The recent Amarach Poll about the Irish Charities sector will not give a huge cause for celebration for many beleaguered fundraisers out there.
According to the February 2014 survey of 1000 people, 24% do not give at all to charity which compares to just 11% in 2005. This is depressing but probably in line with the economic climate. After all, people give to charity from disposable income and significantly fewer households have any disposable income left at the end of the month. But when you compare this to another piece of research carried out in the same month by Amarach on Economic Recovery, this found that 42% of people were not sure if they were financially stable enough to make it through the recession. So in this context, the fact that 76% of people do still give to charity despite economic worries is a positive sign. Or am I grasping at straws here….?
But there are more interesting findings in this piece of research. When you dig a little deeper, the poll showed that around 67% do give regularly to charity (with 49% of these saying they gave to the Irish Cancer Society) but only very small numbers gave regularly by standing order (7% to Concern, 5% to ICS).
Unfortunately, 45% said they had reduced their giving in recent months – something that is infinitely easier to do if you are NOT giving by standing order or direct debit. More evidence again, if we needed it, of the importance of building donor loyalty and encouraging regular giving.
A similar survey carried out during the same time period by Behaviour and Attitudes (B&A) for Fundraising Ireland showed a slightly different response. From their sample of 1000 people, 52% claimed to have given to charity recently. This survey recorded higher average giving levels – €74 on average over the preceding 3 months (€24.71 a month on average compared to €10 a month in the Amarach survey) – which could have been influenced by the fact that it included a traditionally high period of giving (Christmas) and 2 international emergency appeals (the Philippines and Syria).
The number giving to charities in the last few months is certainly down, but income figures showed a slight increase amongst the 76 charities surveyed by B&A. They reported an average increase in annual income of 7% and 4% increase in giving over the Christmas period.
Ultimately we can crunch the numbers anyway we chose, but the overall conclusion must be that there are fewer people in Ireland able or willing to give money to charities than there were. From the Christmas fundraising figures of the B&A survey, it would seem that those who are giving, are giving higher amounts than last year but the 2 Emergency Appeals in November 2013 may have skewed these figures. The results show it is harder to recruit new donors, which must send a strong message to Fundraising Managers that investing in donor retention and donor upgrade is crucial.
It also makes it harder for those smaller charities out there that don’t have a historical base of donors and are trying to recruit new supporters. They need to be more creative, more transparent and more nimble but they also have a great opportunity to position themselves cleverly to would-be donors as a more attractive proposition than the more established charities in the market.
Building trust and long term donor loyalty through effective donor management programmes are key. Those donors who really believe in what you are doing and understand how their donation makes a difference will stay with charities through the challenging times. It’s up to us, as fundraisers, to make sure they do.