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Survey suggests that charities are people's last resort for advice

Survey suggests that charities are people's last resort for advice
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Survey suggests that charities are people's last resort for advice1

Governance | Jonathan Last | 3 May 2013

People rarely think to go to charities first for advice or support, suggest results from an nfpSynergy survey.

One thousand British adults were quizzed for the report Where do the public go to seek information and advice? They were asked where they would go for advice or support on financial difficulties, housing, social benefits, issues concerning elderly people and on being the victim of crime.

Visiting charity offices was the least preferred option in each selection, with using a voluntary sector organisation’s website polling second lowest.

Just 16 per cent said they would log on to a charity’s website for advice or support regarding elderly people and fewer than 10 per cent would go there for help with any of the other problems.

A mere 7 per cent claimed they would visit a charity office for advice or support with the elderly, with less than 5 per cent saying they would go in person for the other issues.

One in five people would consult a charity’s website about elderly people and just 6 per cent would go to a charity’s offices, with the other problems all ranking even lower.

Citizen’s Advice ranked highest

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau was the most popular choice for assistance, with around half heading there for financial and social benefits guidance or information, while around a quarter would visit for other reasons.

Search engines also came higher than charities as a source for information, with around a third of people across the board saying they use them first.

People 'not aware of charities’ services'

Cian Murphy, one of nfpSynergy's researchers, said it was understandable that the public is reluctant to consider going into charity offices.

“It’s more of a physical act and commitment, less so than using a computer. There are various social pressures, as well,” he told civilsociety.co.uk.

“But charities should be worried that their websites are not seen as a first port of call for information. People are obviously willing to consider digital sources, as seen with the popularity of search engines in these results, but charities don’t seem to be appearing on their radar.”

Murphy suggested that search engine optimisation could help charities to be better seen when they are searched for online, and also that people are often ignorant about the services organisations offer.

“Sometimes it’s about them just letting people know that the service is there,” he said.

“People very rarely think of charities as being there to give advice and information, yet it is sometimes one of an organisation’s core services.”

Results ‘are worrying’

Joe Saxton, nfpSynergy’s driver of ideas, described the results as “quite worrying”.

“Part of a charity’s mission is to provide support, advice and information,” he said. “Charities have unique skills, experience and experts to help people, but this is no good if people aren’t benefitting from it.

“Far from being people’s first port of call, it looks like charities could be the last.”

The full research can be viewed on nfpSynergy’s website here.

Jeremy Barker
Advice Supervisor
Scunthorpe CAB
10 May 2013

The headline and article are a bit misleading. In reality the article reveals that charities are often the first port of call.

The article highlights that Citizens Advice (I presume it really means the bureaux that are it's members) is the most popular choice for advice. It seems to escaped notice that all CABs are registered charities.

They may not be going to specialist charities but the article fails to clearly distinguish that. Sometimes it is better to go to a specialist charity (and where appropriate CABs refer people on to them) but for some issues - particularly financial difficulties and social benefits - we are widely recognised as experts.

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