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Oxfam study shows honesty & transparency key in building relationships with philanthropists

Oxfam study shows honesty & transparency key in building relationships with philanthropists

Charities need to get better at sharing information openly and honestly with funders if they are to truly engage them, with today’s philanthropists seeking much greater involvement, research by Oxfam has found.

Oxfam recently published its findings from a two-year study with trusts and foundations, which was aimed at gaining a better understanding of their funding motivations, ambitions and experiences of partnering with charities.

The study, How to Change the World: What Donors Want From Their Philanthropy, saw the charity’s Partnership Insight Team interview more than 60 philanthropists, advisors, Trustees, Directors and Grant Managers from trusts and foundations. The insights, the charity says, have completely changed the way it works, and how it thinks about its supporters.

It found that philanthropy is changing, with fewer philanthropists happy with solely handing out money with no close involvement as to how it is spent. Instead, this is being replaced with a desire to do more – and in return to get more back.

Today’s philanthropists want to be more involved and meaningfully engaged in terms of being able to use their skills, invest their time, as well as to be kept informed, heard and to feel more of a partner as well as part of the solution.

The research shows that many are currently frustrated with giving and although most are motivated by creating positive social change, giving most large donations to other causes such as education and health, due to concerns about measuring impact, difficulty identifying the right organisation, and a perceived lack of ambitious projects that need donations at this level.

Philanthropists seek authenticity in their relationships with charities and transparent, honest communication – a common perception being that charities are prone to putting a ‘spin’ on the facts to show them in the best possible light to potential funders.

Results are important too, with those interviewed seeking to see the biggest possible impact from their donations and to see problems permanently solved. Within this, there was a desire for better reporting on impact from charities with philanthropy seen as an investment and same rigour and accountability applied to it as to a business transaction.

The report is available in full online. Kate Sillis, Oxfam’s Partnership Insight Lead, has also written a blog on the research, in which she comments:

Where we’ve really been able to put the insights into practice with our supporters and partners, we have seen engagements which have pushed us, and our funders, into new spaces. Listening, understanding, and being open to doing things differently is crucial for charities, fundraisers and funders to work together better to achieve their shared goals.”




Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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