Are charities losing the public's interest?

29 June 2022 | 3 min read | PR
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

A new report finds that charity giving in the UK is below pre-pandemic levels. It found that 57 per cent of Brits have donated to charity so far this year – down from 65 per cent in 2019, and a fall of £1/2 bn from £11.3bn to £10.7 bn.

Why is this happening? After all, the UK has traditionally been one of the greatest charitable givers in the world?

The answer, I believe, could be down to charities themselves slipping back into the same ole PR tactics they have used since time immemorial.

When I lived in Wales, I lost count of the number of charities that had a Welsh rugby player as its ambassador. National charities also use famous faces to front their campaigns – think Olivia Coleman and Ewan McGregor.

Having a notable figure recording a piece to camera with slow motion cut-aways and a solemn soundtrack in the background does sound like a good idea, but it rarely has the desired outcome for the charity themselves.

That’s because it is the celeb or notable figure that is remembered, not the cause itself.

Moreover, the public have had their fill of emotive messaging and attempts to depress the feck out of them… I think we’re all spent when it comes to that thanks to the pandemic.

It is also because the message being conveyed often comes across as an instruction – “Donate now to help X”. We’re now in an era when people don’t take too well to being told what to do – they have greater control now than ever before.

A very small number of the charity campaigns we see today are particularly memorable. There is little to differentiate one from the other even though the causes themselves are invariably very different.

Yes, they may secure tons of column inches and broadcast figures, but the report above shows that this isn’t translating into action – people and businesses putting hands in their pockets to give. Which is ironic really, given the surge in organisations adopting ESG policies. More on that here.

To stand out and drive action, charities need to focus less on the slow motion replays and utterly depressing messaging, and look to injecting positivity into their communications and striking the balance between ‘fun’ and ’emotive’ at the same time.

The media is awash with doom and gloom right now, yet charities can better appeal to their audiences by becoming the antithesis of what is expected of them.