Communicating the Complexity of Your Cause

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Communicating the Complexity of Your Cause

Homelessness is the top concern of the Irish public, but the solutions are enormously nuanced. Is it possible for charities tackling this issue to balance the complexity of the problem with a clear and concise call-to-action in their messaging?

Eva Spencer

Housing and homelessness remain some of the most pressing issues facing Ireland today, with tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness or living in inadequate housing conditions. Charities play a vital role in addressing these complex and multifaceted issues, providing support, resources, and advocacy for those in need. However, conveying the complexity of these issues to the public can be a significant challenge for charities, as they seek to balance the need for clear messaging with the need to accurately communicate the intricacies of the problem.

Research done as part of nfpResearch’s Irish Charity Engagement Monitor shows that homelessness is the Irish public’s top concern when prompted with a list of issues facing Ireland today. 44% said they are concerned about homelessness in Dec 2022, up from 38% in the summer. Shortages of affordable housing is also a top concern, with 36% concerned about this issue.

There’s no doubt that the role that charities play in tackling the housing crisis is vital. Charities have stepped up to provide emergency shelter, housing assistance and a range of other support services. This is alongside working tirelessly to influence government policy and funding decisions. However, speaking to members of the Irish public as part of a set of focus groups in Oct 2022 did suggest to us that there is some confusion about the role of charities in tackling the housing crisis and the types of support they should be providing. Support when it comes to supporting rough sleepers, such as running soup kitchens or roaming the streets with food and supplies, is easy to understand, but a few were concerned about charities “drifting into property management” or becoming “quasi-landlords”. 

I think the work that's in Focus and Simon and Father McVerry do to people - that I suppose you call them rough sleepers - is brilliant and they do take care of them and watch out from them every night. But I'm just a little bit concerned about the organization's drifting into property management and stuff like that, and I'm not sure that that's what they should be doing.” (Male, 55+, Ireland)

Creating clear and non-complex messaging and fundraising asks is crucial for charities to effectively communicate their mission and raise the necessary funds to achieve their goals and make positive change in the world. Charities need to be able to clearly articulate their message and the impact they are making in order to build trust with potential donors and supporters. If messaging is too complex or convoluted, potential supporters may not fully understand the charity's mission and goals, which can lead to confusion and a lack of engagement. Similarly, fundraising asks need to be simple and easy to understand in order to encourage donors to give. A clear and concise ask can help donors understand how their contribution will make a difference, inspire them to give generously and avoid that feeling of overwhelm in the face of incredibly complex issues. 

Take Sightsavers, an international development charity that works to prevent avoidable blindness and fight for the rights of people with disabilities. “Just €X will save someone’s sight” is a campaign that is frequently mentioned by focus group participants. Though Sightsavers’ work, as with all charities, is complex, they have a clear and straightforward ask that is both memorable for the public and easy to understand. You give €X amount, and you save someone’s sight – you can’t say no to that, right?

The housing crisis in Ireland is a complicated and multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive and collaborative response from all sectors of society. Charities are one of the key players in addressing this crisis, however, there is still work to be done in terms of clarifying the role that they play in tackling these issues and effectively communicating their message to the public. By creating clear and non-complex messaging and fundraising asks, charities can better engage potential supporters and donors and make a real impact in the fight against homelessness and inadequate housing. Ultimately, it is through collaboration and a shared commitment to finding solutions that we can begin to address this crisis and build a brighter future for all those affected by it.

For more information on our research in Ireland, consider downloading a briefing pack below.

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