'Collapse' in donor recruitment yet to be fully felt in charity income, report warns

A “collapse” in donor recruitment because of the coronavirus pandemic last year is yet to be fully felt in charity income, a new report warns. 

Charity Benchmarks, which has been produced by the fundraising companies Freestyle Marketing and Open, is based on research conducted among a group of 15 major fundraising charities, including Macmillan Cancer Support, the British Red Cross, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation. 

The research included interviews with representatives of seven of the organisations and “extensive written responses” from six others based on the first nine months of 2020, the authors said. 

The report says: “While there was much to be excited about in terms of results in 2020 – many of our interviewees having exceeded their revised targets – a number of external factors suggest difficult times ahead.

“In terms of regular giving, there was a consensus that the collapse in recruitment in 2020 would be felt acutely further down the line. 

“Similarly, the impact on major donor and legacy fundraising (much of which happens face-to-face) is still to be felt fully.”

The report warns that the organisations involved in the research also expressed concerns that “operational pressures will force organisations back into short-term thinking and the challenges of 2020 will compound the issues already facing fundraising”. 

The spectre of mass unemployment could be among the factors that lead to a “challenging future environment for fundraisers”, the report says. 

Legacy income was a “near-universal concern”, authors warned. 

“Because although the legacies are there (and are predicted to grow) the probate service has been extremely slow,” the report says. 

The report warns that the relatively small sample of charities that took part in the research means its findings must be viewed with caution. 

But the report encompassed fundraising income of £912m in the first three-quarters of 2020, compared with almost £1.5bn for the whole of 2019. 

One respondent told researchers: “There’s a little nagging doubt in the back of my mind that people think we can just turn the taps back on and go back to where we were. Which I don’t think is going to be the case at all.”

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