In the UK and elsewhere individuals often engage in activities (e.g., running, shaving your head, etc.) for the purpose of eliciting sponsorship. The money raised is then donated to charity.


  • What motivates people to give money to the participants who then give it to the charity?
  • If the cause is worthy, why not give anyway?

Possible explanations I have include:

  • The participant willingly endures hardship and people give money as a reward for that hardship. In other words, it is a form of an emotional blackmail. This would mean that someone apt at the type of activity should receive substantially less.
  • The event is fun to watch and it is merely a PR opportunity.
  • $\begingroup$ I am worried that this question is off-topic, but I am not sure enough to cast a close vote. Can you provide some initial research to make this question more clearly on topic for a scientific site? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 4:16

2 Answers 2


When people ask others whom they have a relationship with to sponsor their activities for charity, the requester is providing two things to the potential donor:

  • An awareness of the cause and the given charity which supports that cause (the cause is, in essence, a problem)
  • An prepackaged opportunity to help the person they know contribute to the cause (a solution!)

An essential prior factor here is that most people in the developed Western world have had a sense of charity and 'giving to those less fortunate' culturally drilled into us for most of our lives. That's why when we hear of some charitable cause, we're immediately inclined to feel that 'this is important!'.

In many cases, to the person being asked to donate, the personal monetary cost seems more convenient than shaving their head or running an Iron Man. The friend who is asking you to sponsor their activities is perceived to be doing something more challenging or more uncomfortable than what they are doing themselves, and we feel like they're letting us off the hook.


One element of sponsorship-based charity is that it typically relies on existing social networks to generate donations. Thus, the participant is typically a friend, work colleague, family member, or fellow community member of the donor.

This will add a wide range of social processes to increase the likelihood of donation:

  • At a basic information-processing level, the participant may make the donor aware of the charity and provide a simple method of donation.
  • The participant's involvement in the activity may act as a trigger to legitimate the charity.
  • The participant may create a subtle or not-so-subtle sense of social obligation that a donation is wanted or expected.
  • The donor may see the opportunity to assist the participant as part of a mutually supportive relationship.
  • The donation itself may be part of a broader view of encouraging a positive community.

This is not my area of expertise, but you might want to do a search of Google Scholar for articles on charity fund raising. For example, I found this article on participation in charity fund raising events.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer! The list of social pressures is very interesting. I am wondering though, how a good answer to "So, you're running, why should I suddenly give money, when I didn't so before" would sound? Perhaps there is no logical reasoning and it is all purely emotional? $\endgroup$
    – Konrads
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 13:01

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