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Adrian Sargeant to lead philanthropic psychology research centre at Plymouth University

Plymouth University is opening a new research centre that will be the first to focus on philanthropic psychology. Led by fundraising academic Professor Adrian Sargeant, the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy will examine the social and psychological drivers of giving and derive practical applications for fundraisers from them.
He will be joined at the Centre by Stephen Pidgeon, Visiting Professor of Direct Response Fundraising, and Professor Jen Shang who will lead on respectively knowledge dissemination and knowledge generation and research. Professor Sargeant will lead on action-based education.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”assembling the largest and highest quality alliance of academic researchers, governmental agencies and civil sector partners to improve our understanding of philanthropic growth”[/quote]

Changing attitudes to philanthropy

The Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy (CSP) aims both to investigate and change attitudes to philanthropy. Professor Sargeant points out that the proportion of wealth that people give to charity has barely changed in 40 years.
He said:

“The drivers of giving are relatively under-explored resulting in a paucity of high quality information being available to academics, policy makers, philanthropists and, of course, fundraisers. Our aim is to develop the evidence base for all these stakeholders, assembling the largest and highest quality alliance of academic researchers, governmental agencies and civil sector partners to improve our understanding of philanthropic growth and enhance its sustainable practice in the UK and around the world.


How to move from Fundraiser to CEO - by Bruce Tait. Upwards white arrow on blue background.

“The CSP will be the only academic centre focused on growing philanthropy in a sustainable way, by enhancing the quality of the experience for the donor or philanthropist. And what will be fundamentally different about us is that we’re not solely interested in studying philanthropy – we want to grow it, not only in this country, but around the world.”

Three initial projects

The Centre will begin with three ‘signature projects’.

  1. A global panel study of how wealthy individual philanthropists grow into their new role and develop their philanthropy. By combining understanding of human development, neural psychology, clinical psychology and social psychology it is designed to assist these individuals in “achieving more meaningful and sustainable impact from their giving”.Professor Shang explained: “It would be great if every new philanthropist knew the challenges they would face in developing their philanthropy and could draw on an academic analysis of the experience of their peers as they began their individual quest for impact.”
  2. A panel study of donor behaviour will explore how and why a supporter’s journey with a charity changes over time.
  3. A variety of field experiments on philanthropic psychology – the largest pool of such experiments yet assembled, according to Professor Sargeant. The experiments would test new ideas on how to stimulate giving and add genuine value for supporters, helping fundraisers understand what to refine in their communications testing. Professor Sargeant believes this activity will “make a highly significant contribution to fundraising theory and practice”.

Professor Sargeant said:

“Wouldn’t it be good that, if a couple of years from now, every fundraiser knew the three key drivers of donor loyalty and at least two models of donor behaviour, not to mention the relationship between brand and giving and what drives trust in an organisation.”

Launch event

The Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy is launching at an invitation-only reception in London on Monday 3 February 2014.