Giving remains steady thanks to Aussie spirit: McCrindle report

The ongoing pandemic has wrought change, volatility and disruption across the globe. Despite the challenges, Australian giving remained surprisingly steady in the last year, according to a recent McCrindle Research report. 

The Australian Communities 2021 report revealed that in the last 12 months, three in four Australians (74 per cent) had given financially to charities and not-for-profits. While it could be expected that charitable giving would have declined during the pandemic, given the languishing economy, recent giving has primarily stayed the same (49 per cent) or even increased (21 per cent).  

Three in 10 Australian givers (30 per cent) have, however, decreased their giving over the past few months.  

“COVID-19 has presented challenging economic times for many Australian families. During this time, however, we have seen the resilience of the Aussie spirit as Australians continue to give to organisations helping those in need. While this is positive, the next few months will be the ones to watch as JobKeeper comes to an end and the impact this may have on household finances and confidence,” said Sophie Renton, research director at McCrindle. 

Opportunity givers becoming more prevalent 

While the proportion of Australians giving remains consistent (81 per cent in 2021, 82 per cent in 2020) with previous years, how they give continues to evolve. Australian donors today are more likely to be opportunity givers (60 per cent) than committed givers (40 per cent), donating when they hear about an emergency, need or issue (39 per cent). 

Not surprisingly, it’s the younger generations — Generation Z, 78 per cent and Generation Y, 66 per cent, respectively — that are driving the rise in opportunity giving, significantly more so than their older counterparts. For example, 57 per cent of Gen Xers are opportunity givers, and 43 per cent are committed givers. The older the giver is, the more likely they are to be a committed giver (59 per cent of the builder generation vs 22 per cent of Gen Z). 

Australians are more appreciative of charities 

A couple of positive perceptions of charities emerged during these challenging times. The first is the strengthened public perception of charities and not-for-profits among Australian givers. A whopping nine in 10 givers (90 per cent) said they were proud of how Australian charitable organisations had rallied to help those in need in 2020. 

The second positive is donors are now more appreciative of the work charities do. More than four in five givers (85 per cent) believe the events of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have made them more appreciative of the role charities play in society. 

Medical causes top the giving charts in 2021 

Not surprisingly, with the rapid increase in opportunity givers, Australians are most motivated to give money to or volunteer for the topical issues of the time. 

With the global pandemic at the forefront of many minds, 45 per cent of donors are motivated to give to organisations associated with medical and cancer research, making these the most popular causes to support in 2021.  

Support for these causes overtook disaster response in Australia, which was ranked number one in 2020, mainly due to the 2019/20 summer bushfires. Disaster response has since dropped to fourth place when it comes to giving. 

Children’s charities (second) and animal welfare and wildlife (third) remain areas Australian donors are highly motivated to support.  

Rise in financial support for domestic violence, mental health services 

As could be expected, domestic and family violence and mental health services have seen a significant shift in their rankings since 2020. The former rose from 11th place in 2020 to seventh in 2021, while mental health rose by one place to fifth. This is probably due to the pandemic lockdowns, where mental health and domestic violence issues have been highlighted frequently in the media and public discussion.  

The report found that younger Australian givers are driving the increase in giving to domestic family violence and mental health causes, with older people less inclined to support these initiatives. 

Digital fundraising likely to stay 

The pandemic forced many charities to adapt their events and face-to-face activities to digital. Positively, four in five givers (81 per cent) are open to participating in online fundraising initiatives. Again, not surprisingly, it’s younger donors who are almost twice as likely to be open to taking part in online fundraisers (99 per cent Gen Z vs 59 per cent of baby boomers). Online fundraising is expected to be a channel that younger fundraisers will continue to support in future. 

“Digital fundraising is likely to be here to stay. With the younger generation increasingly purchasing, interacting and socialising online, digital is increasingly replacing the physical. Organisations that can engage the donor of the future are taking an important step forward in future-proofing their organisation,” said Renton.   

Rework the narrative on administration costs 

The admin costs conversation still crops up frequently among donors. The challenge for charity and fundraising leaders is that for 70 per cent of givers, keeping marketing and administration costs low (below 20 per cent) matters more to them than growing overall donation revenue. The McCrindle report counsels that charity leaders need to reframe the conversation around admin costs to explain how greater investment can bring about greater returns and help for beneficiaries.  

Similarly, with trust, Australian donors are more likely to say that detailed and transparent reporting of fund allocation matters more (63 per cent) than charities being trusted to direct donations for maximum impact (37 per cent). Australian givers need to be educated on what it costs to provide transparent reporting and that providing this service increases the administration cost that givers want organisations to keep low. 

The Australian Communities 2021 report also recommends that fundraisers develop a diversified fundraising strategy that engages donors in a way that is appropriate to their age and life stage, noting that how Australians give continues to change, affecting the causes they support.  

Researchers also suggest charity and fundraising leaders take the time to understand their donor base, focus on their brand awareness and provide ways for donors to engage with their organisation that reflect the changing giving behaviour of Australians. 

“The charities sector is a much-loved sector of Australian society. The last 12 months with the bushfires and COVID-19 may have even made it more so. In a time where Australians could have retreated, they have continued to support society’s most vulnerable. The future for the sector is bright with the next generation of donors embracing innovation to empower human flourishing,” concluded Renton.  

Want to know more? Download the report here

Chart courtesy of McCrindle Research.