Hello! We've recently rebranded to nfpResearch. Please visit our new website at nfpresearch.com

Charities have the highest number of people who wanted to complain but didn't

New research on public attitudes to charity marketing, complaints and the fundraising preference service shows:

  • Charities have one of the lowest levels of complaint across 7 sectors,
  • However charities also have the highest level of people wanting to complain but not doing so, with ‘press & media’ being the second highest
  • Nearly two-thirds of public interested in a Fundraising Preference Service, with levels highest among key donor age groups


nfpSynergy carried out research with 1000 members of the general public in January this year. We were interested in how the public saw charities and their marketing in comparison to other sectors, as well as the levels of complaint for seven different sectors. The key results were:

  • The public were most concerned about the ‘marketing, sales or promotion’ of charities compared to other named sectors such as pensions, mortgages, supermarkets, and broadband providers
  • 29% of respondents said they were either extremely or very concerned about charities’ marketing, while just 17% were concerned about supermarkets, the lowest level for the prompted sectors (see chart 1).
  • Asked about whether they had actually complained or wanted to complain about the same list of sectors, charities had one of the lowest levels of complaint at 6%, with mortgages and pensions at 5%. Broadband and mobile phones were highest with actual levels of complaint at 13% and 12% respectively (see chart 2).
  • Charities had the highest level of ‘wanting to complain, but didn’t’ at 25% with ‘Press & media’ second highest at 21% and broadband third highest at 18%. Mortgages were lowest at 14% (see chart 2).
  • Asking about the proposed Fundraising Preference Service, 31% of the public said they were definitely interested and 33% probably interested. The level of interest varied considerably by age with the highest level of ‘definitely interested’ being from 45-64 year olds with 42%, and the lowest being from 16-24 year olds with just 13% (see chart 3 and 4).
  • When asked what would be reasonable for a charity to do in terms of communications if they made a donation to the charity, 32% said ‘write to thank me’, 30% ‘write to thank me and tell  me about their work’ and 24% said ‘write to ask me for my permission to talk to them again’ (see chart 6).


nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton said:

“This is sobering research and shows why we need the new Fundraising Regulator. Charities have the highest level of people who have wanted to complain, but haven’t. This may be because they didn’t know how, or that they didn’t feel it was right to complain about a charity. Part of the anger that we have seen from donors and the public may well be because the feedback and complaint mechanisms don’t work as well for charities. Charities need to learn from other sectors, such as supermarkets, mobile phone or broadband, about how to make complaining easier and more acceptable.

The level of interest in the Fundraising Preference Service should give everybody pause for thought. If these figures are right then a large majority of the giving public could sign up to FPS, and cut them off from fundraising communications. If 30 million people[1] sign up to FPS, the costs of the service will be very high and the impact on giving devastating. It’s clear the public want FPS, the question is whether it is the most cost-effective, fair and simple way to put the public in control of the fundraising communications they receive.”

Please see the attached slides for more details.

Source and notes: nfpSynergy carried out online research with a representative sample of 1000 members of the general public across Great Britain in January 2016. We asked a question about what organisations they would expect to be included in a reset by the Fundraising Preference Service. We included in this list a number of non-charity entities such as ‘broadband providers’ and ‘HMRC’ as a comparison. Unfortunately broadband providers came top of the list! We need to go away and rethink this question.

Media CommentFor further comment from nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton, please contact him directly on 07976 329212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net. If you cannot contact Joe, please contact Anna Chistyakova (02074 268 868; E: anna.chistyakova@nfpsynergy.net) for further assistance.

Note to editorsnfpSynergy (www.nfpsynergy.net) is a research consultancy dedicated to the not-for-profit sector. They aim to provide the ideas, the insights and the information to help non-profits thrive. They provide a unique insight into the social and charity-related views of everyone from public and parliament to media and business, not to mention not-for-profit organisations themselves. nfpSynergy has a vast and ever-growing knowledge pool and shares this with the non-profit sector, through both paid work and regular free reports and seminars.


[1] There are 48 million in the UK population aged 20 and over, and 64% of them is 30.7 million


Subscribe to our newsletter.

Public attitudes toward charity marketing and complaints March 2016

To download this file please enter your details in the form below and click the Download button.