Most charities have changed the way they communicate with their supporters because of the lockdown, increasing their use of social media, email or phone, a survey has found.
Rapidata, part of The Access Group, surveyed 87 charities of different sizes and supporting a range of causes on how they have adapted their communications to the Covid-19 crisis, for its report Navigating Times of Crisis to Protect Regular Giving.
Some 67% of respondents said they have changed how they communicate with regular givers, and 71% said they have increased their use of social media.
Email and online advertising also registered an increase (from 62% and 46% of charities respectively), together with telephone, which was used more by 33% of charities. About a quarter of charities (24%) said they used telephone more to thank their supporters and keep in touch with them.
Virtual events were also popular, with almost half of respondents (46%) using them more often and about one in six charities (16%) saying they held virtual events for the first time during the crisis.
Respondents also seemed to think that some of these changes will have a long-lasting impact on their communications. The vast majority of respondents (75%) said they expect to continue their increased use of digital channels even after lockdown, and nearly half (49%) said they expect to continue using channels they had not used before lockdown.
Focus on supporters
Rapidata also conducted in-depth interviews with fundraising managers for the report, and some stressed the importance of adapting their communications to keep in touch with supporters and build relationships with them during and after the crisis.
Nick Pride, director of individual giving and loyalty at Marie Curie, said: “In the medium term, there will be even more pressure on people’s own finances, and this will affect corporates, philanthropists and individual givers alike. There’s capacity however for charities to be connecting with supporters over the services they deliver and their vision for the future.
"We have to do a much better job at using insight to build supporter engagement; then there will be a positive financial outcome. We’ve been talking about relationship fundraising for years – we’ve got to make that a reality.”
Amy Oberholzer, head of individual giving at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “The need to truly engage with supporters and remain relevant is even more important than it was before. It’s not enough to simply thank and then build up to another ask; it’s about truly listening to the needs and interests of your loyal supporters, why they’re choosing to support your cause and how they prefer to engage.”
Scott Gray, Rapidata lead and head of payments for The Access Group, said: “To protect regular giving for the future, an increased and dedicated focus on supporter centricity and strategic diversification will be essential. Part this is innovative approaches coupled with greater investment in digital transformation.
“While we all hope to avoid another pandemic, what’s certain is that other crises and recessions will occur. It’s critical then that charities prepare for this by learning from others’ experiences and taking action to mitigate future risk.”