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  • 27 June 2005
  • Charities ‘must learn to cherish their donors’

    Charities who want supporters to give more should show them how much they are valued - as is the case for the UK's much-cherished blood donors.

    This was the message delivered to charity leaders by Dr Tom Farsides, a social psychology lecturer at the University of Sussex. Dr. Farsides, who researches altruistic behaviour, was speaking at a seminar in London for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) called 'Why do people give to charity - and why don't others? How do we encourage more giving?' as part of Social Sciences Week (June 20-24)

    Dr Farsides argues that people need to feel that their contributions are motivated by a genuine charitable concern for others. "People become wary if they feel others are trying to manipulate them into doing something, even if they wanted to do that thing in the first place," says Dr Farsides. "Every piece of research I have done or am aware of suggests that people genuinely want to help others, but also that they want to do so of their own free will."

    Dr Farsides suggests that aggressive campaigning tactics by charities - known as "chugging" (charity mugging) - can make people doubt both their own motives for giving and the nature of charity itself.

    Dr Farsides says: "Lots of people resent being asked for money on the street. The 'hard sell' approach means people feel that they have to justify saying 'no'. Similar views are often expressed about people trying to be sponsored to support their favourite charity (often by doing something they want to do, such as the London-Brighton cycle ride). The same goes for Comic Relief.

    "It's like any other relationship. If you get your own way only by nagging, threatening or pleading, other people will eventually help you only when they feel they have to. They also will not like you very much. On the other hand, if you show warm appreciation for someone who voluntarily helps you, you will have a friend for life."

    Dr Farsides points to the National Blood Service as an organisation that cherishes those who give. "They have done a great job. Supporters are told how amazing they are and I have never seen any campaign in which the service suggests it thinks negatively about anyone who does not give blood. As a result, people who give blood a few times tend to keep giving it as often as they can for as long as they can - and feel good about themselves for doing so."

    Those who wish to follow the example of the National Blood Service should avoid undermining people's sense of altruism, says Dr Farsides: "Charities shouldn't put people in situations in which they feel the need to justify not giving to charity. There is nothing wrong with charities asking for our help, but they need to be gracious if and when we do not want to give. People have reasons not to give at least as often as they give suspect 'excuses'."


    Notes for editors 

    • Dr Farsides' seminar was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of Social Sciences Week, hosted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) on Friday, June 24 at NCVO, London. Tom Farsides can be contacted on 01273 678 888 or email
    • Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel 01273 678 888 or email or



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