Airline Charities: Giving is easier when it’s easier

I’ve just got off a long-haul flight with Qatar Airlines.  Like many airlines, they have a corporate charity.  Theirs is focused on educating children in third world countries. A noble cause.  Ignobly ignored by most on my flight.

They have an inflight video showing what the charity does and asking people to donate.  They even followed up with an inflight announcement.  I doubt many people could even tell you the name of the charity – we switch off because we want to switch on to the 100+ films/shows on offer.  At the end of the flight, I deliberately sat and watched passengers disembarking.  Hardly any charity envelopes were handed in.

Here’s a few common-sense ideas about how airlines could increase their charity response rate (based on my 35+ years as a planner and human insight specialist talking about and observing our human behaviours).


Make it easy / remove any possible paths of resistance.  Think about it.  Asking people to put their foreign currency in an envelope mid-flight makes no sense.  Where is this currency?  In their bags, in the overhead lockers. We all know how we feel about opening these during a flight, and how irritated we are when fellow passengers reach above us.  And what about that elusive envelope?  The film said in the seat-backs in front of us, but not so. Resistance on 2 fronts.

Solution: Time any announcements for when we have our money / wallets in our hands, or at least within easy reach.  Ideally just before landing. Better still, the gate is an ideal place for such announcements. After all, we all suffer terminal boredom waiting for our seating Zone to be called. Providing envelopes airside means we can clear out our wallets before we even embark.  We have no need for it where we’re heading – back home.


What’s in it for me?  Who even likes/needs all that loose change or notes when we get home?  What makes us hoard/store currencies when we have no immediate plans to re-visit our wonderful holiday destination again in the foreseeable future?

Solution:  Utilise Marie Kondo’s philosophy in any inflight/other charity announcements.  It won’t give us joy when we’re back, it has very little true value.  So tell us about the joy we’ll get by giving to their worthy cause – make the messaging more direct. Challenge (in a gentle/jovial way) the lack of rationale in keeping this, while promoting the benefits of the one time we can be happy about an empty wallet.


Who (not what) am I giving to?  It’s great to feel our donations have made a real difference to people’s lives. It’s important to believe the time it takes to sort out our foreign currency is worthwhile. The end beneficiary is the best person to tell the story, not a documentary about the need for education.

Solution:  If it’s about education in third world countries, let’s hear it from the boys.  Better, and more importantly still, let’s hear it from the girls.  Real people whose lives are improved from the dongs, dollars, dinahs, dinasis we have no use for.  Make it a no-brainer to donate.



Make me feel (and look) good.  On the few times I visit a church (e.g. Memorial Day) I notice that when the collection bags are passed around, very few people pass this on without making a contribution.  Why is this? It’s a gentle, but evident peer pressure.  We feel good for donating, and we certainly feel bad for passing the velvet pouch / silver salver on without doing so.

Solution:  Make it visible.  Remind us to get our change ready, use clear envelopes, and have a collection ‘box’ (ideally Perspex so we can see the coins and notes) held by crew members thanking people as they leave.


In short, we all know that airline charities are great CSR initiatives.  By keeping it simple and making us feel good for taking a few moments donate, surely donations would be increased.