Americans and British View Nonprofits as Effective Change Makers Yet Still Plan to Give the Same or Less

Social Good Survey Finds Engaging Donors Personally through Multiple Channels is Key to Securing Support in Tough Economy

6 December 2011 – People in the United States and United Kingdom overwhelmingly trust nonprofits and charities ahead of governments and corporations to create social change, yet most say they will make charitable donations at the same or reduced levels as last year, according to a new survey by Fenton and GlobeScan.
The 2011 Social Good Survey examines people’s views of nonprofits/charities and planned giving for 2012. It reveals the ongoing impact of the recession on the nonprofit/charitable sector and confirms that charitable giving has yet to rebound: 72% of respondents in the U.K. and 65% of respondents in the U.S. say their 2012 giving will remain the same; and 16% of respondents in the U.K. and 17% of respondents in the U.S. say their 2012 giving will decrease.
The survey shows that personal interests and connections to causes are the most significant factors that drive people to donate. The stagnant giving trend can partly be attributed to the recession, but a lack of understanding about how nonprofits/charities use donated funds, and missed opportunities to engage supporters, could also be impeding donations.
“In today’s economic climate, nonprofits and charities must effectively engage people on the impact and timeliness of their work to stand out from the pack and raise the level of trust and support from existing and potential donors,” said Rob Anderson, managing director of Fenton’s New York office. “These findings confirm that, if they haven’t already, nonprofits and charities must adapt to the age of engagement.”

An Overview of the Key Findings:

  • Giving to nonprofits is stalled: Seventy-two percent of U.K. respondents and 65% of U.S. respondents say they expect their giving to remain the same in 2012; only 12% of U.K. respondents and 18% of U.S. respondents say they expect their giving to increase.
  • Nonprofits are perceived to be most effective as change makers: Forty-one percent of U.K. respondents and 55% of U.S. respondents say they believe nonprofits and charities are highly effective at bringing about positive social change. Fifty-four percent of U.K. respondents and 56% of U.S. respondents say they highly trust charities and nonprofits.
  • Nonprofits and charities can earn greater support by making a personal connection: When asked what is most important in a decision to donate to a nonprofit/charity, people say an organization’s commitment to a cause they feel strongly about (54% U.K.; 44% U.S.) is the most important factor.
  • Confusion surrounding nonprofit spending and management: Less than half of respondents say they believe nonprofits/charities do a good job of spending funds and managing operations, and an even smaller percentage say they have a high level of knowledge about how nonprofits perform in these areas. Those who report knowing more about how nonprofits are managed are also more positive about their support.
  • Social media is most important for staying current on nonprofit activities and taking action:Respondents give varying reasons for using social media tools in relation to nonprofits, but the majority of responses underscore the value of social media to keep supporters up to date and provide opportunities for engagement. While social media may not be the most effective tool to reach new audiences, it is an effective one to engage existing supporters.
  • Traditional media is still important for breaking through on issues and inspiring engagement: News stories and television commercials rank higher than social media as persuasion tools to bring new people into an effort. Getting stories on the television news is the most effective; 28% of U.K. respondents and 25% of U.S. respondents rank this as the most effective tool.

“The research shows the importance of the personal connection to the cause or issue a nonprofit/charity is involved in,” said James Morris, head of Nonprofit/Charity Research at GlobeScan. “For many people, being interested in the issue or believing in the cause of the nonprofit/charity is the most important driver of whether to engage, and especially of whether to donate. This far outweighs the importance of any sense of immediate need.”
The survey was conducted in July 2011 by the research firm GlobeScan, using online panels in the U.S. and U.K. Respondents were aged 18 years or older and had made a minimum of $20.00/£10.00 donation to a nonprofit/charity in the past year. In the U.K., 1,054 people were interviewed, and in the U.S., 1,131 were interviewed. View complete survey results at Fenton’s website:

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About Fenton

Since 1982, Fenton has developed and implemented public interest communications campaigns to make the world a better place. We combine decades of expertise with creativity and innovation to accelerate progress on today’s most pressing global and national issues ―from protecting people’s health and the environment to advancing human rights.

About GlobeScan

GlobeScan is an international research consultancy. Companies, multilateral institutions, governments, and NGOs trust GlobeScan for its unique expertise in reputation research, sustainability, and issues management. GlobeScan provides global organizations with evidence-based insight and advice to help them build strong brands, manage relations with key stakeholders, and define their strategic positioning. Established in 1987, GlobeScan is an independent, employee-owned company with offices in London, Toronto, and San Francisco.