Derek Bishop


Government gives nudge to charity giving

Date added: 03rd Jun 2013
Category: Employee Engagement

Although the British are among the top nations in the world when it comes to charity giving, the difficult financial climate over the past few years has taken its toll.  In a survey at the end of 2012 we came eighth in the list of giving nations, down from fifth in the previous poll and the recession means that we are currently giving some £2billion less per year to charities than before.  This has lead to concerns over the viability of one in six British charities who face having to close due to lack of funds.

In an attempt to address falling donations the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team has turned its attention away from persuading us to send in our tax returns on time or to insulate our lofts and towards the matter of charitable giving.  Using behavioural psychology the team works to gently persuade us to change our habits and has been surprisingly successful to date.

In a joint exercise with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) the “nudge” unit has reported some remarkable success in persuading people to increase their charitable giving, particularly when it comes to legacies.  The study found that asking a few simple questions at the time a will is made can dramatically increase the level of donations and could even result in a £4billion annual increase in help to charities.  Apparently the simple act of asking whether a charitable donation is to be included in the will can increase the proportion of those giving from 5% to 10% and when people are asked about the causes which they feel passionate about this increased to 15%.  Solicitors and will writers have been urged to study the report and take action on it.

But it is not just when we make our wills that a simple change in behaviour can reap great rewards.  The study found that personalising messages makes a huge difference to the number of people who decide to donate to a cause.  For example, adding a photo of a staff member who has agreed to donate to a charity will double the number of colleagues who follow suit and in one trial at a large bank, sending a personal message from the CEO trebled the amount of funds raised.

Whilst these examples relate to fund-raising in work situations or when writing wills, they have profound implications for those working in the charity field including those who work for charitable visitor attractions.  With money being tight, those working within charities are often reluctant to ask for further donations, particularly when 72% of us already give some time or money to charity.

What this study shows is that by using “behavioural insights” which are designed to encourage, support and enable people to make better decisions for themselves, charities can dramatically increase their income without being seen to be aggressive.  Simply by using the right words to ask a question or make a suggestion, visitors can be encouraged to complete a gift aid form or to increase their donation to the charity.

The ease of this process means charity employees or volunteers are themselves far more likely to engage with the practice and to be happy to raise the subject of giving.  Helping them further by taking steps to engage staff and helpers with the aims and vision of the charity and providing training on face to face conversations could dramatically change the fortunes of the charity.  The full text of the Government’s report can be accessed via the link below.*

With volunteering being associated with increased life satisfaction – not only among volunteers, but in the community around them any steps taken to improve volunteering and giving levels will result in a win for the charity, a win for the community and a win for the giver.  That’s a message which anyone can agree with.


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