Many donors feel bombarded by marketing from charities and companies, and want more control over how they are contacted, according to a report published this week by consultancy nfpSynergy.
The report is based on data gathered in May from three focus groups with charity donors, based on age, and an online survey of 1,000 adults who were nationally representative of the British population.
It finds that donors are suspicious about the need for charities to market, feel the sector should follow the same rules as others, and will mostly not opt in to charity communications.
Opt-in is likely to be a requirement under the new General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into force in May next year.
“In all the focus groups participants spoke of feeling bombarded by communications,” the report says. “Younger people appeared to be receiving more communication (across the board, not specifically from charities), but the perception of bombardment was consistent among all age groups.
“Some participants in the focus groups did reference charities as being part of the problem, but it was part of a broader picture of contact from organisations and companies from lots of different sectors that were contributing to the generalised sense of bombardment.”
Rules should apply to charities
Donors clearly feel that charities should follow the same rules as businesses, and that if anything, the rules should apply more strictly to the sector, the report says.
“The fact that the public want to see charities as morally superior to businesses makes them feel more strongly that charities must play by the same rules,” the report says. “With this in mind, they actually feel more annoyed when charities are perceived as breaking the rules than they do when businesses do it – as it undermines their beliefs about what charities should be.”
Donors suspicious of charity marketing
Respondents to the survey reported that a quarter of all marketing was from charities, including around 60 per cent of all direct mail.
Nearly a third feel they receive too many marketing emails from charities, and more than a quarter feel they receive too much post. However 67 per cent said the amount of communication was about right.
The report said that donors do not accept the need for charities to market to them, because they should decide when to give.
“There is a lack of acceptance – particularly amongst older groups, but the viewpoint did appear across all groups – that targeted approaches to marketing actually work when it comes to charities,” the report says. "The rationale behind this view is a feeling that we give because we decide to off our own back, not because we are asked or prompted to give by a charity.
“This perception is a challenging one for charities to grapple with and appears to be hard to shift.”
The report says that even when donors were presented with evidence that this approach was effective, they still refused to believe that they themselves would Even when we explained to our focus group participants the fact that many charities actually make significant proportions of their income through asking previous donors to give again, there is a tendency to believe that ‘This doesn’t apply to us’.”
The report said that only 16 per cent of donors will opt into campaigns under GDPR – a statistic the consultancy had previously blogged about.