Alison Taylor 120x120

Alison Taylor

CEO, CAF Bank and Charity Services

Charities Aid Foundation

What do the UK Giving report findings mean for charity fundraising?

30 June 2022

An estimated 4.9 million fewer people gave to charity between January and April 2022 compared to the same months in 2019. This maintains the concerning trend we’ve seen in recent years of fewer people giving to charity overall.

These findings come from our latest UK Giving report 2022, the largest study of household donor behaviour in the UK, which tracks giving trends throughout 2021 and into the first four months of 2022.

Sadly, as the cost-of-living crisis bites, many people say they plan to rein in their budgets further, including one in eight cutting back on charity donations. Combined with increased demand and rising costs for energy, goods and fuel, a fall in donations only adds to current financial concerns for many charities.

So what else can the report’s findings tell us about current donor behaviour – and how can charities use the data to inform their fundraising activities?

Review your fundraising strategy 

Our analysis shows that the ending of pandemic restrictions and subsequent opportunities for in-person socialising are not reflected in overall charity engagement, which remains below pre-pandemic levels. February this year saw participation levels as low as they had been during the first lockdown in May 2020, despite the arrival of ‘Freedom Day’ in England, signifying an end to all pandemic restrictions.

We also found that fewer people were approached to donate to charity than in previous years: two thirds were asked to donate, down from around three-quarters pre-pandemic. Those not approached at all reached 36% in 2021, up from 27% in 2019.

Whatever fundraising engagement plan you have in place, take the time to revisit it and reassess where your priorities lie. Have you developed multi-channel engagement journeys for gaining new regular donors and have the tools in place to support them? Make sure you have an engaging digital presence that encourages giving in multiple ways, and try to make the offline-to-online journeys are as seamless as possible. Re-engaging lapsed donors could also bring further income.

Furthermore, are you running face-to-face activities again? Think about how you could mobilise your local community and build on the place-based giving and community focus we saw during the pandemic. Have you explored newer channels such as videogame fundraisers?

Consider collaborating with other charities or groups to share the load in terms of effort and cost and expand your reach. Check out what similar organisations have done that has worked well. Perhaps you could partner with non-charity events to save the expense of hosting.

Explore other funding sources that may work for your charity. If you think you could attract funds from overseas, explore mechanisms that could help drive this, such as CAF America or Transnational Giving Europe.

Focus on your existing donors

With fewer and fewer people engaging with charities in the UK, now is the time to nurture your current supporter base. It’s typically around five to seven times cheaper to retain donors than it is to acquire new ones.

Be sure to communicate your needs with your donors. Let them know how their contributions are making a difference and emphasise the importance of their continued support. Do you have a relevant donor cultivation plan in place? There may be opportunities to upgrade regular donors who have supported you for more than a couple of years. Have you approached the idea of legacy pledges with your most dedicated supporters?

Larger donors such as corporates, high-net-worth individuals, trusts and foundations could be approached for unrestricted funding or more core cost support. Explain why core costs are so vital to your organisation’s work and impact. Perhaps they could top up previous donations to account for inflation or provide flexibility on existing grant funding.

Connect with the younger generation

A key finding from the report was that fewer young people took part in charitable or civic activities in 2021, falling to 79% from 85% in 2020 for those aged 16-24. In addition, the increase in those who say they never give to charity is being driven by younger people. This could be down to the rising cost of living; a shift in priorities as the economy re-opened after lockdowns; or it may be that younger people simply had fewer opportunities to participate.

Look for ways to engage the younger generation, whether as donors, volunteers or even trustees. After all, younger people are the future of your supporter base. Be sure to emphasise your charity’s purpose, mission, and vision, which may resonate with them.

Have you considered successional giving? Ask your high-net-worth donors if their children could get involved and what might engage them.

Champion digital and regular giving

Direct debit and standing order payments are now the most common ways of donating, having steadily increased as payment methods employed by donors from 33% in 2018 to 38% in 2021 and early 2022. Giving via a website or app remains higher than it was pre-pandemic, but not as high as during the first lockdown. In April 2022, 26% of donors gave in this way, compared to 30% in April 2020 and 20% in April 2019.

Make sure your digital donor journeys are clear and informative, and that your giving platforms are easy to use, accessible and secure. Be mindful that giving journeys won’t always start digitally, so look for ways to make it easy for donors, such as placing QR codes on printed material or physical objects such as shop windows.

Always highlight the value of regular giving compared to one-off donations: namely, how much more your organisation can do knowing you have a regular income. Regular donors may also be able to take advantage of payroll giving services such as Give As You Earn, which offers tax benefits for them – and often their employer will match donations.

Encourage the use of Gift Aid

On a positive note, the use of the Gift Aid scheme has remained higher than pre-pandemic, with 55% of those donating in the past year reporting they had applied Gift Aid to at least one donation.

With plenty of room for uptake to grow, however, keep reminding donors of the vital benefits Gift Aid brings and encourage them to always tick the box. But it’s not just down to the set-up of your donation page: ensure staff and volunteers are properly trained on how to approach and encourage Gift Aid donations in person.

While the overall downward trend in donations may seem like another insurmountable challenge, we know that charities can be resilient in the face of a crisis and have learned to adapt throughout the pandemic.

The report also showed that in times of crisis, people in the UK are generous: around a third of people said they had donated specifically in response to the crisis in Ukraine. The average donation in March 2022 increased to £85 – the largest monthly donation average we’ve ever recorded in our research.

Charity and generosity of spirit remain alive and kicking. Charities will need to persevere once again, adapt to changing circumstances and call on the generosity of their supporter base. But reversing the trend of decreasing donations is possible, and charity fundraising can be improved and amplified right now.

Download the UK Giving report 2022 to read the full results.

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