Donor outlook less gloomy amongst core supporters, research shows - negativity from existing non-donors may overly darken the picture

  • Those more likely to say they either have given less, or will give less, to charity during an economic downturn are less likely to have given anything anyway!
  • Charities should focus on their actual core donor pool, which remains resilient - especially amongst regular DD/SO donors - survey finds
  • “Charities should identify and woo their core donors, ignoring non-donors claiming to give less than the nothing they actually give,” urges nfpSynergy’s Baker

The propensity of hardcore non-donors to say they have given, or will give, “less” to charities during a downturn – when they don’t give anything anyway – may be painting an overly-gloomy picture of voluntary revenues in the third sector, according to new figures out today (see attached summary slides).

When given a range of potential areas of household expenditures that they could cut (slides 4-5), over a third (34%) of the public say they expect to cut back on giving to charity in the next 12 months. Yet this figure is unduly “weighted upwards” by the fact that almost a half (46%) of non-donor respondents claim to give less: when they don’t actually give a penny to charity anyway, or at least they haven’t in the last 3 months! And – encouragingly for fundraisers - the donations-cutting figure dips to just 31% amongst those who have given recently, and who are thus more likely to continue giving in the future.

Leading not for profit sector think tank and research consultancy nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor surveys a representative sample of 1000 16+ year olds throughout mainland Britain every year, asking them a range of charity-related questions, including about their donation habits, both past and future. The figures used here are drawn from the Nov 2008 research wave.

Also encouragingly for fundraisers, a predicted cut in charitable donations was, overall, ranked well behind the numbers of people expecting to reduce their expenditure on eating out (64%), clothing (60%), weekly food shopping (52%), petrol (47%) and household gas (44%) over the same 12 month period. Indeed, a healthy 35% of the public - rising to 40% amongst those who have given within the last 3 months - say they do not foresee cutting back on their charitable giving over the coming year.

Moreover, figures relating to claimed household donations, past and imminent, likewise suggest non-donors claiming (implausibly) to give less than their current “nothing” leads to an overstating of the true level of negativity:

  • HOUSEHOLDS GIVING OVER LAST 12 MONTHS (slides 9-12) - The number of households that claim to have given less to charity in the last 12 months than in the previous year is up from 14% in May 2008 to almost 1 in 5 (18%) in Nov 2008, but this negativity is unduly weighted upwards by the fact that a third (33%) of non-donor respondents claim to give less: when they don’t actually give a penny to charity anyway, or at least they haven’t in the last 3 months. And the donations-cutting figure dips to just 13% amongst those who have given recently, and who are thus more likely to continue giving in the future. Also encouragingly, 14% of households (admittedly down from 26% so-saying in May 2008) - rising to 18% amongst those who have given within the last 3 months - say they have actually given more over the last year.
  • HOUSEHOLDS GIVING OVER NEXT 12 MONTHS (slides 14-17) – The number of households that claim they expect to give less to charity in the coming 12 months than in the last year is up from 12% in May 2008 to 22% in Nov 2008, but again this negativity is unduly weighted upwards by the fact that almost a third (32%) of non-donor respondents claim to give less: when they don’t actually give a penny to charity anyway, at least they haven’t in the last 3 months. And the donations-cutting figure dips to just 19% amongst those who have given recently, and who are thus more likely to continue giving in the future. Also encouragingly, 7% of households (admittedly down from 14% so-saying in May 2008) - rising to 8% amongst those who have given within the last 3 months - say they expect to actually give more over the coming year.

Interestingly (slides 19-20), regular donors who have given by DD/SO in the last 3 months are even more likely than other donors who have given by more sporadic methods to say that they gave more in the last year (27% DD/SO donors v 18% non-DD/SO donors) or expect to give more in the coming year (12% DD/SO donors v 8% non-DD/SO donors) – despite a marked dip in overall optimism since May 2008.

nfpSynergy’s researcher, Jonathan Baker, said:

“Reliable, hard financial data measuring the actual impact of the economic downturn on donations won’t be available for a while. Meantime, this new research suggests the picture, whilst far from rosy, may not be quite so bad as the top-line figures might suggest – not least since those people more likely to claim a past or future cut in their donations to charities are also more likely to not, in truth, be donating any money anyway; and since the hardcore of actual donors out there are significantly less negative about giving, especially if they are regular DD/SO givers. Thus, charities should identify and woo their core donors - and ‘tough out’ any fair weather donors who may flake away, or any chorus of non-donors claiming to give less than the nothing they actually give!”

- end -

MEDIA COMMENT: To interview nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton about these findings, please contact him direct on 07976 329 212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net; or, alternatively, contact Adrian Gillan (0774 086 7215; E: adrian@gillanmedia.com) for further assistance.


Note to editors:

nfpSynergy (www.nfpsynergy.net) is the UK’s only research consultancy dedicated to the charity sector and not-for-profit issues. It provides ideas, insights and information to help voluntary and community organisations thrive in an ever-changing world. Regularly harvesting the social and charity-related views of public and parliament, media and business - not to mention not for profit organisations themselves - nfpSynergy has a vast and ever-growing knowledge pool from which to extract and deliver insights.

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Charity Awareness Monitor Results Engagement 6 of 6 November 2008

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