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Four in five donors feel detached from charities they support

New research announced today suggests that four in five donors are not engaged with the charities that they support.

The research, launched by Amaze One, Harvest and Boy on a Beach, surveyed 1,000 UK-based respondents. Those surveyed had to have supported at least one of the UK’s top 50 charities (as ranked by CBI) in the last 12 months via at least two methods. The research specifically examined the levels of engagement and supporter behaviour within the third sector.

It found that, despite a disappointing lack of donor engagement, there was a clear opportunity for charities to revamp their communications strategy. The research suggested that those who do engage with the charities they support, on average, donate 50 percent more compared to those that did not feel engaged with charities. This ‘engaged’ group was also 10 percent more likely to increase their year-on-year spend with their chosen charity, as opposed to just three percent for neutral supporters.

Engagement was defined as any activity that causes a supporter to invest in a charity – cognitively, emotionally, and behaviourally – so that their life-time value increases.

When put into a national context, this equates to a staggering £5.3bn per year in extra charitable donations across the UK, based on figures from the Charities Aid Foundation’s UK Giving Report, released last year.

Recent research conducted by The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) also discovered a heavy reliance on a small donor base, as just one tenth of those questioned (9 percent) accounted for two thirds (66 percent) of overall donations within the UK, underlining that charities have a major opportunity to use engagement to turn donors into real and tangible advocates.

The research comes at a time of growing pressure on charities to self-regulate and self-administer best practice across the industry. The PACAC report into fundraising practices, published last month, called for stricter measures on opt-in and opt-out marketing, as well increased responsibilities for fundraisers.

Danielle Atkinson, Assistant Director, Public Fundraising at Breast Cancer Now, said: “UK charities are some of the very best in the world and we should be proud of the work that they do. What this research highlights is the fact that, while the public are willing to support worthwhile causes, charities need to look closely at the way they engage their supporters, being mindful that there are very personal and often different reasons to donate to particular charities. Those that capture the public’s imagination through engagement strategies will experience very real and tangible benefits.”

Janet Snedden, Deputy MD of Amaze One, said: “The last year has been a tough for charities, with several reports and investigations criticising fundraising methods, due to high-profile incidents dominating the headlines. What’s especially poignant and encouraging for charities is the fact that, despite the majority not feeling especially engaged, donors are still willing to lend their financial support to worthwhile causes.  Fundraising is essential for charities to be able to provide services and support to beneficiaries, and I wholeheartedly support the many initiatives to rebuild trust in the sector.”

Steven Dodds, Founder and Planning Partner at Harvest, added: “We have found there to be a severe disconnect between support and engagement, so charities need to be asking themselves tough questions on how they want to be looked at through the eyes of their donors. Mix this with the fact that a large percent of donations come from a small proportion of individuals, then you have the recipe for a complicated marketing landscape.”

John Urpeth, Boy on a Beach, commented: “From speaking to a vast amount of donors in the UK, it’s clear that they understand what the third sector does, but they don’t want to look at it in black and white terms. Charities need to be smarter in their approach, but also understand when the time is right to make this ask.”

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