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Fundraising beyond lockdown: a round-up of useful research


Much has changed since March 2020 and keeping their eye on the shifts in giving behaviour and donor views have been numerous organisations, from About Loyalty with its Sentiment Tracker, to Enthuse’s quarterly Donor Pulse, and Bluefrog Fundraising’s qualitative studies. Here is a round up of many of these resources, which can provide useful support to fundraisers as we look beyond lockdown.

Bluefrog Fundraising donor attitude studies

Bluefrog Fundraising has conducted qualitative studies into donor attitudes throughout the pandemic, having in-depth conversations with donors to explore how they feel about giving, and charities, and how this has changed. Each release of data has included insights as well as actionable takeaways and a shareable webcast. Parts one, two and three can all be found on the Sofii.org website, and the research is also covered on Queer Ideas – MD Mark Phillips’s blog, with part four here.

Mark Phillips, Bluefrog Fundraising:

“If there has been one common thread that has run through every tranche of our Covid-19 research amongst donors, it is an absolute frustration that charities have been so quiet. Donors, particularly wealthier ones, have remained bemused at why charities have not been sharing their plans for tackling the pandemic and asking donors to give. Even now 14 months on, we still hear the same thing from donors, “What do they want me to do?”. Donors know that fundraising has been disrupted, they know that charities have had to dig deep, they know they, as donors, can help. They just need to be told exactly what is required of them.”

About Loyalty Covid-19 Sentiment Tracker

About Loyalty has an ongoing Covid-19 Sentiment Tracker based on a sample of nearly 1500 charity donors. It aims to help charities learn rapidly how the pandemic is affecting attitudes, impacting giving, and how and when that is changing, and covers sentiment towards Coronavirus and the way the government, local councils, charities, media and brands are dealing with it.

CAF UK Giving Covid Special Report

Charities Aid Foundation releases an annual UK Giving report and last year’s was a Covid special, based on research conducted between January and August 2020, and including responses from more than 9,000 people across the country. The report sets out the impact that the pandemic has had so far on people’s giving behaviours, and the outlook for the coming months.

Enthuse Donor Pulse

Donor Pulse launched last September and is a quarterly report from online donations, fundraising and events platform Enthuse. It looks at how donors and supporters are feeling about fundraising and giving, and examines the trends and behaviours.  The first edition looked at the changing habits and attitudes towards charities, fundraising and donating during and after lockdown, and surveyed 1,002 members of the UK public. All editions can be found on its site.

Chester Mojay-Sinclare, Enthuse:

“One of the key changes we’ve noticed in donor attitudes is an increase in trust and support for the third sector since the start of the pandemic. Every quarter since then, we have seen more than a third of the public state that they view the sector and its work more positively, and support for the whole sector has grown as a result.


“Alongside the positive upward trend in trust, our Donor Pulse research has shown a major shift to online giving (51% now prefer to donate online) and donating directly through a charity’s website (a 20% increase from the first respondents in the Spring 2020 edition to now). It’s important that charities take note of these habitual changes as lockdown continues to ease and partner with like-minded organisations to implement a strong digital fundraising strategy that complements their supporter’s preferred ways to donate.”

Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report

Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report includes a section on the UK, and tracks giving to approximately 300 organisations. Amongst the findings, it reveals the growth in online giving, with how much of their total fundraising these UK organisations received from this.

nfpSynergy public polls

Since March last year nfpSynergy has been running regular public polls to understand the public response to the pandemic and how this is impacting on charities, questioning representative sample of 1,000 members of the public. It has a handy online dashboard of its findings, accessible to all, where you can choose areas of interest, from attitudes to the outbreak, charitable engagement, giving and the outbreak, and more. Clicking on each topic provides access to the latest wave of research, plus the trend.  nfpSynergy also covers each wave in a blog.

Joe Saxton, nfpSynergy:

“From our research, one of the biggest challenges we see for fundraising coming out of lockdown is that many people will have got out of the habits of doing good: sponsoring friends and families, taking part in fundraising events, volunteering to help with street collections or at their local charity shop. It may take a while for the rhythm of fundraising to return for both the charities and their supporters. The good news is that many people will have saved considerable amounts of money during the last year – and hopefully a portion will be willing to give some more to charity as a result.”

Massive & JustGiving Virtual Fundraising Monitor

Specifically on virtual events during the pandemic, mass participation agency massive in partnership with JustGiving released The Virtual Fundraising Monitor in November last year. The report examines data shared from 150 virtual fundraising events delivered since lockdown began along with publicly available figures. Focusing specifically on peer-to-peer fundraising activities, the report provides a picture of campaign activity and virtual fundraising event performance during this time and explores the opportunities open to charities, including insight and guidance.

National Lottery Community Fund Community Research Project report

Late last year, the National Lottery Community Fund conducted research among just over 7,000 UK adults to find out how they felt about their communities, as well as about community groups and projects, volunteers and charities during the pandemic. The results can be found in its Community Research Project report.

WPNC Online Giving Report

Integrated agency WPNC analysed anonymised data gathered from gifts totalling more than £40m made through its online donation platforms including goDonate to compare findings with its previous study, published in April 2020. Its report looks at value of donations and also covers trends in both one-off and regular giving, as well as donor behaviour across the board: covering geography, seasonality, day of the week, and time of day.

About Charities

Of course, there is also a lot of research from the past year on charities and how they have fared. Here’s a selection of resources.

ACEVO Charity Healthcheck

Last year saw ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health running the Charity Health Check: a composite score measuring the financial health of the sector, month on month. Respondents complete a short questionnaire asking whether their organisation is performing better, worse or the same across a number of financial measures. Some of the findings can be read here.

Status of UK Fundraising report

Blackbaud & Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s annual Status of UK Fundraising report shares insights on sector performance, trends and peer opinions. The 2020 edition saw nearly 2,000 people working in non-profits across the UK contribute, and reveals how charities have responded to the pandemic and how they’re adapting, covering topics including voluntary income, adapting to virtual fundraising and working from home.

Covid Charity Tracker

Throughout the past year, Pro Bono Economics, Charity Finance Group, and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising have conducted a weekly Covid Charity Tracker to monitor how charities are being affected as the pandemic progresses and the pressures being faced. The results can be found on the Pro Bono Economics site.

Bond member survey

The results of Bond’s financial survey of its members were released in October and provide an insight into how NGOs fared last year, and their thoughts on their prospects going forwards. This includes what they perceive to be the biggest threats and challenges, and their chances of survival post-pandemic.

Charity Benchmarks Covid Impact Monitor

A joint venture of Open and Freestyle Marketing, Charity Benchmark’s Covid-19 Impact Monitor looks at the impact of the pandemic on the sector, through interviews with sector leaders and the data behind over £1.5bn of fundraised income. Charities can participate to receive tailored reports into their performance and the Monitor also highlights which activities have been negatively, and in some cases positively, impacted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

2021 M+R Benchmarks Study

Already well established in the US with more than 200 US charities taking part last year. 2020 saw Rally and M+R announce that they were bringing the Digital Benchmarks Study to the UK, and 55 UK-based nonprofits joined in. They key findings can all be read here.

Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer

To explore the impact of the Covid pandemic on the VCSE sector, NCVO, Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam have been running a monthly barometer survey, Respond, Recover, & Reset: the Voluntary Sector & Covid-19, with the project due to run until this November. On the project site, the most recent insights from the survey can be found, along with a dashboard with a real-time overview of the health of the sector. It’s also possible to take part, with a link posted on the site when a new round opens.

LarkOwl The Calm Before the Storm

LarkOwl’s ‘The Calm Before the Storm’ was released in 2020 and is an updated analysis of the average returns on investment for varying types of fundraising activities. It can be downloaded from the LarkOwl site, along with the 2019 benchmark for comparison.

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