Last year nfpSynergy and the Australian consultancy More Strategic carried out a quantitative survey in Australia, Canada, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with representative samples in each country.
The resulting report looks at levels of trust, fundraising and volunteering habits, attitudes to charities and their importance in society, as well as favourite causes in the respective countries. We also did an analysis of giving patterns in relation to religion, to size of donation, and a segmentation of attitudes to charity. The full report is going to be published next week (newsletter subscribers get it first); but in the meantime, here are the key points that are relevant for charities in the UK.
Showing charities are ethical, honest, well run, make a difference and play a vital role are all precursors to trust
We asked the public in the 9 countries how much they agreed or disagreed with a variety of statements about charities looking at how well run they are, how much they make a difference, whether they play a vital role in society, and whether they are ethical and honest. There were big differences in some of the results: 76% of people in the US agreed that charities make a real difference, but just 47% of people in Germany said the same. Our analysis shows the top four factors that are most important for driving trust are that charities are ethical and honest, well run, make a difference and play a vital role in society. In other words, if we want to increase trust, we need to increase the number agree with those sentiments about charities.
Favourite causes vary significantly from country to country
Cancer is the cause that most people in the UK (42%) say they support. It is also the highest in Canada, Australia and NZ. However, in the States ‘Children & Young People’ is highest at 38%, as it is in South Korea at 44%. In Germany ‘environment and conservation’ is highest at 30%, tied jointly with animals. Only in the US and UK do Armed Forces score about 20%, and in 5 of the other countries they score less than 10%. Any charity who wants to know how likely their charity is to succeed in a country needs to understand how sympathetic the population is to their cause.
Trust in charities cannot be taken for granted – Ireland is a case study
Anybody who follows the charity sector in Ireland will know that there have been a number of well-publicised scandals involving charity funds being spent in ways that donors wouldn’t expect. The result of this is that in 2012 74% of the public in Ireland said that they trusted charities, but by 2018 this was down to 48%. It’s no coincidence that in our surveys, the Irish public had the lowest level of people agreeing that charities are ‘ethical and honest’ and ‘well run’ across all the countries we surveyed.
Donors and worshippers are more trusting. Period
One of the pieces of analysis we did was to look at levels of trust for donors and worshippers in all the countries we surveyed. The results were illuminating. Those who worshipped regularly trusted every single public institution more than those who didn’t, and those who made higher levels of donations trusted every single public institution more than those who gave lower levels of donations. Any charity who wants to know more about the likely habits of their donors needs to find out if they are regular worshippers and their general giving habits.
Charities need to triage – forget the doubters and focus on the neutrals
As part their work in Australia, More Strategic have done a segmentation of public attitudes towards charities resulting in 7 different segments. They can be broadly categorised as positive, neutral and negative. The balance of these segments dictates how favourable the public as a whole is towards charities. Holland has the largest percentage of sceptics and the lowest portion of compassionates, and in turn they have one of the most negative attitudes to charities. Any campaign to change public attitudes should focus not on the unremittingly negative or positive, whose views are likely not to change, but the group whose minds are not made up. This means the key challenge overall is not influencing sceptics in a country, but the segments called neutrals and occasionals who are more ambivalent.