37% of donors say they are less likely to give to new charities

November 24 2008 - Mark Phillips

During the recent rocky times, the fear amongst fundraisers has been of donors cutting back on giving, but every indication we have at Bluefrog is of something different happening.

Money isn’t being stashed under mattresses or in biscuit tins in preparation for a financial apocalypse. It’s still being given to charity but we are seeing donors start to consolidate their giving  In practice, this means charities are seeing a continuation (and in some cases an increase) in support from those donors that value them most highly or who see them as being in most need of support.  That’s why Bluefrog decided to undertake a large quantitative study (2000 people) into attitudes to giving to current as opposed to new charities. If we saw a big difference it would back up what we are hearing in focus groups and in-depth interviews – and now seeing in practice.

There has been some interesting research published recently by the RNLI and St. Mungo’s, but nothing really added to what we were seeing in our qualitative investigations.  And now we have some hard data, we are seeing just how far reaching these attitudes are. Nearly 40% of charity donors said that, in the current economic climate, they’d be less likely to add a new charity to the list that they already donate to.

Amber Nathan, Bluefrog’s researcher, sums up the findings…

We believe the most noticeable effect of the recession will be seen in recruitment – which looks like it is going to be tough in 2009. 

We found that 28% of all those interviewed (that includes the current non-donors) said they were less likely to start supporting a new charity. This rose to 34% amongst those aged 65 and over (and up to 40% amongst those 65+ that described themselves as donors). 

Approximately 7% said they would be more likely to support a new charity in the current economic climate. Whereas 40% said they would not be influenced either way. 

Fear of financial instability has always been a driver for reduced spending and in the commercial arena it invariably leads to fights for market share – not growth. 

As fundraisers we can learn from this. The solution to the problems presented by the economic downturn is already in our hands – we need to look after the donors we already have. And precisely because the economic situation is making people feel uneasy about their spending, we need to look after them even better than we ever have before. If donors are positively and actively engaged with a charity, in accordance with their needs, they are less likely to lapse. And for any that can’t afford to stay, it will make that charity the front runner for when they can afford to give again. 

This could be a boom time for smaller and mid-sized charities that have placed emphasis on giving donors what they want. They are more nimble and can more easily respond to the change in the economic environment 

It’s interesting to note that the younger donors were perhaps the least influenced by the fear of recession. Only 14% were less likely to start supporting a new charity. This could indicate that face to face recruitment routes might be less effected by the economy than other techniques.

The other key findings were:

  • There were striking differences in response between age groups. It would seem that those over 45 are the most fearful of how they’ll be affected by the economic downturn. More than twice as many of them (as compared to just 14% of 15-24 year olds) said they’d be less likely to start giving to a charity that they don’t already support.
  • Significantly more women (31%) than men (24%) said they’d be less likely to start giving to a charity that they don’t already support.
  • 51% of ABs said they’d be just as likely as any other time to start giving to a charity that they didn’t already support. This was the case for significantly more ABs than for people from other socio-demographics.
  • Those working part time were significantly more likely (35%) than those working full time (26%) to say they’d be less likely to start giving to a charity that they didn’t already support.
  • 26% of those interviewed said that they didn’t currently give to charity.

Bluefrog will be repeating this study on a quarterly basis over the next twelve months, to follow people’s charitable intentions during the economic downturn. Updates through this blog and via Bluefrog.

Finally, I should emphasise that we must remember these are just attitudes. It’s what happens in practice what counts.

Note: I’m on holiday as I write this so I’ll update on the final analysis when I get back. In the meantime please pass any questions direct to Amber Nathan on 020 7613 6360 or email amber@bluefroglondon.com