Perceptions of negative coverage for charities are falling

A survey by the media firm Gorkana finds that the proportion of people recalling seeing negative coverage of the sector fell by 18 points in the year's second quarter

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Negative headlines

The proportion of people who recall seeing negative media coverage about the charity sector fell by 18 percentage points in the second quarter of 2016, according to a new survey.

In the Charity Attitudes Benchmarking Survey, which is run by the media firm Gorkana, a representative sample of 1,000 people were asked questions about their attitudes to the voluntary sector and how different forms of media affected their perceptions of charities.

According to the survey, which was carried out during April and June, 24 per cent of respondents recalled seeing negative coverage in the media about the charity sector, down from 42 per cent in a similar survey conducted between January and March.

The percentage of respondents who said negative coverage of the sector definitely influenced their decisions to donate to charity fell from 51 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 to 46 per cent in the latest survey.

Positive press coverage was found to be the most important factor in persuading people to give to charity, with 29 per cent of respondents citing it as an influence. The second most important factor was social media, with 25 per cent of charity donors saying it was a key influence in their decisions to give to charity.

Despite these results, the survey found that the proportion of respondents donating to charity stayed the same as the previous quarter at 23 per cent.

Orla Graham, senior client insight manager at Gorkana, said this showed that negative press did not necessarily lead to a fall in donations.

She told Third Sector: "The results for the first and second quarter surveys gave the same proportion of people who donated to charity – 23 per cent – yet more recalled having seen negative press coverage in quarter one than in quarter two. This suggests, perhaps, that occasional negative coverage of charities does not have a direct impact on donations, although there are obviously lots of factors at play."

The results show that different forms of media influence different age group’s donations decisions in different ways.

Social media was found to be a big influence among younger people who donated to charity: 42 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said it had a positive effect on their decisions to donate, a 14 percentage-point increase on the survey run in the first quarter of 2016.

There was also an increase in the impact of social media coverage on respondents aged between 45 and 54, with 22 per cent saying it had an impact on their decision to donate, compared with 10 per cent in the previous quarter.

In contrast, 55 to 64-year-olds and 35 to 44-year-olds were found to be more likely to give to charity based on positive press reports.

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