In January, we conducted some research for a charity client, focusing on the information which we could not find on other similar industry surveys. We asked 45+ year old women in the UK what the causes that resonate with them are and matched that with how many times they donated in the last 12 months. The preise of this charity research sounds simple enough, but some of the learnings may surprise you.

Charity research outcomes

1. Rural environments are more charitable than urban ones.

Women living in rural environments are 10 ppts more likely to have donated to 3+ causes in the last 12 months. Additionally, a higher number of respondents living in rural environments have been donating to charities overall.

No. of causesUrbanRuralTotal

2. Area of residence affects donation considerations

While food, poverty and cancer related causes are the most popular nationwide, there is a lot of variance between different regions and geographic areas.

For instance:

    • Children’s charities resonate more with London and South West as well as with urban environments.
    • Welsh audience cares uniquely about humanitarian aid and disaster relief charities
    • Yorkshire and Humber is the most keen to support arts, culture and community related causes.
Charitable causesPercentage of respondents
Refugee / conflict21%
Sustainability / animal / wildlife35%
Food / poverty43%
Arts / culture / community7%
Mental health31%
Health / disease – cancer related41%
Children’s charities31%
Humanitarian aid / disaster relief29%
Health / disease – non-cancer related29%
All causes listed8%
Other / Not sure10%

3. Frequent donors show different priorities

The perceived importance of causes shifts based on the donation frequency. For instance:

    • For women who did not donate at all in the last 12 months, mental health was the 3rd most important cause. Meanwhile, for those who donated 5+ times, it moved down to the 7th place, overtaken by causes that deal with emergencies (e.g. refugee and conflict)
    • Children’s charities resonated most with infrequent donors – women donating 1-2 times in 12 months
    • Humanitarian aid and disaster relief strongly resonate only with frequent donors – women who donated 4+ times in 12 months

The correlations between emphathy, ability and wish to donate have not been addressed in this charity research. Conversationally, the skew towards emergency causes from women who donated more might be caused by the urgency of the cause itself. As causes championed by mental health charities tend to be slow burning societal problems, these charities can be overlooked by a more empathetic part of population who make more split second decisions about financial support.

Refugee / conflict3%12%13%21%29%41%
Sustainability / animal / wildlife23%31%28%32%42%47%
Food / poverty30%35%38%42%53%56%
Arts / culture / community1%7%4%9%5%12%
Mental health27%25%32%34%31%37%
Health / disease – cancer related32%34%44%48%39%45%
Children’s charities16%31%33%28%30%38%
Humanitarian aid / disaster relief7%16%20%32%42%47%
Health / disease – non-cancer related19%20%30%33%25%32%
All causes listed3%7%5%10%7%12%

Final thoughts

This study does not indicate whether more frequent donations are lower in value. What it does show is the tension between words, actions, and perceived reality. When considering the target audience for charity campaigns, marketers often overvalue those people who say they care the most for the cause. This happens because we automatically assume that they will be more likely to donate. But our findings show that donation and interest do not always go together, especially as urgency comes into play.

Research into charitable behaviour can be tricky as external factors like social pressure also dictate what people feel comfortable admitting to. For instance, 8% of the respondents said that all causes listed are important to them. This type of answer is as likely to signal deep care for the state of the world as it is to hint at anxiety, apathy or resignation, caused by recent economic and geopolitical upheavals. Although all respondents were more likely to say that they care about a cause than to donate to it, what did shift the scale was how relevant the cause was to the area they live in. Therefore, to increase your chances of success with both frequent and infrequent donors, aim to show the tangible, relatable, localised impact of the work that your charity does. As mental availability can be tougher for charities to maintain in times of prolongued polycrisis and proliferation of purpose messaging by high-spending consumer brands, remember to stay close to your audience – they are the source of the best insight on how to win.

Do reach out if you would like to continue the discussion or are interested in finding out more about our regional analysis.

Key Insights

On avg, 45+ women deeply care for
charitable causes

But they choose to donate to only

Of 45+ women say that all causes are important to them

If you have a project or campaign you'd like to discuss with us we'd love to hear from you.