Despite ebbing public concern on global poverty in the U.K., British public donations to non-governmental organizations have been steadily increasing since 1995. A new study by independent researcher Andrew Darnton reveals how this is possible.
“Development NGOs are deeply implicated in this,” Darnton writes in the blog “Poverty Matters” published in the Guardian. “The answer appears to relate directly to the adoption of new fundraising methods by the sector (for instance, the introduction of direct debit arrangements in the mid-1990s), as part of a wider shift in the way NGOs engage with the public.”
This shift, Darnton says, is described as the rise of “chequebook participation,” where organizations turn into “protest businesses,” with strong management structures and, increasingly, targets for growth.
“The transaction model of public engagement has worked for fundraising, but we argue it has played into the Live Aid (a 1985 concert organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds those affected by the Ethiopian famine) legacy, with its emphasis on the power of giving, and little else. A quick look at the communications strategies adopted by the sector shows that, in order to achieve the same or greater levels of donation, the content of the material has got harder, more heart-rending, and with less context. It is fair to ask where campaigns and fundraising will go next to keep income rising,” Darnton explains.
Darnton co-authored the report, Finding Frames, with Martin Kirk. The study examines how the U.K. public engages with global poverty issues, and how development NGOs can deepen this engagement.
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