Ninety per cent of donors happy with the charities they donate to, survey says

Donors: mostly satisfied
Donors: mostly satisfied

Nine out of 10 donors are happy with the service they receive from the charities they support, according to a survey that its authors say is the largest of its kind carried out in the UK.

Researchers from the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University asked more than 13,500 donors a range of questions about their satisfaction with, commitment to and trust in the charities they donated to.

The survey was conducted between June and September, at the height of the negative coverage of charities after the death of the poppy-seller Olive Cooke, and was presented at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands yesterday.

Of those surveyed by the centre and the consultancy About Loyalty, 22 per cent said they were satisfied with the quality of service provided by the charities they supported and 69 per cent said they were very satisfied – making a total of 91 per cent.

The survey found that 24 per cent of respondents said they were committed to the work of their chosen charities and 64 per cent said they were very committed, adding up to 88 per cent.

Ninety-one per cent of respondents said they placed a high level of trust in the organisations they supported – 22 per cent agreed and 69 per cent agreed strongly.

Adrian Sargeant, director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, who led the research, said: "We would expect the timing and design of our survey to overestimate negativity in the response.

"Given that background, the results that we report here are excellent. We find no evidence of a widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of service provided by fundraisers and, indeed, find to the contrary. Donors are overwhelmingly  satisfied with how they are treated.

"Despite the news media highlighting recent examples of bad practice, this would in no way appear to be representative of our practice."

Sargeant warned that any changes to the oversight of fundraising, prompted by the review of fundraising self-regulation carried out by Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, should be evidence-based.

"The overwhelming experience of donors in our sample is positive, with high levels of passion being articulated for the causes we studied," Sargeant said.

"If the NCVO or others feel the need to continue with their pursuit of the great profession of fundraising, let them show the evidence that what they propose is either necessary or required."

Roger Lawson, founder of About Loyalty, said charities needed to start taking retention and loyalty seriously.

He said: "For too long we have lagged behind the commercial world in our understanding of what builds the loyalty of our donors, choosing instead to focus on short-term income and increasingly expensive donor acquisition.

"If we’re going to take this seriously as a sector we need to have a way to measure loyalty, and we need to know what drives loyalty for different donors."

Lawson said a more detailed analysis of the responses could provide insight into how loyalty varied between donors to different charities.

"As this research continues and tracks behaviour over time, it will give us the rationale to invest now in building greater donor loyalty in the knowledge that it will lead to greater retention and income in the future," he said.

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