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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Desperate days for UK charities

If charities ever needed to be smart at marketing it is now, as they face a double whammy of bad news.

Whammy 1 – The postal strike

According to the Institute of Fundraising charities are likely to lose millions in income if the postal strikes continue into the Christmas period.

The report says that a number of areas are affected by the mail strike, which is based on a detailed survey of eight members of the institute. The areas include membership subscriptions, general donations, regular trust and corporate donations, fundraising events and the trading of Christmas cards and Christmas catalogues.

For some charities the potential losses are expected to be in £millions. If there is a backlog in the postal system, people will receive a large amount of mail when the strike is over and may be less likely to read and respond to appeals.

Whammy 2 – The recession begins to bite

The worst effects of the recession are yet to come for charities, commentators have warned after a turbulent few weeks in the voluntary sector.

Major aid agencies are among the latest to make large job cuts, and in September the UK Giving Survey showed individual donations had fallen by 11% in 2008/09.

Senior charity figures believe the recession is beginning to bite. The chair of the Charity Finance Directors' Group says the fortunes of charities are a lagging indicator of the state of the economy. He predicts that government spending on charities would be cut by up to 17% over the next five years. Another industry pundit says: "the nice decade of growing public funding and generous government capacity-building is coming to a close, and a new era of public sector cuts and smarter capacity-building beckons."

So charity marketers your challenge is to do a lot more with less. Above all you need to be very clear about your target contributors and how to reach them. Without doubt older people should be featuring high on your list of targets. Do you understand how the recession has changed their behaviours and drivers, both financially and emotionally? Are your pre-recession marketing strategies still relevant? I hope you have got some good answers to these questions. Dick Stroud

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