Philanthopy research database

In collaboration with Giving What We Can and Innovations in Fundraising, have created a database of over 900 papers examining how to promote philanthropy and donating. We aim to help charity researchers and practitioners to access and manage relevant research evidence and have increased social impact.

The current database and supporting materials are prototypes developed for feedback. Further work and improvement depends on whether we get positive feedback. Submit feedback here.

To access this database, download the newest RIS file in this Google Drive folder, and open it with a free citation library manager (e.g. Zotero). Here is a short video showing you how to download the file and use Zotero (it runs out of time so please see the next video for how to add records). Here is a short video showing you how to add research to Zotero from google scholar or from a folder.

We can provide better, and longer instructions for the using the database, if there is sufficient demand.

We post updates about the newest articles added to the database each quarter on social media (follow Peter on Linkedin). We will create a dedicated account or newsletter if there is demand.

If you have questions then please read the FAQ here. If you have questions that haven’t been addressed or a comment, then please submit these to our form.


Why might this database be useful to researchers?

  • If you are new to research in this area you can save several hours of time searching, downloading and tagging papers.

  • If you are an existing researcher you can download the database and add it to your own and get papers you may have missed.

Why might this database be useful to my charity or fundraising organisation?

  • Use best practice to engage with academic evidence. Academic search engines and citation management systems are the best way to find and store academic research. Unfortunately, not everyone has access. This database gives you most of what you could find in a search, without the need to have the access and ability to do it. It also provides tags to help categorise those materials.

  • Be more evidence based and up-to-date with relevant research. When there are new relevant research findings like the identifiable victim effect you will be able to know about and react to them more quickly.

  • Identify relevant researchers producing most of the research relevant to your areas of fundraising. Know who to ask about

  • Simplify research and strategy development. Use the database (alongside zotero) to inform how, what and when to communicate on your website and promotional materials.

  • Save time finding the information you need. Use searching and tagging to curate key sets of papers inside your reference management and quickly answer specific questions.

How can I download, access and use the database?

Here is a short video showing you how to download the file and use Zotero (it runs out of time so please see the next video for how to add records)

Here is a short video showing you how to add research to Zotero from google scholar or from a folder.

What are examples of potential future improvements to the database and project?

All research could be carefully tagged using a defined tag catalogue. If curious about designing an animal welfare website, for instance, you could narrow the results by selecting these tags: ‘website’ and ‘animals’ and immediately hone in on all relevant evidence.

In the long term this database could co-exist alongside a ‘living review’ - a review of the literature that is regularly updated, for instance, once each year. The output from this process could potentially look something like this (but cover a much larger body of literature).

The living review, database and other material could be hosted within a ‘philanthropy research toolkit’, like this website.

How should I interpret the findings from individual papers in the database?

Considering the research is necessary but not sufficient for making good decisions about how to run a charity or fundraiser.

You shouldn’t necessarily trust and apply any single finding in isolation and should consider all academic evidence alongside your personal experience, knowledge and user research.

Additionally, most research will not provide “direct pointers on what to do” so you may need to do your own interpretation and testing.

Unfortunately there are rarely answers to how best to run your charity - all this database can do is make it easier to to get and to manage some of the relevant information you need.

Where can I find the papers for the records in the database?

For copyright reasons we cannot share the papers for most of the records in the database. However, you may be able to access these via a library or by contacting the researchers. There are services such as Sci-hub which can access all papers but these are illegal and we do not recommend using them.

Can I get an evidence summary report for a specific research question?

If you need help summarising the collective evidence or getting to the ‘who needs to do what’ level of detail then we recommend reaching out to relevant consulting services and asking them to review relevant research on your behalf. READI do not have capacity to do this at present.

How can I help or join this project?

Please email if you are interested in helping with the database. Volunteers will need some basic experience with collecting and managing research articles.

If you are a philanthropy researcher, we would appreciate it if you can contribute some of your research from any personal database you maintain. You can usually export some, or all records as an RIS file from most software (XML is also fine).