Results from the latest wave of our public research on the pandemic and its impact on charities

This week's blog focuses on the results of our latest wave of research into the impact of Covid-19 on the charity sector. We highlight the changing public perceptions of the crisis as well as looking at the government and charity response, drawing out key conclusions about what this could mean for the sector.
Cian Murphy
 

Following our first wave of coronavirus-related research, we have had an incredible response from clients and people across the sector who were interested in finding out more about public opinions on the pandemic and how it is affecting engagement with charities. Thanks to the involvement of several charities interested in adding their own questions, we have been able to repeat the full set of questions for another wave of fieldwork, this time taking place between the 3rd and 7th of April (so before Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a set of measures to support the sector) and again with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 members of the general public.

As before, we have created a dashboard of the latest findings to allow you to explore and filter the data for your most important audiences. We are also planning on hosting a live stream discussion of the findings of the research with a live Q&A at 3pm next Tuesday 14th April on our YouTube channel. Please do join us if you are free!

Key findings

  • Concern about the pandemic has risen, as has support for the government’s response
  • Government is seen as strong at supporting business, but less so for supporting charities (though this was before Rishi Sunak’s announcement of supports on the 8th April)
  • Charities are not among the most trusted sources of information on the pandemic
  • More people are able to name a charity responding to the pandemic, and a higher proportion think the charity sector has responded well to the outbreak. British Red Cross, Age UK and Shelter are the most mentioned charities
  • Growing numbers of the public think charities should continue fundraising and most do not expect to decrease their giving
  • Mental health is emerging as a key theme, with high proportions concerned about the impact on mental health, and many willing to support a mental health charity in the coming months
     

This wave of research has seen some interesting shifts in attitudes and behaviours, just two weeks after the original poll, reflecting how quickly this outbreak is changing and impacting every facet of our lives. At the most straightforward level, concern about the pandemic has grown even more, with 81% of people now listing the current outbreak as one of the issues that they are most concerned about – up from 75% two weeks beforehand. Most other issues remain unchanged however, with just terrorism seeing a drop from 24% to 17%.

People’s attitudes to the virus are also changing. 92% now expect to stay in their local area for the next few months (up from 87%) while just 15% believe that society is overreacting to the outbreak – down from 29% at the end of March. Anxiety levels remain high, with 65% still reporting feeling anxious about the outbreak.

Government Response

There is also evidence of support for the government’s approach, with 51% agreeing that they are pleased with how the government is handling the outbreak, up from 42%. While 60% still believe that the government should introduce stricter legal measures, this has dropped from 70% following the introduction of lockdown. However while there is growing approval of government’s support for business (57% believe government is doing enough to support business, up from 41%) there is less certainty about how it is helping charities (32% believe government is doing enough to support charities up from 28%). It will be interesting to see if the package of measures announced yesterday by Rishi Sunak will have any impact on these figures in the future.

Visibility of Charities

Interestingly, there has been almost no change in the sources of information that people find trustworthy. Charities remain in fifth place, behind NHS officials, TV news, government statements and family and friends. Despite this, there has been an uptick in the proportion of the public who think charities are responding well to the crisis – 47%, up from 36%. The increased visibility of charties is also reflected in the decline in the proportion of the public unable to name a charity responding to the outbreak, from 66% to 56%. This has particularly been driven by growing mentions of the British Red Cross, Shelter and St John Ambulance.

Giving

It remains too early to predict the exact impact of this pandemic and associated recession on giving levels, but the public are not yet extremely pessimistic – while 25% believe they will decrease their donation levels over the coming months, 17% actually believe they will increase their giving and 62% believe charities should continue fundraising (up from 57%). 10% reported having given to a charity responding to the outbreak while 65% would be willing to consider doing so.

In terms of the causes that people would consider supporting at this time, the main change over the past two weeks has been the growth in popularity of non-cancer health charities, which is now the most popular cause among our sample. 31% would consider supporting a charity in this area, compared to 28% for cancer. This wave we have also added in mental health as an area for respondents to potentially support and it has come out in third place on 27%, reflecting the importance the public are attaching to mental health as in issue during this crisis.

Charity Response

There has also been little change in the public’s perception of what charities should be doing, with the majority still opting for practical day to day support for vulnerable people or funding or carrying out medical research into coronavirus treatments or vaccinations. Similarly there has been no major change in perceptions of who is at risk from the virus, although levels of concern about people living with diabetes have declined. While 61% were concerned about the impact of the pandemic on this group two weeks ago, it is now just 55%.

The situation of course remains fast moving and we would like to be able to continue to provide timely insight to the sector to allow charities to make important and well informed decisions. If you are interested in more rounds of this tracking research, and in particular if you would be interested in adding your own questions to the survey, please do get in touch with your account manager (if you have one) or cian.murphy@npsynergy.net for more information.

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