Charities might have been getting it in the neck over their fundraising practices but the sector is missing out on a potential £5.3bn a year in extra donations simply because most supporters do not feel engaged with the charities they support.
That is the worrying conclusion of a new study, launched by Amaze One, Harvest and Boy on a Beach, which surveyed 1,000 UK-based respondents.
Those surveyed had to have supported at least one of the UK’s top 50 charities in the last 12 months via at least two methods. The research specifically examined the levels of engagement and supporter behaviour within the third sector.
It found that, despite a disappointing lack of donor engagement, there was a clear opportunity for charities to revamp their communications strategy.
The research suggested that those who do engage with the charities they support, on average, donate 50% more compared to those that did not feel engaged with charities. This ‘engaged’ group was also 10% more likely to increase their year-on-year spend with their chosen charity, as opposed to just 3% for neutral supporters.
Engagement was defined as any activity that causes a supporter to invest in a charity – cognitively, emotionally, and behaviourally – so that their life-time value increases.
When put into a national context, this equates to £5.3bn a year in extra charitable donations across the UK, based on figures from the Charities Aid Foundation’s UK Giving Report, released last year.
Recent research conducted by The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) also discovered a heavy reliance on a small donor base, as just a tenth of those questioned (9%) accounted for two thirds (66%) of overall donations within the UK, underlining that charities have a major opportunity to use engagement to turn donors into real and tangible advocates.
The research comes at a time of growing pressure on charities to self-regulate and self-administer best practice across the industry. The PACAC report into fundraising practices, published last month, called for stricter measures on opt-in and opt-out marketing, as well increased responsibilities for fundraisers.
Danielle Atkinson, assistant director of public fundraising at Breast Cancer Now, said: “UK charities are some of the very best in the world and we should be proud of the work that they do. What this research highlights is the fact that, while the public are willing to support worthwhile causes, charities need to look closely at the way they engage their supporters, being mindful that there are very personal and often different reasons to donate to particular charities. Those that capture the public’s imagination through engagement strategies will experience very real and tangible benefits.”
Amaze One deputy managing director Janet Snedden added: “The last year has been a tough one for charities, with several reports and investigations criticising fundraising methods, due to high-profile incidents dominating the headlines.
“What’s especially poignant and encouraging for charities is the fact that, despite the majority not feeling especially engaged, donors are still willing to lend their financial support to worthwhile causes. Fundraising is essential for charities to be able to provide services and support to beneficiaries, and I wholeheartedly support the many initiatives to rebuild trust in the sector.”
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