Indulge me in an imaginary scenario if you will. Given nfpSynergy’s vast range of facts, figures and foraging in the world of charity research, I’ve been wondering if there’s a simple way to interpret some of it. So in my scenario, I have surreptitiously sequestered 100 Brits in one room. Given it’s the school holidays, I’ve decided not to include under 16 year olds, as they’ll be too busy, but anyone else is fair game.
Of my perfect proportionally representative sample, 84 of them live in England, eight in Scotland, six in Wales and two in Northern Ireland. 18 of them are over 65, while 16 are younger than 25. After a little standard British awkwardness, this exchange ensues…
First on the spontaneous agenda is TV shows, brought up by the lady in the corner. Common ground is not found, mainly due to the plethora of channels staring back at us from the gogglebox these days. The younger ones are adding each other on Facebook, so the conversation drifts to communications. Ten people have never used the internet, but 70 use it every day. Although 58 read a newspaper at least twice a week, 22 never do.
Tricky bunch these Brits. Diverse. But cohesion is never far away…
Eric uneasily stands and says he volunteered for charity last night. He’s been involved with one nearly all his life. 21 others perk up, saying they have volunteered in the last three months. 10 of them say they do so once a week. Hysteria is a strong word, but a tangible buzz has engulfed the group.
Spurred on by this, the topic turns firmly to charities. There are no charities that more than half the group can spontaneously think of. Only five are mentioned by more than a quarter of people. Someone mentions cancer, but when they talk through some more charitable causes, there are always at least 24 people who can’t name a charity in that area, with the exception of animals.
Eric looks weary, the years of frustration taking their toll. But it’s really not all bad news.
The chatter continues. Now they talk about how charities spend money on things other than the cause. 34 can’t remember any publicity from any charity in the last three months. Someone suggests that charities need to be more vibrant in their brand, but 40 think that’s a waste of money. They think 63% of a charity's income should be spent on the cause, but they've decided only 39% finds it way there.
Concerned about a potential trashing of the sector, Eric asks who trusts charities. 33 people raise their hands. When I ran this imaginary incarceration back in 2007, that number was 22. Buoyed by the obvious rise, he asks the same question about the government. Mitts in the air shrink to eight. The same for newspapers.
Feeling like a veteran of the sector, Eric is now championing charities to anyone who’ll listen (that’s everyone – it’s a small room). He sails to the next subject - giving. A triumphant total of 84 have given to charity in the last three months. 34 are annoyed by street fundraisers, but they’re almost drowned out by the 30 people in the room who donated to one. 50 are very annoyed when they're asked for money on their doorstep or telephone.
It would seem that the public is a diverse bunch, no surprises there. But for all the talk, for all the ‘man steals from charity fund’ headlines, for all the recessions, for all the issues with admin costs and chief executive salaries, for all the fears about the future and innovations to get us here, people are still giving. They’re still supporting. They’re still volunteering. And those people come from everywhere, even where you might least expect.
As the group leaves, Eric smiles, satisfied that the sector is still in good shape. His thoughts drift back to planning his 17th birthday.