In May 2019, the UK Charity Aid Foundation reported that engagement with charities has been on a downward trajectory since 2016. This encompasses both donations and volunteering. The events of 2020 have done nothing to turn this tide. On the contrary, social distancing, reduced use of cash and a struggling economy have created yet more headaches for the charities sector. Here, we examine some of the trends we have observed in 2020 to date, and take a look at how the sector is likely to evolve as we go into 2021.
The biggest decline we have seen over the course of 2020 has been in “regular” and “semi regular” charitable donations. This is unsurprising given the financial uncertainty caused by lockdown. However, “occasional” donations actually climbed dramatically, especially in the second quarter. During this period, many people found themselves with time on their hands and got involved in charitable activities, such as virtual bike rides or charity FIFA tournaments.
In 2019, one-off online donations through platforms like JustGiving grew year-on-year by 25 percent. However, it is important to note that overall, cash still represented more than 50 percent of donations. Furthermore, much of this money was raised through activities that have been impossible or drastically curtailed in 2020, such as door-to-door collections, office charity boxes or public events. Charities need to go digital in their fundraising efforts to compensate for the inevitable shortfall through traditional channels.
More virtual events
One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through virtual events, and charities that are agile in their marketing and fundraising strategies have already achieved plenty here. 60 percent of charities tried some form of virtual fundraising events during the summer of 2020, and online charitable donations increased by 44 percent during this period. Against Breast Cancer (ABC) is a great example of what can be achieved. The charity launched several initiatives including a sports hub, a movie club and Get Your Pinks On, in which participants had a clear out and donated unwanted items. Other charities need to follow these models over the months ahead.
Charities rely on the personal connection they have with their supporters. Maintaining that over recent months has been difficult, but it is a much-needed driver to make better use of online channels. Around three quarters of the UK adult population is on social media, so even without a pandemic, there is no better way to engage. Crucially, however, making better use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will help charities to better connect with Generation Z. The oldest Gen Z-ers are now entering their late 20s, and this is the demographic with which charities must build robust relationships to avoid donations going into terminal decline.
Charities are more important now than ever
Charities are facing a whole host of challenges and must meet them head-on as we head into 2021. However, despite the incredible difficulties of 2020, it is important to remember that charities still make a vital contribution to the UK economy, employing around 750,000 people and funding 40 percent of all medical research. Furthermore, even in the current climate, well over half the UK population regularly donates to charity.