Charity offices and websites are the last place people look for advice on financial and social issues, according to research published today by the consultancy nfpSynergy.
Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said the results showed that charities needed to make their offices and websites "more approachable".
NfpSynergy asked a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults where they would go for support, advice and information on financial difficulties, housing, social benefits, "issues concerning elderly people" and "being the victim of crime".
Respondents were given five possible options: a charity website, charity offices, their local council, a search engine or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Charity offices were the least popular option in all five areas. Only 7 per cent of respondents said they would visit a charity office for advice, support and information regarding elderly people, and just 5 per cent said they would consult them on other issues.
Charity websites proved only slightly more popular than charity offices. Only 16 per cent of respondents said they would choose to visit a charity’s website for support and advice regarding elderly people, and less than 10 per cent would visit a charity website for help on other issues.
The CAB was the most popular option for the majority of people. More than half said they would choose the bureau for financial and social benefits information or advice, and a quarter said they would visit it for other issues. Search engines were also popular, with about a third of people saying they would use them to seek information and advice on a range of issues.
Saxton said the findings were worrying. "Charities have unique skills, experience and experts to help people, but this is no good if people aren’t benefiting from it," he said. "Far from being people’s first port of call, it looks like charities could be the last."
He said that despite spending time and money working on websites, charities were still not providing people with the advice and support they needed. "Some of them might need to rethink their strategies for making their offices and their websites more approachable," he said.