person Guy Potter access_time November 2, 2018
Getting Charity Surveys Right

Major brands don’t launch products without due diligence, market analysis or focus groups. First they carry out research to understand trends, patterns and customer behaviours in order to give their target audience the right information or product.

This approach very much applies to the charity sector and is why it’s important for charities to have an ongoing, flexible and responsive donor and fundraising strategy in place.

Three pieces of knowledge are crucial for your charity to succeed:

  1. What people care about and how your cause fits in with their worldview?
  2. How they prefer to give
  3. Whether your brand is having an impact. Especially for smaller charities, where getting noticed against the larger charities can be tough.


High quality and up-to-date research is indispensable for your charity to gain understanding of the drivers – and barriers – to donating and fundraising. It’s an area where agile research can make a big difference. In this article, we explain why and how.

Why do strategic research?

Not having a clear view of what people want to give, how they want to do it, and preferred methods of raising awareness, will make it harder to adopt a targeted approach.

This is because patterns in behaviour are constantly changing, often in line with global trends and events and local microtrends. It’s vital to be on top of these trends and be in a position to react accordingly. Trends in charitable giving change as fast (if not faster) than any other sector.

Demographics and giving preferences

As there are so many channels to raise awareness of your charity or donor efforts – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, newsletters, emails, TV, radio and so on – it’s important to understand how your charity should best communicate.

A graoh depicting the percentage given to charity in England 2018

For example, although the percentage of adults actively using social media is increasing, there is still a gap between younger, social savvy audiences versus older adults who perhaps feel less well disposed to using platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. This is important information because charitable giving tends to increase with age. The age range that has the most charity givers is 65 to 74 years old. In every age range more women than men donate to charity.

Another key area is the question of how donors want to give. There are many ways to donate, including online via your charity’s website, through giving platforms such as Just Giving or by phone, bank transfer or cheque.

Agile Research from online fundraising platform Charity Checkout highlights that 89% of donors prefer to donate directly to a charity, as opposed to through a third-party platform like Just Giving. Data like this can be transformative to your cause and help forge better and more positive relationships with donors.

The medium via which donations are made is changing too. Donating via mobile is increasing year on year, and, perhaps more interestingly, millennials are twice as likely to donate via mobile than the 55+ demographic.

Research suggests millennials do more diligent research into charities than older demographics prior to making a donation. This is a reason to ensure that your charity is as open and accountable as possible and doing all it can to avoid bad PR events.

Giving in the UK is also increasing – £10.3 billion was donated in 2017 – never has there been a more opportune time for charities to maximise this and drive engagement.

Fundraising strategies

Since 2007, the number of fundraising events has increased by 700%. This is significant growth and one of the reasons for this is because it is extremely popular for people looking to increase their fitness, whilst raising money for a good cause.

The key to a more targeted fundraising strategy is to analyse market trends and get to grips with the best and most popular events. With so many on offer, ranging from bike rides to Triathlons, finding out which is the most suited to your cause will be invaluable.

Running remains popular, as does trekking, but (and here’s the rub), if your donor and fundraiser base is in the 55+ demographic, this may not be the right event for the majority of your supporters. Carrying out a survey to ascertain what they do want will prove indispensable.

Agile research

Fundraising and giving trends move very quickly, which is why it’s vital to keep on top of, if not ahead of these changes.

Many tech startups constantly adapt and change their strategy, and the reason for this is down to easy 24×7 access to real-time data, which is key to their success. We suggest that this approach is something charities should consider. With powerful web analytics tools such as Google Analytics and real-time social media analytics, there is scope to alter, tweak and adjust accordingly.

It’s also critical that research has the ability to respond just as quickly, if not in real time. A survey that takes two months to process just won’t cut it for many businesses these days – whether it’s a tech startup, multinational or a small, regional charity. Charitable giving is particularly sensitive to events in the 24-hour news cycle. Disaster appeals are more effective than ever due to social media. Similarly, weather-related events such as snowstorms can increase giving to homeless appeals such as Crisis at Christmas.

Agile research can be done in real time, giving your charity the data it needs within minutes. If you’re in a situation where you need to convince or update the board, then getting such fast turnaround will give you the ability to provide all the answers quickly and efficiently.

As we all know the charity sector is highly competitive, which is why your cause always needs to be ahead of the curve in order to get the right content, events and information to donors and fundraisers alike. Useful surveys don’t always cost the earth or take up your annual budget; with a little investment research can support and help grow your charitable organisation.

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