What the research tells us: Fundraising during COVID-19

16 June 2020
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In this blog Sam Boyle looks at what the research shows about the impact of coronavirus on the charity and fundraising sector, and the innovations that have emerged during this period of change.

It feels like a lifetime ago since we entered lockdown. Despite considerable challenges charities have done incredible work to support their beneficiaries in trying circumstances.

Understandably charities and fundraisers across the country have been concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their ability to raise income and serve the amazing causes we all believe and depend on.

Since lockdown began, we have seen a wealth of research looking at the impact of the coronavirus on the charity sector. We previously rounded up the available research up to April, but since then there have been a series of new reports which shine new light on the circumstances charities are facing.

The impact on income and services

One of the biggest ongoing concerns for charities has been the loss of income from not being able to fundraise. This was clear in the initial round of research and this continues to be a major issue. For example, research from SCVO finds that half of charities surveyed in Scotland expect to run out of cash in six months, with one in ten charities worried that they might have to close down altogether if the situation doesn’t improve.

Seven out of ten charities were also worried about cuts to their budget and services. These findings are echoed by Pro Bono Economics’ research. 88% of charities said they expected Covid-19 to have a negative impact on their ability to meet their charity objectives over the next six months.

This is happening at a time when services are more necessary than ever with reports that domestic abuse lines have seen a 700% increase in demand and cancer charities reporting large increases in requests for one-to-one support.

With many charities concerned about their ability to provide services, many of whom having large percentages of their workforces on furlough, government support has never been more needed.

Innovation and finding a way

Despite the considerable challenges, many fundraisers have used the pandemic as an opportunity to do things differently to before. We have seen charities act rapidly to put out emergency appeals, fundraise for the first time on digital platforms like HouseParty and Twitch as well revisiting their fundraising strategies.

Whilst there can be no denying that this is a difficult time for the charity sector, as well as for wider society, the evidence suggests that many new fundraising approaches are paying off.
Research from WoodsValldata finds that emergency appeals this year are outperforming forecasted expectations by 40% and online payments are up by 286% compared with 2019. Encouragingly, the spike in cancellations seen in February and March has not been as significant in April.

Charities which innovate and find ways to reach their audience will still find a public who want to give.

The public still want to engage with fundraisers

One of the big questions charities have been getting to grips with during the crisis is how to best connect with supporters and members of public. With public fundraising on pause and fundraising events being postponed or even cancelled, charities have had to find other ways to engage.

The good news is that new research suggests that most people still want to hear from fundraisers. Research analysis from NTT finds that donor acquisition levels have remained steady during the lockdown and remain at a similar level to the period of 10 weeks before it was introduced.

The legacy fundraising picture also has some encouraging signs. Research from fastmap and freestyle marketing finds that a majority (57%) of people believe it is highly appropriate for charities to engage in legacy fundraising. A high proportion of people (42%) also believed that it would be strongly appropriate for charities to promote gifts in wills, with only a small minority of people (13%) thinking the opposite.

So, despite all the considerable challenges we are facing the public still want to engage with the causes they believe in. Fundraisers have achieved incredible things in trying circumstances and the evidence we are seeing so far suggests that the public will continue to give generously when asked.

Sam Boyle
Sam Boyle
Policy and Information Officer at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising
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