The third edition of our annual Charity Pulse report is live. The research is packed full of insights from charity leaders, including how their organisations fared in 2023, reasons for optimism and potential challenges in 2024, as well as a look at how good causes are embracing technology.
As ever, the report acts as a good barometer for how the sector is feeling about the year that has been and the one ahead.
So let’s take a look at some of the key findings from Charity Pulse 2024.
Encouraging signs for charities
The cost of living crisis has cast a long shadow over the public’s disposable income but the overall picture for the sector is surprisingly bright, with charities showing great resilience. More than half (55%) of charities maintained or increased their fundraising income in 2023 despite the challenging economic backdrop. When looking at charity income by size, small and large charities fared best with 58% stating their income had either stayed the same or grown. The report shows medium sized charities were the most hard pressed, but even then more than half (52%) maintained or grew income.
One of the reasons behind this is down to the trust that the public has in good causes. Nearly two thirds of charities (63%) believe people have a high level of trust in their cause (nine out of ten or higher). In fact, 40% believe there is complete trust in their charity, scoring it ten out of ten.
That said, there are challenges to this robust level of trust. As the country moves towards a general election, it is questionable as to what extent charities get involved in politics. Two thirds (66%) of charities surveyed say that supporters expect them to steer clear of political discussions. However, this is balanced by 58% saying they are increasingly having to stand up for what are sometimes termed ‘minority groups’. One in six said their charity had to defend its actions in 2023, but only 6% of those saw a drop in income as a result. There is a fine balance for charities to strike here, particularly as our Donor Pulse series has shown over the last six months that the public is split equally on whether charities should support or avoid political issues.
Looking ahead to fundraising streams in 2024, the area the sector feels most confident about is fundraising events and activities of all sizes, with 53% expecting this to grow. The importance of mass physical events within this is evident with 70% of charities planning to get involved in either premium events like the TCS London Marathon and AJ Bell Great North Run, or organising their own mass events.
“Charities have been stretched over the past few years. Society has moved from the uncertainty of the pandemic straight into a cost of living crisis. This has seen the demand for charitable services rise. The sector has handled this admirably and that hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public.”
“It’s encouraging to see that more than half of charities saw their income stay the same or increase. It’s testament to the resourceful nature of the sector that charities find a way to continue to deliver results, even against a difficult financial backdrop. But what really stands out to me is a great opportunity to drive income. Fundraising events and activities are seen as the highest growth opportunity in 2024. At a time when many have less disposable income, providing a memorable experience is increasingly important, and taking on a big physical challenge can inspire people to give.”Chester Mojay-Sinclare, Founder and CEO, Enthuse
Tools of the trade
While there has been considerable hype around the use of AI, just 5% of charities say they are currently using this to personalise donor journeys, with a further 9% trialling it. Growth has come instead in areas away from the spotlight like QR codes, which is up 11 percentage points since last year. This straightforward technology made a comeback during the pandemic and is becoming a staple for linking to fundraising or event registration pages.
Charities are making the most of social media, with the use of TikTok on the rise. 29% of charities say they are already using it and a further 16% say they are trialling it. Podcasts are also becoming a popular channel with a quarter (24%) using them, and a further 21% trialling them. And one in seven (14%) charity leaders say they’re using mobile apps as part of their work.
Technology does bring worries for the sector though, with 58% of charities saying they are concerned about how third parties collect and use supporter data. Other concerns included developing skills to run digital campaigns (63%) and developing social media skills (63%).
It’s clear that data ownership is front of mind for charities as they look to build and grow those supporter relationships.
For the full picture of how charities performed in 2023, and all the insights looking forward in 2024, you can download a free copy of the Charity Pulse report here.