10 ways in which the public thinks the ideal charity should spend its money

How does the UK public think charities should spend their money? Research specialists nfpSynergy asked them and have shared what they have found in a report published today.
The research stemmed from research that nfpSynergy carried out in 2016 when it asked the public what concerned them most about charities. In particular they tried to find out which issues put them off supporting a charity and, conversely, what would encourage them to donate to a charity.
The new research by Nick Mullins and Kate Gosschalk into public attitudes to charities’ expenditure was carried out as part of nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor

1. 56% of the public would give more if they knew more about how their money is spent

The value of transparency in charities’ expenditure is paramount, according to those surveyed. That said, nfpSynergy acknowledges that this kind of research can be skewed by a bias towards respondents saying what they think they should say. Would individuals genuinely give more money if they received the necessary detail from a charity?

2. The public want 57% of their donation spent on helping beneficiaries

Since many charities spend more than this proportion of their income on charitable objects, then this might prove useful highlighting. Cancer Research UK for example spent 71% of its income on helping beneficiaries, according to its 2015/16 annual report.


3. The public say their ideal is to spend on admin, fundraising and campaigning in equal proportions

After spending money on beneficiaries and its charitable objects, the public think the remaining money should be divided equally between other key activities.

4. The public want their ideal charity to spend some money on campaigning

Despite recent efforts to limit charities’ ability to campaign for change, 16% of respondents believe that campaigning is an important part of a charity’s activity. Young people (16-24 years) think charities should spend up to 20% of their income on this activity.

5. Fundraising is an important part of a charity’s expenditure

Fundraising costs were seen as part of a charity’s expenditure but, at 14%, the survey respondents thought it should be almost as low as the administration costs of the ideal charity.

6. Older people are much more restrictive about how their ideal charity spends its income

Attitudes towards charities’ expenditure do vary depending on respondents’ age. Older people (aged 55+) think that just 10% of a charities income should be spent on fundraising costs.
They also think that a higher proportion of income (66%) should be spent on charitable work. Indeed, this figure rises as age increases, from 43% (16-24) to 66% (55-64) and 65+.

7. Young people are much less restrictive about charity expenditure

Young people (16-24) are happy to see a higher proportion of income spent on fundraising (19% compared to the overall average of 14%). Indeed, they are content to see a larger proportion of income spent on campaigning, fundraising and administration than older respondents.

8. Social demographics don’t change perceptions

Age appears to be the primary distinguishing factor in how people think a charity should spend its money.
Gender and social grade have only a limited impact on these perceptions.

9. Administration costs are necessary but the smallest part of where income should go

There is some acknowledgement by the public that administration costs exist, but donors believe that this should be the smallest proportion of any expenditure. 13% was the ideal amount, according to the survey.

10. Admin or running costs are understood as the same

Charities should not spend much time pondering how to describe their administration costs. The respondents to the survey indicated that ‘admin’ or ‘running costs’ were both understood.
You can read more about the report and download the full report in PDF on nfpSynergy.
The research was carried out in October 2016 on a base of 1,000 adults (16+) in the UK.