The poll, carried out at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands this month, by fundraising consultancy, The Management Centre, asked 100 fundraisers from around the world to rate how badly the impending recession would affect fundraising in a range of cause areas.
Respondents were asked to assess the impact they thought the economic conditions would have on a variety of causes and rate them on a five-point scale from "relatively low" to "extremely severe".
Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed rated the impact on arts, heritage and culture charities as either severe or extremely severe, compared with only 3 per cent who gave it the lowest rating.
International development was rated by 40 per cent of respondents as at risk of being severely or extremely severely affected, and 4 per cent thought the impact would be relatively low. Twenty-two per cent said animal welfare charities would suffer severe or very severe effects; 5 per cent thought they would suffer relatively low impact.
Clive Tweedy, chief executive of Arts & Business, a charity that encourages relationships between business and the arts, agreed the downturn could be damaging.
"The arts are seen by many businesses as something they do in good times but not bad," he said. "Clearly arts will slip down people's priorities, but I am confident there are a lot of people out there who will not pull out."
John Cole, deputy director of marketing at veterinary charity PDSA, said the figures did not surprise him. "Fundraising is always a challenge and, with the recession looming, we have no doubt it will put our supporters under more pressure," he said.
Respondents generally agreed that children's causes, emergency relief, medical and faith-based causes would be least affected by the recession.
Only 1 per cent said children's causes would be severely affected, compared with 49 per cent who felt they would suffer low or relatively low impact.
Nearly 40 per cent of respondents felt they should expand to fight for market share, whereas 18 per cent felt downsizing was a realistic option, the survey showed.
Percentage of respondents saying causes will face severe losses
55% - Arts, heritage and culture
40% - International development
22% - Animal welfare
1% - Children's causes.