By Andrew Holt

Wealthy donors reveal that evidence about the difference a charity makes and a personal connection to a cause are the biggest influences when it comes to giving to charity.

A survey by the charity Pilotlight found that while over 70% of philanthropists and city executives said a personal link to a charity was behind their decision to donate, nearly 60% said information on the impact of the charity’s work was a key factor.

The survey of over 160 business leaders and philanthropists across England and Scotland revealed that 3 in 10 people have been motivated to give because of the funding crisis facing charities, although just over a quarter (27%) said fundraising campaigns influenced their decision.

This comes at a time when recent reports from the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have highlighted the fall in donations with £1.7 billion less being given in 2011/12 (donations fell to £9.3bn).

Pilotlight, which has been working for over ten years to bring together senior business leaders with small charities to make both more effective, believes its poll reinforces the need for charities to measure their impact and be more business-like.

Pilotlight’s chief executive, Fiona Halton, said: "Clearly donors now want more evidence of the impact a charity is having on the communities they serve.

"It’s also important they are told how their donation contributes to the charity and makes an even bigger difference. With donations falling, charities need to be actively measuring their impact and talking about it, if they want to attract donations of both time and money."

As the government looks to increase levels of volunteering Pilotlight found that while 90% of business executives engaged with a charity like Pilotlight to ‘give something back’, 60% also joined for their own professional learning and development.

Volunteering with charities through Pilotlight also led to nearly 40% of people increasing the amount they gave to a charity and over 20% increased the amount of time they spent volunteering.

Managing director of Schuh and joint founder of the Schuh Trust, Colin Temple, added: "It’s very easy to write a cheque and give to a big charity but I think you need to do your homework when it comes to giving and really find out where you will have an enduring impact.

"At the trust we look for small charities that may be struggling to get funding but we know their project will make a real difference."

Dr Beth Breeze, director of the Philanthropy Centre at the University of Kent, added: "This research usefully emphasises the key drivers of charitable giving.

"People respond subjectively to the issues that touch their lives, and are motivated to help when a cause speaks to their personal passions and experiences."

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Other stories you may find of interest:

UK giving culture in need of a boost, says NPC report
Under half (47%) of mainstream UK donors think people should give money to charity if they can afford to, a new report by the charity think tank NPC has found, and only 39% of people in the UK give over £50 a year. As the voluntary sector comes increasingly under pressure, with falling income and growing demand for services, NPC’s Money for Good UK report shines a light on who gives to charity and why.

Charities facing fundraising generation gap, says report
UK not-for-profits are facing a generation gap in fundraising, according to a new report launched today by software and services firm Blackbaud and consultancies Xtraordinary Fundraising and Stratcom. Not enough is being done to address a potential long term donation deficit, with Mature donors giving on average 27 per cent more each year than Generation X and 38 per cent more than Baby Boomers.

Donors want charities to show effectiveness
How to Connect with Donors, a report published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), found that sophisticated donors want charities to demonstrate their effectiveness and to adopt new forms of communication. The online survey of over 200 CAF and non-CAF donors asked them for their views on how the recession affects charities and what they thought charities could do to alleviate the effects of the recession. A key recommendation is in the use of new forms of communication: over three quarters (77%) said that charities should change how they communicate with donors. New media such as social networking (70%) and email (65%) were recommended as tools which charities should use more of in the recession.

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