Giving The Dream; 5 things charities need to know about donors in Northern Ireland

aerial photo of Northern Ireland

Giving The Dream; 5 things charities need to know about donors in Northern Ireland

Next month will see the start of nfpSynergy’s next wave of research in Northern Ireland as part of our Celtic Charity Awareness Monitor. The last few years of research have found Northern Ireland to be a very distinct market when it comes to charities. It certainly isn’t easy to predict this audience’s attitudes or behaviours based on those of neighbouring donors in the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain.

A mixture of Irish and British brands operate in Northern Ireland and the political, social and economic backdrop is unique, as are the broadcast media and press. Consequently, any charity with a presence in Northern Ireland will need some insight specific to this audience to tailor their fundraising and communication strategies effectively. Here are five reasons why:

1) Donors are determined…

Consumers across the UK and Irish economies remain heavily indebted, with a continuing uncertainty around the labour market and slumps in productivity threatening growth. Northern Ireland has witnessed above-UK averages in all three of these keys areas. Over the past five years in Scotland, we have seen a corresponding decline in the number of people saying they have given to charity, with a similar trend in the Republic of Ireland.

In Northern Ireland however, despite it being a smaller market, levels of giving appear more stable (as they are in England and Wales) and higher than in the Republic of Ireland. This reminds us that this is an audience not to be overlooked in its determination to give.

2) …and support many causes

The relative dominance of overseas and domestic sectors is quite different in Northern Ireland compared to Great Britain. In Northern Ireland for example, Oxfam comes before CRUK as the first charity people think of, while the Red Cross is also mentioned by large numbers of people. In Britain, Oxfam are not as dominant and CRUK are often more so, with the Red Cross much further behind.

In Northern Ireland, overseas charities also have the most devoted supporters and the most popular campaigns. This picture is in some ways similar to that of the Republic of Ireland, where some of the highest profile brands and campaigns are in the overseas sector, although we have seen a shift in favour towards domestic brands in the last five years.

3) They will shop around

Some features of the Northern Ireland market are remarkably similar to those of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. In particular, the continued popularity of ad hoc ways of giving stands out, while direct debit giving has gently declined in the past five years – around the 20-25% mark in all markets.

Our research and others’ shows consumers across the UK and Ireland are increasingly promiscuous in an age with fewer pressures and obligations to stay with brands no longer giving satisfaction or with contracts that last forever. No charities in any market appear to automatically be immune.

4) Many features of the market in Northern Ireland are completely unique

The brand landscape in Northern Ireland is quite different to either the UK or Republic of Ireland. This means an individual brand’s comparator set, and position within that set, may be completely different in Northern Ireland compared to neighbouring markets.

For example, in Northern Ireland we see Barnardo’s dominance over NSPCC and Marie Curie sitting above Macmillan, while the opposite is true in Britain. There is also no animal welfare charity in the first five most common ones people mention, while the RSPCA is often third or fourth over here.

An individual brand’s comparator set is also likely to be much larger in Northern Ireland compared to other neighbouring markets. This is because there are brands that operate only in Northern Ireland competing for support with household names from the Republic of Ireland and Britain.

5) …yet there are also many differences within Northern Ireland

While there many differences between Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland, there are just as many differences between audiences within Northern Ireland itself. For example, audiences identifying as Catholic are almost 15% more likely to trust the charity sector and 10% more likely to trust the Fundraising Standards Board than those identifying as Protestant.

Brands that also operate in the Republic of Ireland tend to have lower profiles with Protestant audiences than Catholic ones. However, there is no reverse pattern for the profile of brands which are also based in Britain, which are usually equally high (or low).

Different charities therefore may find different strategies effective in communicating with audiences in Northern Ireland. For example, a brand which is also based in the Republic of Ireland may well want to consider primarily targeting Catholic supporters. A brand which is also based in the UK may want to target more widely, but in doing so will have to consider how they communicate that they are trustworthy.

Patrick Brennan
To learn more about the charity sector in Northern Ireland and how your brand fits into it, download details of our Charity Celtic Awareness Monitor, or get in touch on today. A draft copy of 2014’s questionnaire will be available from the 10th of March and we will be starting fieldwork in April.

Do you think we see what the Irish sea? Or have things gone south? Leave us a comment below.

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