New generation of support

Lower-earning donors are showing higher levels of commitment, suggesting that charities should change the way they target supporters

For years fundraisers have tried to reach new donors by targeting consumers primarily by their age and income. It follows the traditional thinking, backed by research, that those who give to charity are over 50 and have a high income.

But a new survey of 100,000 charity givers by consumer information company Claritas has shed new light on donors and in particular the next generation of supporters.

For example, dropping small change into a collector’s tin outside the supermarket will diminish as a fundraising vehicle whereas the Internet as a charitable vehicle is set to grow.

The new, younger donor is more likely to learn about the latest third-world disaster through the Internet and then decide to contribute money with a click of the mouse.

The Claritas report identifies that charity givers are far from technophobes. In fact, with 32 per cent of them having a home PC, they are more likely than average (31 per cent) to have access to the Internet.

Claritas charities division account director Juliette Blatchley says: “Consumers are already looking at new ways of giving. For example, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) offers a CharityCard Account. It has a debit card facility which people can use to make their donations, and which allows CAF to claim back the tax and add it to the account.

“In the US, Fidelity Investments offers a Charitable Gift Fund where donors can take out a managed fund on behalf of a specific charity,” says Blatchley.

The UK charity Water Aid – which helps establish safe water in Africa and Asia – is unique in the charity sector in targeting 23 million householders through a mailer sent with water bills. But even so, Water Aid has started to recruit through the Internet.

The report also highlights a strong connection between regular donors and those who have investments, such as stocks and shares or unit trusts.

Forty-four per cent of charity givers have investments – a statistic that is over 20 per cent higher than the national average, and particularly relevant in the selection of media for donor acquisition activity.

There is a dramatic variation in donation methods according to age. Those in retirement are more than twice as likely to give by post than those aged between 18 and 24. And, while the traditional over-55 age group are established postal donors, donors aged between 25 and 44 are more likely to use direct debit and covenant.

Any form of committed giving, such as direct debit, has high long-term value. Yet many charities are focused on targeting older donors, where the incidence of giving in this way is much lower.

Another traditional premise – “the more you earn the more you give” – forms the basis on which many fundraisers operate. But the Claritas data reveals a new slant on using income to target donors.

High-income earners give more money, by value, to charity. Charity donors earning less than £5,000 (low-paid or pension groups) typically give £90 a year, while those earning £35,000 or more will give £129.

However, the difference is relatively small, and when you look at the percentage of income that these two groups are willing to contribute, a picture emerges of a much more committed donor at the lower end of the scale.

The data in this area is significant for two reasons. First, by targeting lower-paid earners, fundraisers open up a huge potential donor base which is relatively untapped by charities.

Second, if lower earners are prepared to support a charity with over 300 per cent more of their income each year than top earners, then it says volumes about their commitment and long-term value. This value relates not only to revenue, but other types of support such as lobbying and regional backing.

Of course, most charity givers support more than one charity – a favourite cause and probably one or two others as well. While 65 per cent of donors give up to £60 a year to their favourite charity, this figure drops significantly to 45 per cent for other charities supported.

The Claritas data illustrates the huge potential for charities to “take risks” and pursue target groups that are outside their core market. Charities may not recruit new supporters with the potential for high-value or committed giving, but they could strike on a valuable new source of cash donors who can help boost funds.

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