person Guy Potter access_time November 8, 2019

Charity Surveys

There are nearly 200,000 registered charities in the UK, and, according to the National Philanthropic Trust, current donor trends are looking like this: young people are more likely to give to physical and mental health care charities, shelters for the homeless or refugees, as well as educational institutions. While older age groups are more likely to favour hospitals, disaster relief, and religious charities.

In a nutshell, it’s competitive out there and your charity needs to make sure it’s making the most marketing ‘noise’, especially if you’re not in-line with current giving trends.

Getting noticed – news generation

The speed and demand of social media means that news generation is now more important than ever.

Continuously re-explaining why donors should give to your charity, or repeating the same points or statistics, will get you pushed further down follower’s news feeds as engagement dwindles.

The need to be new and ‘interesting’ is key, and we see that with a lot of charities these days who are making their marketing and PR budgets work harder.

As a result, we’re seeing fewer ‘stunt’-based campaigns, probably because of tightening budgets, and more social media-focused, viral or trend-focused activities.

“People are looking for stories that truly mean something – stories that are redemptive, inspiring and bigger than an individual.”

-Scott Harrison, Founder & CEO, Charity:Water

To run a viral campaign or to get it trending on key social channels, it’s important you have something impactful to say, and this is where stats become vital.

If your charity wants to highlight a growing issue, then running a survey and gathering data will help reinforce the point.

Stats, stats, stats

Statistics and surveys are probably more important for the charity sector than any other. All claims need to be substantiated and donors need to see the results of their giving.

For example, surveying attitudes towards your central cause is a great way to gain insight into how trends in thinking are shifting. The survey can be of your existing donors and members, or (arguably better still) those outside your bubble.

Ask your respondents questions like:

  • How do you feel about … ?
  • What do you think politicians should do about … ?
  • Who is responsible for … ?
  • Have you heard about … ?
  • Why would you not donate to … ?
  • Which charities do you normally donate to?


Combine these qualitative questions with age, gender and other demographic data points to get powerful insights into current attitudes.

The great thing about generating key statistics is that they can be used for so much more than marketing. It can help drive donor engagement and giving strategies, as well as help shape the future growth and direction of a charity.

This point is particularly important if you’re working to a tight budget. A charity survey doesn’t have to be painfully expensive to be effective, there are many ways of getting valid data without worrying about cost.


Technology has been transformative for the charity sector and continues to be so. Research from CAF found that nearly all charity leaders surveyed believed that technology will help them innovate, although they also felt it will change the nature of the problems that charities have to address.

“The spread of online information isn’t just good for charities. It’s also good for donors.”
-Bill Gates.

Ultimately, charities are looking at technology for good, whether that’s social media, digital currencies, mobile apps or AI in a more ‘ethical’ manner, there will be more of a trend towards maximising tech as part of giving strategies.

Although these smart technologies are at early stages, the method of gathering data, however, is more ahead of the game. Where surveys once took 1-2 weeks to complete, they can now be done within hours or even minutes.

This ability to turn around data so quickly is known as Agile Research. And, because it is agile, it means it’s far more cost-effective than more traditional survey methods.

Agile surveys are designed to be comprehensive and adhere to all industry guidelines, so a sample base can be as broad or as focused as you like. If you’re a health-focused charity that targets a specific demographic, then agile research has the ability to reach out to them, and get you results within a short space of time.

If you’re looking to react to the news agenda, then speed is of the essence. This is where agile research can really add value. A vox pop-style survey or a couple of yes/no questions can be live and complete within minutes.

This not only helps give you marketing content, but it also gives you an edge over the charities in your space. It doesn’t cost the earth either, which means you can have standout, high-quality content that can be used for PR, Marketing and/or promotional material.

We are going through a very unpredictable period in politics, society and history, so right now, as is the case for all business, it’s a case of weathering the storm and being just as effective, but on reduced budgets.

And the good news it that, when it comes to ongoing market research, this is achievable. Quality doesn’t need to break the bank, and your charity needs to keep ahead of, and on top of, data analysis, so look no further than agile research for charity surveys.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.
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