According to analysis just released by McNair Ingenuity Research, both charity brand awareness and perceived giving levels have fallen since 2014. Liz Henderson explores the key findings and what they mean for your charity.

Down ArrowFlicking through the pages of the 2015 McNair Ingenuity Research Survey of Public Awareness and Support 2015 report – which asks participants about their knowledge of and donations to 54 participating charities –it comes across loud and clear. “Awareness is not as high and donations are not as high, and individually every organisation has been hit just a little bit,” says Angela Brooks, senior consultant at McNair Ingenuity Research.

“This definitely points to some sort of issue in the marketplace, but we don’t know what,” she elaborates. “Whether it is a change in marketing activity by charities, more cynicism or donor fatigue… or that consumer confidence is down – and as soon as things get tough, donations go down.”

Brooks is sure of one thing: that with findings like these, charities need to be doing all they can to stay top-of-mind. “It is still about getting awareness up, because if people don’t know you, they are not going to give,” she explains.

And although the report showed a drop in what donors thought they gave, not in their actual donations, “If someone has donated $100 to an organisation and they forget about it, the fact they have forgotten means they are not likely to do it next year,” Brooks notes.

Unprompted and prompted awareness

The Holy Grail for charities is high unprompted awareness, which is only within reach of the largest charities. This year there was no change in the top seven organisations (see Table A) that survey participants could name without being prompted. However where last year awareness increased for all seven, this year none rose and two fell.

For prompted awareness – where respondents named the charities they knew from the full list included the survey – organisations rated much higher, proving Australians are aware of a wide range of charities. But nearly every charity that scored 50% or more had decreased prompted awareness year-on-year.

Converting approaches into donations

Overall respondents thought charities had approached them fewer times during the past two years – which Brooks says could potentially stem from people paying less attention to approaches, for example if they immediately delete charity e-mails or throw out direct mail straight from the letterbox. As for the all-important conversion rates, on average around four in every ten of those contacted or approached by a given charity had donated to that charity.

Interestingly, those with the best conversion rates in the past two years were not necessarily the biggest household names. The top scorers were the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (66%), Caritas Australia (58%), The Salvation Army (55%), the Australian Red Cross (52%) and the Cancer Council (50%). “That tells me they know how to target and who to ask,” says Brooks. “It is still about targeting – asking the right people in the right way. It really is basic marketing principles.”

Charities with relatively low conversion rates included Barnados (10%) and Mission Australia (15%).

Who’s giving what, and to whom?

Asked how much they had donated to all of the charities in the last two years, 40% of respondents said they gave less than $200 – an estimated $60 per adult in two years. But 36% gave more than $200 – or an estimated $1,020 per adult in two years. This underscores the importance of building relationships with higher-value donors.

The overall average donation over the last two years was $393, down from $460 in 2014. Also 35% (4% more than last year) said they hadn’t given a donation at all.

Those who donated gave to 3.1 of the listed charities. Most donors to a charity were also giving to the Australian Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the Cancer Council, the Heart Foundation and the St Vincent de Paul Society, meaning these organisations are competitors for almost all other charities and each other.

People who gave to a higher number of listed charities were women, the over 55s and people who are not working. Those who give to a below average number were men, the under 40s, the never marrieds and those in sales/clerical roles and blue collar workers.

Not surprisingly, professionals and executives gave the highest two-year donations ($635.10), followed by people with a pre-tax gross income of over $60,000 a year ($604.70). Other high givers in dollar terms were people aged 40-55 ($492.50) and over 55s ($418.50). Men gave more money than woman ($409.70 compared with $376.50).

What’s on the horizon?

The vast majority (75%) of respondents expected that in the next 12 months their regular donations would stay about the same.


Table A: Unprompted awareness of top seven charities


Organisation by rank



1. Australian Red Cross



2. The Salvation Army



3. St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies)



4. Cancer Council



5. World Vision Australia



6. The Smith Family



7. Oxfam/Community Aid Abroad




Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.


Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at


Already a subscriber? LOGIN HERE

F&P brings you all the latest in fundraising including case studies, best practice, strategy, trends and benchmarks, thought leadership & industry insights.


subscribe now

  • Latest print and digital magazine edition delivered to your door, computer, tablet and mobile
  • Multi-user subscription packages at a nice price so all your staff can enjoy F&P
  • Online access to all our archived magazine articles
  • Fortnightly enewsletter
  • 20% discount off F&P conferences (save hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars a year)