Charities might get smaller donations if they mention the economic downturn when asking for money, tests by the Prostate Cancer Charity have indicated.
Half the letters in a direct mailing sent by the charity to 33,000 supporters began by mentioning the downturn and its potential impact on the charity; half did not.
Higher-level donors who received the ‘credit crunch' pack gave 45 per cent less on average than the control group. Mid-level donors gave an average of 21 per cent less, and lower-level donors 4 per cent less.
The number of respondents was broadly the same across the two different mailings in all categories. Nisha Motwani, head of individual giving at the charity, said she had thought mentioning the downturn would make people give more. "Obviously all it did was remind them of their own finances, so they gave less," she said.
The charity declined to reveal how it defined donor levels, but said mid-level donors who received the ‘credit crunch' pack gave an average of £20 less than those in the control group, which suggests mid-level donors in the control group gave an average of £95.
Steven Dodds, head of planning at marketing agency DMS, said his firm's research had also suggested charities should be careful when mentioning the downturn. "From the donor's perspective, charities always need money," he said. "There's a danger that this looks like a handy excuse to ask for money."
Joe Saxton, head of research organisation nfpSynergy, said: "It goes to show why it is always good to test out ideas. Charities will need to try this for themselves, as it may depend on the cause."
He said a homelessness charity that mentioned how the downturn was increasing demand for its services might get a different response.