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What UK Donors Expect from their Charities

26 April 2012 at 10:44 am
Staff Reporter
UK donors are most likely to be put off giving to charity by concerns about a charity’s expenditure – ranking such worries above their concerns about specific charity activities and even about supporter treatment and fundraising methods, according to a new study.

Staff Reporter | 26 April 2012 at 10:44 am


What UK Donors Expect from their Charities
26 April 2012 at 10:44 am

Flickr image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Images_of_Money

UK donors are most likely to be put off giving to charity by concerns about a charity’s expenditure – ranking such worries above their concerns about specific charity activities and even about supporter treatment and fundraising methods, according to a new study.

The latest Charity Awareness Monitor (CAM) by nfpSynergy in the UK found that primarily, people worry about too little money going to the cause itself (76%), about lack of clarity regarding how donations are spent (60%) and about too much going on staff salaries (57%).

While this might not be new to many working in the sector, nfpSynergy says reassurance that donors have made a wise choice in which charity to give to and have faith in its ability to spend money effectively are key aspects for the decision to give.

For example, while 56% felt that knowing a charity spends its money well was important to a recent decision to give, only 14% were bothered about being able to specify how a donation was used.

In general terms, nfpSyndergy says this trust can be hard to come by as the public consistently tends to suspect that too much is spent on “administration” as opposed to “the cause”.

It says that while these definitions can be nebulous, respondents tend to imagine that double the proportion they consider acceptable (17%) is actually spent on administration (39%). And on the flip-side, they think that two-thirds of a charity’s spending ought to go on the cause – but believe that only one-third does so in fact.

nfpSynergy says that donors therefore need stronger reassurance that their hard-earned contributions are well spent – and the sense that a charity can be trusted – is crucial.

However, it says it is equally clear that the majority of the public have high expectations for charity professionalism and efficient customer service, even despite their concerns regarding spending on administration.

The CAM data finds that four in five people expect charities to be professional and well-organised, while 77% require charities to get their names and other details right, yet the data also finds that 64% expect as good a service from charities as they receive from a public or private service and, although 50% don’t mind a charity being ‘a bit amateurish in how they treat donors’ so long as it saves money, a full two-thirds still expect charities to respond ‘quickly and efficiently’ to any enquiry they might have.

nfpSynergy says the data does point to a problematic gap between the professionalised service donors increasingly expect from charities – and their reluctance to see voluntary organisations spend on it.

When asked which of a range of prompted measures might help donors feel more confident that their donation is being spent well, 55% wanted to know that no one at the charity travels first class, while 43% wanted to know no one got a bonus.

However, the research says, more trickily, almost half (46%) wanted to know that no one at the organisation earned more than £50,000.

“Perhaps even more worryingly, 42% would feel reassured to know that the charity was mostly run by volunteers, which may be at the crux of the dilemma,” the report said.

“The paradox is that the modern charity needs to be highly professional while never overtly appearing as such – and certainly never appearing to spend to this end.

“In a real sense, then, there is a pressure on charities to present as ‘professional amateurs’ – to continue ensuring they work to the highest professional standards, from fundraising and customer service to financial accountability; while maintaining the more intimate, grass-roots image of the small-scale volunteer-run organisation."

The details of the CAM report can be found at here. 


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One comment

  • frank deans frank deans says:

    Control over and minimising adminstration dollars is not so easy in today’s NFP sector, where new benchmarks and accreditation are, in part, imposed externally and come at a high cost. These increasing changes are necessarily good for the sector, if it is to be, and be seen as, highly professional.
    A well-adminsitered service should deliver a better service but the administrative cost may need to be highlighted and justified to the wider community. Listing the range of compliance issues would surprise many donors.
    Salaries as a percentage of revenue cannot be ‘pegged’ across the sector, as some services are very people-delivered, rather than product produced.
    Because of the variety of service deliveries and the very varying nature of a host of NFP organizations, good communications and public relations are a significant element in our reach to the public. No doubt, in this electonic age, a professional website is a must, augmented by new electronic add-ons, such as YouTube grabs illustrating services and bringing ones people to the public.
    Frank Deans, a Finance Manager in the NFP sector

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