Public prefer search engines to charities for information and advice

Charity websites and offices are the last resort for people needing support and advice

"Far from being people’s first port of call, it looks like charities could be the last. Some of them might need to rethink their strategy for making their offices and their websites more approachable." Joe Saxton
  • We asked 1000 adults where they would go for advice or support on ‘financial difficulties’, ‘housing’, ‘social benefits’, ‘issues concerning elderly people’ and ‘being the victim of crime’
  • Charity offices were the least preferred option in every single section. Just 7% of people would visit them for advice on elderly people issues, with the number even lower for the other issues we asked about (slide 3)
  • The next least popular option was charity websites. No more than 1 in 6 would consult a charity website for any of the issues we asked about and it drops as low as 1 in 16 (slide 3)
  • At least a quarter of people would visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for support or advice for any of the issues, while a third look to search engines (slide 3)
  • Charities also fare badly when people want information, with their offices and websites being the least popular choices again (slide 4)
  • Fewer than 1 in 16 would go to a charity’s office for information on any of the issues mentioned (slide 4)
  • A fifth of people would go to a charity’s website for information on the elderly, but 1 in 10 or fewer would go for any other issue mentioned (slide 4)
  • Again, between a quarter and half of people get their information from the Citizen’s Advice, while over a third use search engines (slide 4)

 

Charities are not a popular resource for people looking for support, advice and information, new research shows. The poll, carried out by consultancy nfpSynergy, shows that the general public see charities as a last resort when seeking help with certain issues.

The study asked a nationally representative sample of 1000 adults where they would go for support, advice and information on ‘financial difficulties’, ‘housing’, ‘social benefits’, ‘issues concerning elderly people’ and ‘being the victim of crime’. Charity websites emerged as a resource hardly anyone would use, while charity offices were the least preferred choice in every section.

Only 16% said they would visit a charity’s website for advice or support regarding elderly people and less than 10% would visit one for help with other issues. Just 7% of people would go to a charity office for advice or support with the elderly, with less than 5% saying that’s where they’d seek help for other problems.

Charities didn’t fare much better in terms of being people’s preferred source of information. No more than 1 in 5 would consult a charity’s website and just 6% or fewer would visit a charity’s offices.

The Citizen’s Advice bureau is most people’s first choice for help, with around half heading there for financial and social benefits information or advice, while at least a quarter would visit for other issues. Search engines provide a welcome source of information and advice to around a third of people across the board.

Joe Saxton, Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy, said the results were worrying as charities clearly weren’t fulfilling their role of providing support advice and information. He said, “Charities have unique skills, experience and experts to help people, but this is no good if people aren’t benefitting from it. Far from being people’s first port of call, it looks like charities could be the last. Some of them might need to rethink their strategy for making their offices and their websites more approachable.”

nfpSynergy’s Driver of Ideas, Joe Saxton, said:

"The results of this research are quite worrying because part of a charity’s mission is to provide support, advice and information. Charities have unique skills, experience and experts to help people, but this is no good if people aren’t benefitting from it. Far from being people’s first port of call, it looks like charities could be the last.

Charities have spent a lot of time working on their websites, but clearly they aren’t fulfilling the vital function of getting the information and support to the people that need it. Some of them might need to rethink their strategy for making their offices and their websites more approachable.”

nfpSynergy Researcher Cian Murphy said:

“It’s understandable that the public is reluctant to consider going into charity offices, but charities should be worried that their websites are not seen as a first port of call for information. People are obviously willing to consider digital sources, as seen with the popularity of search engines in these results, but charities don’t seem to be appearing on their radar.

Whether it’s because people are just unaware that charities provide these services or charities haven’t made their websites accessible and useful enough is unclear. Either way, charities that are in the business of providing information and advice need to up their game if they are to share their knowledge and expertise with a wider public.”

Please see the attached slides for more details.

For further comment from nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton, please contact him directly on 07976 329 212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net

SOURCE:  nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor, which regularly surveys a representative sample of 1000 16+ year olds throughout mainland Britain, asking them a range of charity-related questions. Data was used from the November 2012 Wave.

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MEDIA COMMENT:

To interview nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton about these findings, please contact him directly on 07976 329212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net. If you cannot contact Joe, please contact Rob White (07512 709140; E: rob.white@nfpsynergy.net) for further assistance.

Note to editors:

nfpSynergy (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.

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