In preparation for what will inevitably be an eventful year for charities, this week our team hosted a free webinar where we explored what to expect for 2024. From changing donor habits, shifting public trust, and an upcoming general election, we believe that it’s never been more important for the sector to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to strategy. We appreciate everyone who was able to join us for our online event, but don’t worry if you couldn’t make it: today we’re sharing our key takeaways from UK Charities: Planning your 2024 strategy.
The public are entering 2024 without much optimism
The unfortunate reality as we enter the new year is that public optimism is at a low, aw we heard from Co-Managing Directors Tim Harrison-Byrne and Cian Murphy. Our research shows that the majority of the nation feel pessimistic about the state of the UK, with 63% telling us that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Despite some rising optimism in recent months about personal finances, there is an overall consensus that we are collectively facing many overwhelming issues. The public are the least optimistic about issues that they believe will be challenging to young people in the future; issues such as bullying, abuse, and mental health.
Donor confidence is growing, and in particular we’re seeing rising support for certain causes, such as animal and cancer charities. Other wins include a higher recall of charity advertising, and what we believe will be a strong year for retail performance for charity shops – especially those stocking quality goods.
What the charity sector can provide the public is hope. Public trust in most institutions may be dropping, but our figures show that charities still inspire faith in people. In this upcoming year we’ll likely be bombarded with political slogans, campaign adverts, and promises of change from both sides of the political aisle. The charity sector, as a trusted institution, must ensure it reminds the public of its role as a player in these discussions, and the upcoming change in leadership that we may see.
Many attitudes are widespread, but understanding demographics will be key
Despite the recovery we see in many fields across the sector, fundraising may still be difficult. Our research shows that the public are likely to split their donations, rather than focussing on a singular cause. Compared to Ireland and Canada, for example, the UK’s public has a higher-than-average number of charities supported per month, but smaller donations made to each. Charities will therefore have to work harder to keep the attention of their supporters.
But not every demographic is as likely to abide by these overall trends. As we heard from our Head of Public Audience Research Bijal Rama, minority ethnic audiences often have different priorities and favourite causes compared to the general public. For example, among minority ethnic audiences trust in institutions is even lower than we see at a national level, and yet pessimism about the direction of the country is lower.
Charities can work more closely with these audiences by engaging them and building their trust in the sector. One method we recommend for this is to engage young people in volunteering – minority ethic communities are much more likely to volunteer regularly than the wider public, and their levels of giving are growing. Reaching these communities and their young people could be a major boon for charities looking to grow their supporter bases in the long run.
Now is the time to take stock of your current supporter base
Considering that different communities exhibit unique donor behaviours and priorities, it’s vital that charities have the best possible understanding of the composition of their current supporter base. Our Head of Projects Katharina Zistler showed us why this is so vital by highlighting the benefits of surveying your existing supporters. For example, charities can gain a lot by identifying what drives their supporters to keep donating, can discover the strengths and weaknesses of their donor journey, and can learn more about where they can improve their donor experience.
But it’s not just about auditing processes. As we learned, there is a lot to gain from understanding and engaging with a wide range of donors. Most charities’ donor databases are full of supporters aged 55+, for example. While these supporters are likely to be loyal and satisfied, engaging only with this demographic may result in missed opportunities with new audiences – those who are more likely to fundraise, volunteer, or campaign politically, for instance. Surveying your supporters should therefore be a key component of your 2024 strategy, helping you to recognise how to better create balanced engagement with wider audiences without compromising your relationship with core donors.
Thanks again to those who joined us for this event. We’ll be happy to share the recording or answer any questions you might have about our research – just message insight@nfpResearch.com to get in touch.