use them as a fundraising channel.

In theory, foreign foundations are allowed to open an office in China. So far, however, they have made little use of it – too high are the administrative barriers and too tedious is the registration process. In addition, foreign foundations – such as all foreign nonprofits – are not allowed in China to collect donations. One way to be active in China anyway, is the creation of specific funds within Chinese foundations that may only be used for specific, previously agreed upon philanthropic purposes.

The starting position for foundations in China is still difficult. According to a study by the China Research Institute of Philanthropy over 30 million new jobs in the nonprofit sector are prevented by the absence of the necessary regulatory framework for this sector. 300 billion Yuan (36.6 billion EUR) of potential donations remain unrealized. Often, the foundations themselves are not yet working professionally enough. He Daofeng, president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, recently presented admitted in an interview that foundations in China still have a rather poor image. Many do not reach their program goals, work sluggishly and hierarchically, and are far from offering total transparency.

Positive effects are attained by the launch of new private foundations by successful entrepreneurs and business people. The government is beginning to discover the potential of private philanthropy for the fight against poverty and social inequality. Against the background of growing social inequality, China is more dependent than ever on the development of a strong nonprofit sector – and foundations that make a difference.


Has the “warm glow” burned out? (2/ 2014)

Recently, the Charities Aid Foundation, published the results of its global survey on philanthropy in 135 countries around the world, the World Giving Index 2013. According to this survey the US is – not surprisingly – the most philanthropic country in the world. On 2nd rank we find – much more surprising – the developing country Myanmar (where the millions of the country’s monks live alone from donations). Germany is at No. 22 in this ranking – two places behind Nigeria (!).

To my astonishment, none of the Scandinavian countries – Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway – show up in the top 20 of the ranking, even though these countries are known as examples of solidarity and social justice. The only logical explanation for this seems to be:  In the Scandinavian countries social projects are funded by the notoriously high taxes. Therefore, people don’t need to donate.

But if this explanation for the Scandinavians’ rather disappointing performance at the World Giving Index is true, it delivers an important indication that selfish motives – and in particular the activation of the reward center in the brain by dopamine surges, the so-called “warm glow” – plays a minor role in donor motivation than most behavioral scientists and fundraisers think.

If they did play a major role, the high taxes in Scandinavia should not significantly affect fundraising and philanthropy. Because dopamine is only made ​​to glow when we voluntarily give or do something good. Not when we comply with requirements such as taxes. For a real altruist, however, it is crucial that people in need receive any help and secondary where the resources come from. When the resources come from non-philanthropic sources, such as taxes, they don’t see a need to donate.

Maybe, it is that simple: When people donate, they don’t do so out of a hundred of sophisticated –  more or less self-centered – motives, desires and chemical reactions in their brain, but simply because they wish to help other people. You may call it altruism. Or with this beautiful latin word: benevolence.