Public more likely to see small charities as “friendly” but “amateur”, large ones as “professional” but “wasteful". Public more likely to see small charities as “friendly” but “amateur”.

  • “Small, local charities especially well-placed to harness goodwill of loyal hardcore donors,” vies nfpSynergy’s Molyneux

The public are more likely to perceive smaller charities as being “friendly” but “amateurish”; and larger ones as being “professional” but “wasteful”, according to data out today. However, smaller charities may just have the edge - from a “loyal hardcore” - when it comes to attracting donors.

Leading not-for-profit sector research consultancy nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor regularly surveys a representative sample of 1000 16+ year olds throughout mainland Britain every year, asking them a range of charity-related questions - including gauging what impact the size of a charity has on public perceptions and on claimed propensity to donate.

Compared with large charities, small ones are deemed (slide 2) by public to be more volunteer-staffed (77% small vs. 6% large), more regionally-focused (72% small vs. 3% large), more friendly (70% small vs. 20% large), more understanding of the needs of those they help (65% small vs. 35% large), more volunteer-led (62% small vs. 1% large) and more trustworthy (55% small vs. 41% large). They are also perceived as being more amateurish (45% small vs. 2% large) - despite 62% of respondents also agreeing (slide 3) that small charities are as effective as large ones.

Compared with small charities, large ones are deemed (slide 2) more likely to have chief executives earning around £100k a year (65% large vs. 2% small) and to be more professional (62% large vs. 24% small) and able to deliver public services (47% large vs. 14% small) - but also to be more wasteful (51% large vs. 6% small).

The main bulk of the public claims (slides 4-5) that the size of an organisation – whether in terms of paid staff (57%) or income (40%) - makes “no difference” to its likelihood to donate. Likewise (slide 6), re an organisation’s base locality (49%). However, whilst there is little overt stated public enthusiasm for donating to large organizations, there is a significant “loyal hardcore” who say they definitely prefer the small or local option - 40% of the public claiming to prefer to donate to a charity with no paid staff, just volunteers; 18% to a charity with an annual income below £10,000; and 23% to a charity working in their nearest town.

nfpSynergy researcher, Rebecca Molyneux, said:

“Our new data tells charities how the public perceives them - purely by virtue of their size or locality. This could allow them to play to perceived reputational strengths and address or downplay apparent weaknesses. Interestingly, a small, local charity may be especially well-placed to harness the goodwill of a loyal hardcore of donors - like some plucky voluntary David against the larger charitable Goliaths.”

Pauline Broomhead, CEO of the FSI (Foundation for Social Improvement), pointed out the applications of the research:

“In 2009 the FSI collaborated with nfpSynergy in the development of this research. The challenge for the small charity sector now is to apply these results strategically across fundraising and communications. In June we will launch the full results of this research, alongside a guide to how to use research such as this to inform best practice, as part of the FSI Small Charity Week programme.”

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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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