Philanthropy For Us — International Fundraising Insight Report

Jason Briggs and Miryam Prasetyo accepting the Insight Award 2016

Abstract — An Insight Award winning project that codifies 6 well known international philanthropy reports for clearer conclusions. A great example of data led strategy and how analytics can powerfully inform senior decision making.


My name is Jason Briggs and I am Research & Prospect Manager for The University of Sheffield. Our team consists of Miryam Prasetyo, Prospect Researcher, and Wouter Servaas, also a Prospect Researcher, plus casual research workers.

Recently we won Most Powerful Insight Using Innovative Methods of Data Analysis and Highly Commended for Most Powerful Insight through Research at the Insight in Fundraising 2016 Awards. This was a great honour as there were many excellent projects nominated.

As a way of sharing the project to a wider audience I thought I would publish an online summary of the project that was sent to the Insight in Fundraising award team. I also think the findings would interest development departments and I hope to generate a conversation about the methods and findings.

Circumstances and aims of the project

In early 2015, my department, the Development, Alumni Relations and Events Office, recruited an International Alumni Development Manager. This person’s role was to engage with and fundraise from alumni in countries outside of the UK and the US.

For the past 10 years the department has traditionally focused its international fundraising activity on the Far East, principally Singapore, China and Hong Kong. We had some successes but not the numbers you’d expect for the years we’ve been there. We therefore wanted take a fresh look at international fundraising in order to best advise our Senior Management Team on the most promising countries to fundraise from, particularly for major donor fundraising.

The question we wanted to answer was, ‘which countries, other than the UK or US, show the most amount of philanthropic potential for us?’

We therefore wanted to examine the findings of international philanthropy reports and other related research. The reports chosen were:

1. Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report 2014

2. Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index 2014

3. BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index 2015

4. Barclays Wealth Global Giving: The Culture of Philanthropy 2010

5. Knight Frank The Wealth Report 2014

6. Big Mac Index 2015

For us’ meant that we didn’t want to examine these reports in isolation, we wanted to understand them in the context of our own data. Since we mainly fundraise from our graduates, it made sense to juxtapose the findings with our international graduate locations and university presence.

In addition, as with all research teams, we have limited resources. We therefore wanted to understand which countries were most practical for our Research Team to research in the long term by looking at the reach of our subscription resources and our available language skills.

When it came to addressing the reports, 76 countries are mentioned. This is quite a large list and it soon became clear that directly comparing and contrasting each report and its findings, along with our own data, was difficult, largely because they present their findings in different ways. For example, one report would report on international wealth distribution through info-graphics, another reported on the international location of major donations through maps, or another on philanthropic cultural tendencies through a point scoring system.

All this information is clearly meaningful, and necessary to consider when answering our question — but how do you marry all these findings and our own data together in one place to make it easier to compare and draw clear conclusions? This was the objective we set ourselves, to create a system that would allow us to do just that.

Our solution

We therefore set about creating a matrix that would codify our own data and all the varied information across the reports into a ‘uniform coding system’, which would allow for findings to be compared easily.

We identified six main categories that we felt would adequately test a country’s philanthropic prowess and make the array of information easier to digest. These were:

1. Wealth Distribution (wealth of a country — UNWI as indicator)

2. Philanthropic Tendencies (number and value of major donations made)

3. Gift Value (value of currency)

4. Alumni Presence (total numbers of our graduates living in each country)

5. Local University Presence (satellite campuses or partnerships in these countries)

6. Research Resources (our data reach and language skills)

We reviewed in detail the various reports along with our own data and scored each of the 76 countries listed between A to F for each of the six categories. These letters would then translate into a point system.

‘A’ would be 5 points, ‘B’ = 4 points, ‘C’ = 3 points, ‘D’ = 2 points, ‘E’ = 1 point and ‘F’ = 0 points. Each of the six categories would have a weighting because some were deemed more important than others in assessing a countries prowess for fundraising. Category 1 and 2 were weighted at points scored x3. Category 3 was points scored x2, and 4, 5 and 6 were points scored x1.

These scores are added up, giving a total score that we called, Philanthropy for Us (PFU) score. The higher the PFU score, the higher the philanthropic potential for the organisation, in this case, The University of Sheffield.

A screenshot of the final report is shown below:

Image A

Note: One may notice that the report has two columns that show the scoring for each country, A. Score (6 metrics) and B. Score (4 metrics). The final PFU score is calculated using B. Score (4 metrics). This is because we concluded that Category 5 and 6 could be significantly influenced by us, rendering them largely irrelevant. For example, for Category 6 we could temporally recruit someone who could speak the language of the country we aim to fundraise from, and for Category 5 it doesn’t matter too much for fundraising purposes if we have a university presence in a graduate’s country. Therefore, our final PFU scores were based on only the first 4 Categories.

The report was also built in such a way that each of the six categories can be expanded to show the findings that gave the country its scores as shown below:

Results and insights

The main result was the production of an adaptable matrix that ordered countries by ‘most promising fundraising venture, for us’, the PFU ranking. From here we were able create our own Top 10 as seen in Image A. Below are some notable findings:

1. Ireland

Ireland came out as joint 2nd place. We had never thought of Ireland as a place for fundraising, it just didn’t occur to us. As an English speaking country that is close by this may well be low hanging fruit we’ve been missing. We have since started a telephone campaign to ‘check out’ receptivity and the response has been as good as any other well performing segment.

2. Mainland Europe

We’ve always wanted to do more fundraising from mainland Europe but didn’t know where to start. This matrix clarified which countries to start with, bringing Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland to our attention with high PFU scores. Sweden, to our surprise, turned out to be #1 because of its concentration of wealth and currency value. Having shown this to notable fundraising consultants they have confirmed these findings with anecdotal evidence, which is reassuring!

3. Far East

One of our most striking findings was related to Singapore, China and Hong Kong where we have traditionally focused our international fundraising resources.

We found that in Singapore 0% of their $1m or above major donations go overseas, giving them a very low score of F in Philanthropic Tendencies, becoming 25th overall in the PFU ranking. In China, only 1% of $1m donations go overseas, becoming 47th in the PFU ranking, and in Hong Kong only 5% go overseas. However, Hong Kong’s philanthropy had an emphasis on Higher Education, allowing them to have a higher rating overall. This meant they came 7th in the PFU ranking, but this was largely the exception with most Far Eastern countries coming in low.

In the Far East then, it is possible that culturally there is a tendency to keep major donations in their own country and neighbourhoods. Since we operate in the UK, we may conclude that we are not likely to be their philanthropic priority. Therefore, thanks to this report, our Senior Management Team decided to reduce fundraising efforts in Singapore and China and the Far East in general, choosing instead to free up resources to focus on other countries.

4. GCC Countries

In contrast to the Far East, we uncovered another striking finding. The GCC countries donate a massive 95% of their $1m donations to overseas projects, with Higher Education being one of their preferred causes. UAE contributed 80% of this total, coming joint 4th in our PFU ranking.

Therefore, we have decided to reallocate resources, both personnel and research time from the Far East into the GCC Countries, in particular the UAE. So far our prospect research is uncovering some very interesting names, including billionaires, and qualitative understanding, such as the law of Zakat, is giving us further confidence that this is the right thing to do, for us, for now.

5. Data-led strategy

A skeptical person may say that normally reports are produced, read and then put on the shelf and decisions made with gut instincts. However, this was a real example where data was used to make decisions, where Insight became the spearhead of strategic thinking. The Senior Management Team was so impressed with the results because they were so clear and conclusive, that we are being asked to produce analysis more frequently in major strategic decisions.



1. It’s adaptable

It is easy to update with new reports or to change its parameters if we want to answer different questions about international fundraising.

2. Transferable

The process is moderately easy to replicate, meaning its form could be useful for other purposes, such as student recruitment, where we may want to know which country is best to recruit from.

3. Tailored

Because it uses our own data along with external reports, it answers our objectives perfectly, meaning the results are highly impactful.

4. Makes senior strategic decisions easier and more accurate

By extracting the essence of the reports we can now answer micro and macro strategic questions for our international fundraising strategy with ease and relevance.

5. Caused a positive cultural shift

This project brought Insight to the heart of our department. The recommendations that we presented to our Senior Management Team were so clear and informed that it reoriented our international fundraising priorities. Now we have a culture where data-led strategy is more valued than ever, informing more and more of our decisions.


1. Report Findings

After reviewing some extracted findings we found their content not to be granular enough to influence this particular rating system. For example, we found the BNP Paribas report too generalised to confidently link their findings to specific countries. However, we included the information for completeness and it may be used to revise marginal scoring. We also acknowledge that there are other reports that the PFU report could have benefited from. Over time we aim to add to this work with such reports and other information as and when we come across it.

2. Subjective

The project was, in lots of ways, very subjective. For example, the researcher reviewed countries across reports and then made a subjective decision on whether they should get an A, B, C, D, E or F contributing to the PFU score. Another researcher who looks at these findings may well conclude something different. Next time we will have more in-depth discussions on what constitutes A, B or C etc for each section. However, we felt it was the best way to compare all this information for now and often there were substantial differences in findings to point to ‘clear winners’.

3. Available Data

Not all countries had available data, for example some countries simply did not record their philanthropic donations so it did not appear in the reports. This often meant there was a data bias towards ‘developed countries’ or those that are happy to share their data.

4. Quantifiable

At present only quantifiable data in the reports were compared. We hope to make efforts to assess qualitative data in these reports at some point.

5. Keeping with the times

The world changes rapidly. We recognise that information can go out of date quickly, trying to stay on top of that is difficult and measures need to be put in place.

Comment or Follow

For those who wish to discuss this further my email is, I am on Twitter at @jasonjbriggs and Linked-in here,

Co-Founder of, exp. in consulting, fundraising intelligence, Higher Ed and not-for-profit management - wish to share for the joy of sharing!

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