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New direct debit sign-ups to charities decreased by a quarter over the summer

12 Nov 2020 News

Direct debit sign-ups to charities were down by more than a quarter between May and September, according to data from a charity payment company.

Rapidata, part of the Access Group, gathers data on more than 600 charities and about 21 million transactions.

It registered an overall 26.6% decline in new direct debits over the summer compared to last year, reflecting the decline in public fundraising activities during the pandemic.

Face-to-face fundraising is usually one of the main channels through which charities acquire new regular givers. Public fundraising activities stopped in March when lockdown was announced, and in April, Rapidata released data according to which new direct debit sign-ups were down by a half compared to 2019.

Over the summer, various charities cautiously restarted some face-to-face and door-to-door fundraising, but the growth in Covid-19 cases, increasing local restrictions and then a second national lockdown in England halted them again.

Cancellation rates at a record low

As a result, Rapidata also registered low cancellation rate levels. After a spike in March when the pandemic first hit, direct debit cancellations went back to normal levels in April and were very low over the end of the spring and in the summer. In July they reached a record low at 1.32%, compared to 2.45% in the same month last year.

Rapidata said that this partly because most cancellations happen right after sign-up, but is also a sign of donors’ loyalty to the charities they support.

Finally, Rapidata also saw an increase in online giving, both for one-off donations and regular giving.

It registered a 85% cumulative growth in donation value of one-off donations over the past six months, while new online direct debit sign-ups were up by 37% between January and September, according to an analysis of 350 charity giving pages.

‘People do still care and very much want to give’

Scott Gray, Rapidata lead and head of payments for The Access Group, said: “While the very low cancellation rates of the past few months can be largely attributed to lockdown stalling donor acquisition activity – because we know the majority of cancellations happen immediately after sign-up – more positively it also shows a steady trend that committed supporters are continuing to give to the causes they care about.”  

Dan Fluskey, head of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said: “While growing regular giving is hard at this time of limited fundraising activity, the growth of one-off donations demonstrates that people do still care and very much want to give.  Donor loyalty can never be taken for granted however but needs to be earned. 

“Over recent years we have seen a real focus from charities in developing supporter relationships. This latest research shows not only that this work is now paying off, but also how vital it will continue to be for encouraging and retaining regular giving support as we traverse the challenging months ahead.”

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