At a time of high inflation, many charities face an existential dichotomy. The costs for providing their services, and in many cases the level of demand for them, is higher. But donor income often falls, as donors experience their own financial pressures and hard choices.
Even during the comparatively low inflation years, the challenge of static giving is considerable. According to the Bank of England, services costing £50 in 2013 would now set you back by £66.66. If we think about this in terms of donations, I wonder how many of your regular givers have increased the value of their gifts from £50 to £66.66 over the last 10 years? Put another way, a £50 donation today is the equivalent of £38 a decade ago.
So, how can charities support the donor journey in a way that protects donation income?
Clearly, communication with donors has many dimensions; a clear vision and storytelling around impacts are vital. But we’d like to share our experience of communicating about inflation and the reactions from our regular givers.
The Parish Giving Scheme provides a regular giving service to nearly 5,000 churches in England, with more than 80,000 regular givers. Almost half of givers have opted into the inflationary increase scheme, in which they are invited annually to increase the value of their gift in line with inflation. Overwhelmingly, over 90% of these givers increase annually; some go even further and super-inflate. Only around 2% of givers will hit pause on increasing their gift, and a similar number will use that as a moment to cancel. However, retention of regular givers remains strong despite the cost-of-living crisis, which provides stability for so many churches.
We must also recognise a researched difference indicating that religious people will give more generously than non-religious (YouGov 2021 ). We caveat that our experience is a faith-based response to regular giving.
Nevertheless, what are the learnings we can share?
It’s essential to recognise the reality of the world in which we live, what is happening in the towns and cities in which you operate and in the lives of the individuals you receive from and serve. Be real to your context, do what’s right for your organisation and reflect this in what you choose to do in response.
We consciously chose to move away from the word donor in our context. We adopted a Christian language of giver and gift, and we write to our givers with plenty of time before their gifts annualise, so that they can reflect on the changes suggested. Our communications recognise the context and make it clear what actions a giver may need to take, and we do so with compassion. We emphasise that they are always in control and can adjust the value of their gift at any time.
We are empathetic in our communications and in our responses. There is no judgment or ‘donor retention’ department as a last-minute bid to keep you subscribing! We want our givers to be free to decide how they will respond. We explain how the church receiving their gift will have increased costs, but recognise that we are all in the same situation, so it is an invitation to respond.
We invite the givers using our scheme to reflect on what they want to do; we inform them of the amount their gift would increase by to maintain the value of their giving. And we share with them the value that giving in line with inflation brings to their churches; a regular income that helps them to plan for the future and serve their communities.
We hope you are encouraged to offer invitations to those who give, to speak of financial value, and to prevent static giving in your charity.