Brand Watch: Shelter

YouGov's Anne Gammon looks at the profile of the housing and homelessness charity since last autumn

Shelter: seasonal campaigning
Shelter: seasonal campaigning

YouGov's CharityIndex questions a representative sample of 125 different people each day on subjects such as the charities they have talked about with friends and family and the charities they have heard of. The results are compiled to generate scores about the public's perception of an organisation.

The on-going economic malaise has brought many issues surrounding housing issues to the fore. From the high cost of buying a home to the rising costs for renters, the housing and homelessness charity Shelter has been a prominent campaigning organisation for families and individuals facing problems over their homes. This month’s Brand Watch looks at how the charity has fared since last autumn to this summer, covering its Christmas appeal as well as its various campaigns for first-time buyers and renters. It assesses the distinction between the charity as a fundraiser and also as a campaigning organisation.

The most obvious observation is that Christmas represented its peak in terms of 'Buzz', the term we use for measuring sentiment and whether people have heard good or bad things about the brand. This is perhaps not surprising given people being more likely to donate to charity at Christmas.

Shelter Buzz Score, 14 October 2012 - 30 June 2013

The Christmas appeal stands out because of the size and duration of the peak. This was driven by a well-planned media campaign, starting with a news story in early November on the plight of homeless children at Christmas. This was followed in early December by a further push in both print and digital media. Shelter's 'Value' score (whether people are likely to donate to a charity) reached a peak in late December.

Shelter Value Score, 14 October 2012 – 30 June 2013

The data show that within the Christmas campaign, men and women paid attention to Shelter in different ways. Women, who generally have higher levels of support, got on board with the charity’s Christmas activity earlier, with men following about a week later. However, following the Christmas season the Attention scores for both fell in unison.

Shelter Attention Scores – Males and Females, 16 November 2012 – 16 February 2013

Beyond Christmas

Shelter's 'Index' score, of overall brand health, shows the Christmas peak and others in late January/early February and in April. While the February increase in overall brand health was driven by Shelter's news stories on rent arrears and 'rent traps', the April increase is interesting as a case study in targeting campaigns.

Shelter Index Score, 14 October 2012 – 30 June 2013


The April Index peak is considerably lower than the ones over Christmas and February for the country as a whole, but a different picture emerges for London. The February peak is higher largely because of the charity's story on repossessionss there; the April spike is also larger because of media coverage about London rents.

Shelter Index Scores – London Vs. Rest of the UK, 14 October 2012 – 30 June 2013

The 'Satisfaction' scores for the charity show that such targeted campaigning appeared to make an impression on Londoners' perceptions of Shelter as a campaigning organisation, with the peak in early April.

Shelter Satisfaction Scores – London Vs. Rest of the UK, 14 October 2012 – 30 June 2013

Lower income families

As well as different regions, Shelter also targeted its campaigning among different groups – including spring activity addressing the concerns of people on lower incomes. Following an increase in Satisfaction scores among people on higher incomes following the charity’s call for more housing following the budget, various stories that spoke to people on lower incomes were released from late March onwards. News about about the sharp rise in the number of homeless families and the  number of families cutting back on food to stay in their homes came out in late March and saw an increase in satisfaction scores. Further media activity around a surge in demand for help from the charity maintained this rise throughout April and into May.

Shelter Attention Scores – High income Vs. Low Income, 22 February – 26 May 2013


Shelter has a strong brand and, by means of careful and targeted media campaigns, is able to navigate a course that encompasses its role as both a charity and a campaigning organisation, and its work on homelessness and wider housing issues. It has maintained positive scores across all measures over the nine months, a testament to its skill at maintaining a strong profile. 

The key, though, has been to balance the money generation aspect of its activity (especially at Christmas) with its role of raising awareness and campaigning on issues that affect specific groups of people.


Kay Boycott, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, says: "The housing crisis affects an incredibly broad range of people in a number of different ways, so targeted and effective communications are crucial. Whether it's campaigning for change, appealing to our supporters or promoting our advice services, a forensic approach to audience insight means we're reaching the right people with the right messages, in the right channels.

"Christmas is always a big time of year for us because of the natural uplift in concern about homelessness. Running an integrated campaign means our supporters can call for change at the same time as giving, which drives up donations as well as engagement with our campaigns."

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