Why we wanted to capture public feeling on fundraising

Why we wanted to capture public feeling on fundraising

Lizzie Ellis | 11 September 2019

As the Institute of Fundraising releases 'Public Perceptions: What does the public think about fundraising?', Lizzie Ellis, IoF Policy and Information Officer, who led the work on this research, explains why we embarked on this series and what the data shows us about public feeling towards fundraising.

Today the IoF launches a research series on Public Perceptions, based on polling of the general public conducted by YouGov about fundraising. The first infographic in the two-part series, published today, looks at the responses to those big-picture questions about the profession around knowledge, positivity and perceptions. The second piece, ‘What does the public think about working in fundraising’, will be published later in the month and takes a deeper dive into the public’s thoughts on fundraising as a career.

As a sector, we have a host of anecdotal evidence about what the average person on the street thinks about us. We have ideas about public opinion from research on trust in charities. But what about what statements people associate with the fundraising profession? What do they think your job entails and requires? Is fundraising seen as an attractive career, and if not why not? As the IoF looks to achieve chartered status, we wanted to find out the answers – so we commissioned YouGov to find out.

We’ve been thinking and talking a lot about EDI and fundraising, but this was a unique opportunity to hear what the public think – to make sure that our work is informed by perspectives outside of our own bubble. If we want fundraising to be a career of choice for everyone, we needed to get a better idea of who it appeals to and why. Importantly, we wanted to be able to look at whether age, race, religion, disability, or gender make a difference to how fundraising is perceived and understood by different people.

Particularly stark statistics in 'What does the public think about fundraising?' are the differences in opinion between women and men, and about gender and fundraising generally. Nearly one in two men agree that fundraising “is not for people like me” and 10% of respondents agree that “fundraising is a job more for women than men”. Unfortunately for us the data can’t take us any deeper into the thinking behind people’s individual responses, but it can add texture to what we already know about structural barriers in fundraising (I can recommend Elizabeth Dale’s paper on gender and fundraising to anyone looking to dig into this area).

'the Best adverts for the sector are fundraisers themselves'

My day-to-day takes place pretty much in a bubble of fundraising (which I’m sure is also the case for many of you reading this), so I continue to be surprised that people go entire swathes of time without hearing mention of fundraising at all. In this case, only 7% of the general public had seen, read, or heard anything about fundraising in the last month. The IoF’s journey towards chartered status should provide a crucial opportunity to platform the profession, but alongside this one of the best adverts for the sector are fundraisers themselves. Survey respondents that had fundraised, volunteered, or given money in the last 12 months were more likely to feel positively towards the sector in almost every measure, which makes perfect sense given the effort that fundraisers and charities put into giving all their supporters a positive experience.

Polling isn’t a perfect – the sample sizes of the data mean that we were only able to make certain demographic comparisons; for religion, we were able to look at Christian, Muslim and non-religious respondents, while for race we were able to split the data into black, white and Asian respondents. Naturally no community or demographic is a monolith, but individual responses are helpful in teasing out how as a sector we could be doing a better job of appealing to everyone equally. We’ll be using this evidence base to inform our future work, with the help of our new EDI committee, and hope that others in the sector will use it to reflect on how their own organisation’s practices might be contributing (positively or negatively) to how fundraising is perceived.

Lizzie Ellis is Policy and Information Officer at the Institute of Fundraising. 



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