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Daniel Fluskey: Women give more to charity than men, but why?

21 Aug 2017 Voices

New research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Institute of Fundraising shows that women are better at giving to charity than men. Daniel Fluskey writes that this survey proves that men have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to donating to charity.

Men, we have a problem. Well, we have a number of problems but for the purposes of this article let’s keep it simple. Our research Insights into charity fundraising released last week shows that women say that they are more likely to give to charity, give to more charities, and give more often.

In fact, the results of the work carried out by YouGov, show that across the board women are more likely to take charitable activities or be engaged in causes: they’re more likely to donate, volunteer, sign a petition, buy goods from a charity shop, visit a charity’s website or show support through social networking. The only area where men say that they are more charitable is in the amount that they say they give - an average of £29.04, compared to £22.84 from women.

This is not new - gender differences in charitable giving have been highlighted before. Which leads us to try ask the inevitable follow up question: why? Well, the jury’s out and there isn’t a simple, one sentence answer. But let’s have a go at speculating and hypothesising anyway.

The closer you are to charities, the more likely you are to donate

Charity Commission research shows that on every question related to trust and confidence, women give higher scores than men. Women also are more likely to think that charities play an essential/very important role in society than men (72 per cent to 66 per cent), and a higher percentage of women say that they have either used a charitable service or received support from a charity.

While none of this gives a straight line of causation, you can build up a bit of a picture that there is some relationship between people using a charitable service, trusting a charity more, and then donating. That relationship could easily flow the other way as well, with the donation being the spark that brings you closer to a cause and more likely to use a charitable service resulting in higher trust.  

This link with a personal experience is indicated in our research too – when people were asked about what motivated people to give their last donation, 39 per cent of women (33 per cent of men) said that they did so because ‘supporting charities is a good thing to do’ and 24 per cent of women (17 per cent of men) said that they had done so because the charity had helped someone they knew

Men and women may have different expectations, experiences or desires of what they expect from charities

In our research we asked people to rate their whole experience of donating to a charity. While a high proportion of both men and women reported a high satisfaction level of ‘very good/good’, it was higher for women (77 per cent) than for men (69 per cent).

Broad brush approach here, but perhaps this suggests something about how charities go about fundraising and engaging supporters the sector.  Are we perhaps asking for money in a way that’s more likely to engage women than men?   

Are we fundraising in a way that fails to reach everyone equally?

We know that there are more women than men working in fundraising. Does that mean that as a sector we are more likely to be connecting with women and gaining their support and donations because it is mainly women who are doing the asking? Are the fundraising campaigns and activities we do more likely to appeal to women than men? It makes cost-effective sense to concentrate fundraising on people that have given before, but perhaps over time we’ve narrowed our focus towards a female base rather than trying to reach people who perhaps have been less likely to give in the past.

There are some brilliant examples of charities working to engage and fundraise from men.  Prostate Cancer UK is one such example. They have unashamedly revamped their brand over the last four years to make it more ‘masculine’ and, while not targeting men to the exclusion of women, have appealed more to a male audience. The results speak for themselves as they have seen a threefold increase in income over the last five years.

The example of Prostate Cancer UK may not work in every case, of course, and it is a ‘male’ cause. However, the continuing disparity between men and women in the numbers who donate and engage with charities should be something that our sector thinks hard about. We should be asking some questions about whether, and how, we should be doing more to make sure men step up and support the causes we all care about. 

Daniel Fluskey is head of policy and research at the Institute of Fundraising. 

Civil Society Media would like to thank the Institute of Fundraising for their support with this article. 


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