Donors' experience of sustained charitable giving: A phenomenological study

Gerard P PRENDERGAST, Chan Hak Wai Maggie

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: Charitable organizations need to have an in-depth understanding of their donors in order to retain their donations and attract new donors. This is particularly the case when the relationship with the donor is expected to be sustained rather than a one-off donation. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to discover the essence of donors' experiences of joining a child sponsorship program. The central research question is: What does it mean to be a child sponsor? Design/methodology/approach: A phenomenological methodology was used to explore the experiences associated with charitable giving for individuals providing long-term financial support to disadvantaged children. Findings: An analysis of 84 significant statements from a series of in-depth interviews revealed that sponsors experience both gains and losses from sponsoring a child. Financial ability and peers are influential in motivating child sponsorship, but the decision to sponsor a child is often not shared with family members. Sponsors indicated that they want to establish a close relationship with their sponsored child and they tend to sponsor children whom they perceive as similar in some respect to themselves. Research limitations/implications: The study focused on existing sponsors and did not consider lapsers. Second, although interviewing was continued to the point of saturation, and although the sample size was relatively large for a phenomenological study, caution must be exercised when trying to extrapolate the findings to a broader population. Practical implications: Charities should take a proactive role in managing communication between beneficiaries and sponsors. It is particularly important for the beneficiaries to communicate with the sponsors so as to give the sponsor the feeling of sponsoring a friend/family member. Charities could encourage their current sponsors to actively share their happiness and satisfaction with their friends. Testimonials and referral programs wherein happy sponsors share their experiences with potential sponsors would probably be productive. Finally, charities should aim to match sponsors and beneficiaries, at least in terms of nationality. Originality/value: This is the first study to investigate long-term charitable giving using an interpretative framework. The findings extend understanding of the experiences underlying sustained charitable giving and will be useful for charitable organizations seeking to understand more about the experiences of sponsors. Consideration of the findings will help charities maintain long-term donor relationships and encourage more people to undertake long-term sponsorship commitments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)130-139
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Marketing

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Charitable donations
    • Charitable giving
    • Charity
    • Long-term giving
    • Phenomenology
    • Sponsorship


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