With the best-known charities improving their unprompted brand awareness this year, their slice of the donation pie will only grow. So the pressure is on for other organisations to make their presence known. Liz Henderson outlines the revelations from the just-released McNair Ingenuity Research.

The latest statistics on charity awareness are in and nonprofits should take note: it’s time to stay in regular touch with your constituents or risk being eclipsed by an organisation further up the food chain.

The high and growing levels of awareness among the most well-known charities mean organisations are increasingly sharing their donor dollar with these juggernauts, according to McNair Ingenuity Research’s Survey of public awareness and support report, which surveys participants about their knowledge of and donations to 40 participating charities. For example, the report found 34% of donors to any given charity also support the Salvation Army.

“It’s an even more competitive world nonprofits have to exist in,” says Angela Brooks, senior consultant at McNair Ingenuity Research. “The competition is even stronger for minds and hearts. And because awareness is so closely related to whether you get donations, you have to keep your organisation top of mind with your likely donors.”

Awareness and donations linked

“On average, people can name about five charities unprompted,” says Brooks. This unprompted awareness is the gold-standard for charities and there is a direct linear relationship between this ranking and donations. But shifts are very slight year-on-year, except among the best-known charities, all of which saw lifts in 2014 (see Figure A).

Brooks notes that most organisations won’t be able to achieve significant traction at a national level. Instead it is awareness among a charity’s target audience that matters.

“This is a national study but if you were, say, a small local-based charity just targeting people in the lower north shore of Sydney and you did a few events and sent a newsletter once a month, awareness is going to be high among your database,” Brooks says. “The principle is the same, whether you’re talking about a massive organisation like the Red Cross or you are doing awareness-raising on a smaller scale. Just make sure your name is out there.”

As the research also tied the perceived number of donation asks with amounts donated, Brooks says, “Keep asking! Think who you are targeting and what is the best way to keep top-of -mind and make the approach to them.”

According to the report, prompted awareness is another indicator of fundraising success. A ranking of 80% was necessary for the participating organisations to achieve donations from 10% or more of respondents. The good news is that prompted awareness is easier to improve, with half of the organisations achieving levels of at least 50%.

Converting approaches into gifts

A key measure of how likely people are to donate to a charity is the extent to which that organisation’s contacts/approaches are converted into donations. On average, around four in every ten of those solicited by a given charity made a donation to that charity.

Charities with above average conversion rates over the past two years include Red Cross (58%), the Salvation Army (55%), Cancer Council (53%) and the St Vincent de Paul Society (46%). Those with relatively low conversion rates included Mission Australia (19%) and Amnesty International (20%).

Donations increasing

The all-important question about donation levels found the overall average gift over the last two years was $460 – up by $25, Brooks says, in spite of the fact that people thought their gift amounts had stayed the same or dropped.

There was a wide variance in average donation between the lower and upper half of the group of respondents, which emphasises the need for charities to focus activities on the larger donors. While over two years 43% had given an estimated $42 each, 37% had given an estimated $1,189 each. So you can imagine the difference that acquiring and retaining more donors from the second group would make to income.

The most generous in terms of gift size, not surprisingly, were professional or managerial workers followed by people with a gross annual income over $60,000 (see Figure B).

People giving to the greatest number of charities were those aged 55+ (3.6) and women (3.4) compared with the average number of charities donated to across all survey participants (2.2). Men, under 40s, never marrieds and those in sales/clerical and blue-collar roles gave to fewer than average charities.

On the question of which charities were receiving the most donations, there were some notable exceptions to the link between unprompted awareness and giving.

Compassion Australia was a prime example, with 1% unprompted awareness but the second highest average donation of the organisations researched ($714). The other top average gift earners were not in the big seven either: Chris O’Brien Lifehouse ($1,108), Habitat for Humanity ($631.90), and Childfund Australia ($523.70).

What giving trends are around the corner?

Respondents were asked to assess whether they intended to reduce, increase or not change their regular charitable gifts in the coming 12 months. While 75% (1% less than last year) anticipated their giving would remain the same, 16% (up 1%) said they would reduce their giving and 10% (also up 1%) planned on an increase. So major changes don’t look to be on the horizon.

Figure A: Top seven organisations for unprompted awareness

Top 7 organisations for unprompted awarenessFigure B: Average donations by segment

Average donations by segment

Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

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