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Susan Pinkney

Head of Research
Charities Aid Foundation

E: research@cafonline.org

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What is our insight telling us? CAF’s Head of Research comes to grips with the public mood

31 March 2020

We are in a time when the ground below us is constantly shifting - what people are thinking and how they are behaving are no exceptions.

At CAF, we have been conducting research for decades and my own personal career in research spans over 20 years. But I have never seen data and survey results become outdated so quickly. With that in mind, I am setting out to write updates as and when our research team spots something that might be of use to the charities that CAF serves. These updates will include CAF’s own research but also horizon scanning and summaries of some of the work being done by some bigger research agencies which are producing freely available insights on their websites (links below).

What charities need now

So, as of today, what do we know? Well, we’ve now taken two quick snapshots amongst around 250 charities across the UK – when we asked them what they want from Government, overwhelmingly we were told  unconditional (unrestricted funding) cash grants (53%) followed by 19% who wanted extra people to help deliver services.  

The need for some form of help is borne out in a snapshot of charities that we are publishing today where we asked charities how long they thought they could survive operationally under current conditions without extra help from Government or elsewhere. Worryingly, 37% said less than 6 months and 54% in total said less than a year. These responses demonstrate the clear need for help if charities are to survive to be able to carry out their invaluable work in our wider society.  

We will also be sharing some new data in the next couple of days that will help us to know whether people’s giving behaviour will be affected by coronavirus.  But on 17th and 18th March we asked 2,000 individuals about their planned giving and one in five claimed they would give more money to charity because of this crisis. Four in ten said they were likely to donate to local charities, 24% to national charities and 13% to international charities.  Over a third said they would donate to NHS charities.

Speed of change

Since this research was conducted, the speed of change has been huge, and initiatives such as the NHS Volunteers scheme has been launched, and had around 750,000 people signing up. When we asked the question not even two weeks ago, 55% of us in the UK said that we would help in our local community – something that would include assisting vulnerable neighbours.

Trends in giving

A question we’ve been asked a lot over the last few weeks is how this will impact giving based on previous trends we’ve seen in our data. I think the answer to that is that these are unprecedented times. We did an analysis a couple of years ago looking at amounts given to charity relative to financial crises, large shocks or changes to the wider economy and we were reassured to see that people in the UK remained generous throughout.

However, in recent years CAF has reported on a worrying trend of fewer people giving to charity. Those who do give are giving more, but the overall amount of household giving to charity has remaied the same at about £10 billion. One (of many) areas that will take a hit over the coming months in terms of charity income is money received from sponsorship – we crunched some numbers last week from our UK Giving data and estimate that from March to May 2019, £435 million was donated in sponsorhip across the UK.

We would hope that the generosity of spirit that we have seen across the years in the UK continues but with people concerned about income, their jobs and the economy as a whole, those of us who can give a bit more should think about doing so.

Links to publicly available research on public sentiment around the crisis

Our dedicated Covid-19 and charitable giving nsight page

Ipsos Public opinion Covid-19 pandemic research

YouGov Coronavirus impact, insight and research

Savanta  Covid-19 impact views and news

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