All in a good cause

Regardless of age or gender, charitable donors behave like ordinary consumers, and marketers targeting new or existing supporters should adopt an intergrated approach for the best response.

With the debate raging in newspaper columns over the ethics of major aid agencies sending goats, cows and chickens to poor African farmers who lack the resources to support livestock, it’s perhaps appropriate to take a look at the extent of Goodwill to All Men a little closer to home.

Christmas is, of course, a time for making charitable donations as well as buying presents. This year 70% of the UK population gave to a good cause, according to new research by Carat conducted on behalf of Royal Mail. Of this large demographic, 39% say they prefer to send charity Christmas cards, 35% like to buy a National Lottery ticket or game card and 32% opt for a badge or small memento to support charities.

However, the most significant trend to emerge in donating habits this year is the gender divide. Men donate large amounts (over £400) more frequently than women, but women donate more often than men, albeit in the lower cash value brackets (under £400). The results also reveal that generosity increases with age: nearly 50% of 15to 19-year-olds have donated in the past 12 months compared to 65% of 25to 34-year-olds and over 80% of over-65s.

An interesting development is how charities are now embracing digital opportunities. In the past few years there has been a steady increase in the popularity of online donation sites. Consumers can now host their own Web page on sites such as, which helps friends, family and colleagues to donate online. Yet, despite this, postal donations are still very popular, with 21% of consumers sending donations through the post in the past year, in comparison to 5% donating online and 5% donating over the phone.

With many people still unsure about financial transactions online, the post remains the traditional, trusted option as well the preferred method of correspondence. Nearly 19% of women and 26% of over-65s say they would rather receive a letter from a charity than an e-mail or phone call.

In today’s congested market, one of the main challenges facing charities is attracting new supporters. Among existing supporters of charities, meanwhile, 47% of respondents say a personal connection with a cause encourages them to donate, 15% say publicity for charities on TV and radio moves them to act, while 9% say a letter including a prepaid envelope prompted them to donate.

However the second, and possibly more important, challenge is how charities maintain long-term relationships with supporters. When asked what would encourage people to continue donating in the long term, 42% say they prefer to receive charity brochures and magazines, 40% like updates on TV or radio and 37% say they are keen on thank you letters.

In terms of which charities receive the most support, larger organisations that invest in integrated marketing campaigns to increase awareness come top. Cancer research charities receive the highest value of donations, with 11% more women donating than men. This gender divide is the largest in all the charity categories and could be attributed to the awareness campaign backed by Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care, Cancer Research UK and celebrity “ambassadors” such as Elle Macpherson and Jodie Kidd. However, as the awareness of testicular cancer rises, this imbalance is likely to level out, as men become more inclined to donate.

Other charities which received a high level of support this year included the Poppy Day Appeal (44%), Disaster Emergency Committee (32%), animal welfare groups (22%), children’s charities such as Barnardo’s and NSPCC (20%), TV appeals such as Children in Need (20%), and local hospice and health charities (19%).

The general attitude to supporting and donating to charities in the UK has historically been very positive, and seems to be increasing year-on-year. However in today’s media landscape, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about multimedia channels, and consequently demand more options, so the importance of a more integrated approach in a charity campaign becomes fundamentally important.

No longer can the telephone, e-mail, direct mail and online be managed in isolation – a more “joined up” approach is now required.

However, despite this change in attitude, and significant digital advances, consumers’ relationship with the post in this sector remains strong. With the ability to deliver to every address in the UK, it provides a secure focus to a campaign and – combined with other media such as online – effectively targets a wide range of demographics.

As a result, charities are taking a more integrated approach in their campaigns, combining digital offerings with the more traditional and trusted medium of direct mail. Together, this produces strong campaigns, which not only attract new donors, but also maintain support from existing ones.

• Jenny Peters, associate director, Carat Insight, contributed to this week’s Trends Insight

According to UK Giving 2005/06, a report published by Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations last week, donations to charity have not fallen as expected over the past year, despite record levels of giving following the Asian tsunami. UK donors gave an estimated £8.9bn to charity in 2005/06.

There is a variety of ways that donors can give to charities. Cash collection tins in the street and envelopes through doors can raise a charity’s profile and reach a wide donor base but generally attract small gifts, whereas targeted direct mailings may attract a smaller number of larger monetary gifts.

Also, while many charities may prefer a regular income from planned gifts, there are times when particular appeals need an immediate and exceptional response. The report advises an integrated approach and warns charities that they should remember that people give donations through more than one method.

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