I remember being at a fundraising conference a few years back where delegates were talking with jealousy about the passion that people had for football teams and rock stars. One person summed up this feeling by saying how he felt when he went to see his favourite band:

"When I go to a concert, I just go crazy with my air guitar. I want my donors to do that."


Football teams and rock bands generate huge levels of passion and commitment. People will spend thousands of pounds following them. Cripes, some people will even emblazon their bodies with names, logos and even pictures – just like my friend Chelsea Paul.

But are charities ready for what that sort of passion entails? Do they really want it? 

Would they welcome thousands of people turning up at their offices in response to a change of policy. Petitions being delivered pressing for the removal of chief executives. Or even be in the situation that faced Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United, who didn't feel safe enough to go to a game at his own club?

And of course, there is the reverse of love – hate. For every person who loves a team or band, there will be another who takes an opposing view. Let's take the football team who currently top the Premier League for example – Manchester United.

I have created a love-o-meter and put Man U through it to see what happens (OK it's not a love-o-meter, it's just Google and I'm searching "love manchester united", "love man u" and "love man united" against the "hate" equivalents).

I've found 123,600 references to loving and 70,100 to hating, which gives a love-o-meter ratio of 1.8. Chelsea does better with a ratio of 2, whilst Arsenal gets a good 3.4. Liverpool, however, with 232,000 loves vs only 40,800 hates, tops the "Big 4" with a ratio of 5.7.

It's similar for bands. Coldplay generates a return of 5, whilst there is another massive Merseyside love in from The Beatles with a ratio of 12 (with over 1.15 million loves).

(And while we are at it, Mcdonald's with their I'm lovin' it campaign, generates 18,700 hates).

And I imagine you know that I couldn't resist testing a few of the country's biggest charities on the love-o-meter. The number of returns was tiny compared to music and football. Only a few hundred people were driven to blog or comment about the voluntary organisations that I chose – Oxfam, NSPCC, RSPCA and The National Trust. 

As you'll see, The National Trust came out way on top with a ratio of 94.8 and at the bottom was Oxfam with a ratio of 4.

Love-o-meter results

But it's the comments that people make that are most interesting (if you discount the obviously ridiculous ones such as:

"Last time, I gave them my old demob suit. I turned the telly on and saw President Mugabe wearing it…I hate Oxfam".)

The vast majority of love posts for Oxfam, for example, are about the shops.

"I absolutely love Oxfam! they're definitely my charity shop of choice".

"I ave to say dat I personally love oxfam!!!!! it may sound stoky but omg the clothes are top of last centurys range and they are amazingly stylish and cheap".

And the hate ones are often about face to face recruitment or direct debits.

"Sometimes, i hate Oxfam for having my money when I want to go to lunch or buy something frivolous, but it's a fleeting thing."

"I hate Oxfam. Walking through town today, i have been accosted by several of Oxfam's offensive young chuggers."

Ok. Back to being sensible. The idea of the love-o-meter is nothing more than a little fun messing around with Google, but I think there is something we can learn from it.

People have their emotions stirred when something effects them personally – by winning goals or fantastic music or more mundanely by finding a great bargain in a shop or by being inconvenienced in the street – but it would seem people are rarely driven to strong emotion by what a charity is actually doing towards achieving their key mission.

And I don't think it's because they don't care. 

I think it is because we are not talking enough about the role of the donor in what we do. We give facts and figures in magazines, appeals and on-line but we forget that human beings are powered by emotion – not by reason.

As Lovemarks points out, a whole range of studies have proven that if the emotion centres of the brain are damaged in an accident or by disease, we don't just stop laughing or crying, we also lose the ability to make decisions.

It's best summed up by the neurologist, Donald Calne:

"The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions."

And if we are going to get people to love charities as much as football teams or bands we need to remember it's what we offer the donor that is important. By moving them emotionally, by engaging them, by offering them a chance to grow – by focussing on their individual needs as people – we will succeed.

Then we may have another issue to deal with as people try to gain more control over what charities do, but as my dear old friend, Martin McAuley often says:

"That's a different class of problem, Mark".