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Edward Weston Executive 27/06/2022

As the charity sector recovers from the pandemic, the cost of living crisis poses a new challenge.

Covid-19 and rising inflation rates have led to decreased Brand Love across some of the UK’s biggest sectors, according to a continual study from BrandVue – Savanta’s Market intelligence platform.

Following the recent launch of our latest BrandVue Top 100 Most Loved Charities report, we’ve now taken a deep dive into what caused changes, which sectors and types of brands were most impacted, and if any were insulated or even benefitted from such a severe change in socio-economic conditions.

With resources stretched after two years of supporting communities throughout the pandemic, many charities are struggling to find the funds to pay higher costs.
Bittersweet: rising costs threaten salvaged brand love

As the first stay-at-home restrictions were put in place in March 2020, sentiment toward the charity sector saw little movement. However, by Autumn 2020 Brand Love began to dip, as the public’s attention became focused on supporting the NHS rather than wider societal issues.

The end of the winter lockdown in 2020 – and strong progress with the vaccine roll-out in Spring 2021 – revitalizes Brand Love toward charities, with this sector being the quickest to recover. Heading into 2022, Brand Love then surpassed pre-pandemic levels, coinciding with the easing of the UK lockdown restrictions.

However, the sector now faces a new challenge with the cost of living crisis. The past few months have had a devastating impact on charitable organisations, and many have seen their incomes dramatically impacted by reduced support, as the public has had to prioritise spending with their head over their hearts.

Brand Love in the charity sector is split across demographics

Despite being the most likely to say they love charities, sentiment amongst Millennials and Gen Z audiences took the biggest dip in 2020.

Since the easing of restrictions, however, Brand Love is even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

The Boomer demographic has not recovered in the same way. Following a general drop in sentiment midway into the second quarter of 2020, Brand Love from this audience remained low and hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Interestingly, it was the 35-49 demographic who saw the biggest increase in Brand Love for not-for-profits following the easing of restrictions; experiencing almost a 3% uplift between March 2020 and February 2022, compared to a 2% decline from audiences aged sixty and above over the same period.

Throughout the pandemic, Brand Love for charities was the highest with the C2DE demographic but was surpassed by ABC1 audiences in January this year. In recent months though, ABC1’s brand sentiment has dropped significantly, highlighting the impact the cost of living crisis has had on dependable markets in the sector.

Brands supporting the vulnerable witness increased Brand Love

The pandemic and consequential recessions have magnified inequality, leaving vulnerable groups with less available support.

Organisations focused on vulnerable groups such as the NSPCC, Childline, Combat Stress, and Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) had the closest similarity to how the sector performed throughout the pandemic; with Brand Love initially dipping in 2020 and then peaking post-pandemic. Brands in this category also experienced increased consideration during the lockdowns. Between January 2021 and 2022, the number of consumers who said they would consider supporting a young person’s charity in the future increased by 6.5%.

Charities connected with religious organisations, however, fared better than most. Examples include Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and United Synagogue who witnessed the largest increase in Brand Love between March 2020 and February 2022. Remarkably, this category bounced back the strongest from the initial drop in Brand Love over the 2020 Winter period.

Whereas Brand Love for charities centred around social issues (such as conservation, social justice, and reintegration) either dropped in 2020 or remained neutral and hasn’t recovered in the same way as the rest of the sector.

Public support impacted by the cost of living crisis

For many charities, their resources are now stretched after two years of supporting communities throughout the pandemic, and they are also having to find the funds to pay higher costs.

Since the start of the cost of living crisis, Brand Love in this sector has dropped back down to below pre-pandemic levels. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, since the onset, the sector has seen a steady increase in the number of people who said they would consider supporting a charity.

The pandemic and subsequent economic and social conditions have led to a spike in demand for numerous charities, which in turn has increased awareness for many. Notably, just as demand for their services increases, so do costs to cater to this demand, forming a challenge for many brands.

In summary

As the sector experiences growing demand but remains hindered by the socio-economic conditions, this has exposed an uncomfortable truth: that vital parts of the charity sector’s infrastructure are reliant, even dependent, upon public goodwill. As such, Brand Love is a vital component for charities to continue operating and offer the most support to the vulnerable groups most affected.

Download our BrandVue Charities report to discover the UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Charities, in addition to expert analysis on where the sector is heading and what not-for-profits can do to become more loved by consumers.

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