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Fundraising once again. Should Irish charities ask for more?

The charity sector in Ireland has had a hard time of it lately.

The charity sector in Ireland has had a hard time of it lately.

The recent economic crisis at home has seen growing pressure on domestic charities’ services and the threat of people turning away from overseas charities. Controversies and scandals in the charity sector have also had a huge impact on public attitudes towards Irish charities, with many feeling that they can no longer trust the sector.

Add into this the fact that neighbours in the British media have decided that the time is ripe for more scrutiny of charities’ fundraising methods and it is understandable why Irish charities have been keeping a relatively low profile in recent years.

Indeed, we have seen media spend by Irish charities decline by more than a third in the period from 2011 to 2014 – from just over €15m to just under €10m.

This has filtered through to the public; with fewer and fewer people reporting in our surveys having been asked for money by a charity in most of the channels we track over the last 4 years.

All of this is having an impact on the bottom lines of charities and on the lives of people they exist to help. Many of the biggest NGOs and charities in Ireland have seen a significant decline in their income since 2011, despite a recovering economy.

Several major charities have seen their voluntary income drop by over 20% in this period. It is worth noting that this decline started before the controversies over the Central Remedial Clinic and Rehab, with a steady decrease over the 4 years rather than a sudden fall after 2013.

Of course, it is a difficult time to be a fundraiser. Hesitance about public opinion and the potential for declining returns after a fall in trust have made management and trustees unsure about putting money into fundraising.

But we believe that the time is right for Irish charities to start investing in raising more.

Furore about charities in the media seems to have died down, or at least is not reaching the public in the same way. Just 27% of people in our most recent wave of Irish research reported having seen or heard something in the media recently about charities, while only 18% of this group said that it had worsened their view of charities.

By way of contrast, in our recent January wave of the Charity Awareness Monitor in Britain, 45% had seen something about charities in the media and 46% of those felt it had worsened their view of charities.

While scrutiny in the media may be the new normal for Irish charities, it seems that for the moment the public’s trust in charities has at least levelled off and may be slightly recovering.

Our research also suggests that people are more willing than ever at the moment to consider giving more to charity.

However we know that many people will not make an active decision to go out and support a charity, but will react to a fundraising ask when it is made. This makes it all the more important that charities ensure that the public are presented with opportunities to give to your cause at a time when they are feeling warm towards giving.

Charities that invest in fundraising now are likely to see long lasting effects. While we may have seen a downturn for the charity sector in recent years in Ireland, we know that brands that continue marketing through a recession (or at least are the first to start during a recovery) tend to increase their market share and continue to perform well into the recovery.

To find out how our programme of syndicated research can help you grow your organisation, download our briefing pack, talk to Bijal at bijal.rama@nfpsynergy.net or call us on +44 207 426 8888. You can find out more about the research here.

Cian Murphy


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