Who is giving generously?

As charities struggle to meet fundraising targets, a new study looks at the connection between people’s taste in newspapers and their favoured causes

Charity campaigns are increasingly falling short of their fundraising targets. And though over 50 per cent of charities rely on direct advertising to generate more than 40 per cent of their revenue, the sector is under enormous pressure to maintain the performance of its fundraising efforts according to a study by Claritas.

Direct mail and national press are still the main focus for many organisations. Last year, charities were responsible for 7.2 per cent of all direct mailings in the UK. In terms of volume, that is not massively significant, but charities’ reliance on direct marketing is second only to the mail-order industry.

While direct mail targeting is supported by a range of sophisticated profiling techniques, the same cannot be said for press advertising. Off-the-page advertising in national dailies accounts for a significant proportion of many charities’ media budgets, yet planning for this medium is based largely on a “test and see” approach, which can eat up thousands of pounds before a workable strategy can be put in place. National Readership Survey profiles can provide a guide, but much of the data is inferred. Generic information like this is simply not tailored to reflect a fundraising audience.

The latest information from Claritas’ National Shoppers Survey provides charities with an inside view of the national press. The 2002 survey asked supporters of seven charity subsectors which national daily and Sunday papers they read regularly.

The Guardian, The Independent and The Times are strong media options for three of the charity groups: wildlife/environment, homelessness and the Third World. Supporters of homeless causes are a staggering 326 per cent more likely to read The Guardian than is the population as a whole. This was the strongest single result across the entire study. According to Claritas, there is a great degree of similarity between the demographic profiles of these three titles’ readership. All have a young readership (predominantly aged between 25 and 34) and concentrate on current affairs. While The Sun and the Daily Star score badly for these three causes, readers of the Daily Sport are slightly more likely than average to respond to a homeless or the wildlife/environmental appeal, although they are 55 per cent less likely to support a Third World cause.

When it comes to the Sunday papers, readers of The Observer are 321 per cent more likely than the average citizen to respond to appeals to help the homeless.

For children’s and animal welfare appeals, a different picture appears. Here, the Daily Sport leads the way – its readers are 32 per cent and 21 per cent respectively more likely to have given to such causes. Sun and Star readers also come to the fore, taking second and third place in both cases. Animal welfare is a unique case when it comes to defining the target audience. Factors such as age and income, which lie behind so many profiles, are much less significant than usual. In their place, the incidence of pet ownership is an overriding characteristic. Philanthropic Times and Independent readers certainly cannot be counted upon for support when it comes to animal welfare. Both are less likely than average to support this type of appeal.

Donators to Christian causes have a very distinct newspaper readership profile. Daily Telegraph readers are 24 per cent more likely than average to donate to Christian charities. Interestingly, this is the only instance where The Daily Telegraph moves out of the bottom part of the table for charitable giving. That picture is mirrored among the Sunday papers, where The Sunday Telegraph takes pole position in Christian giving.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only universally popular charity sector is cancer care and research. This touches more people directly than most types of charitable cause and, as there is a relatively flat newspaper profile, wavers little from the national average. Those who give to cancer-related causes are slightly more likely than average to read the Daily Express, and slightly less likely to read The Guardian. Despite a heavy reliance on press and direct mail, fundraisers are among some of the most innovative players in direct response TV and other new media. SMS, for instance, gives fundraisers the opportunity to reach younger people – a chance to address the universal issue of an ageing supporter base, perhaps. However, exciting as these opportunities are, their contribut

ion to the bottom line is under scrutiny. Targeting and accountability is essential for fundraisers, who must pursue the refinements that are needed to fine-tune the performance of these media.

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