Committee Issues Findings on Charity Fundraising in Times of Recession

A number of charities came together on the 6th of October to discuss how the current economic downturn may effect our ability to raise funds. A Committee was formed at this meeting to look at how as a sector we might respond to these challenges and communicate key issues as appropriate to the wider general public through the media.

Below are some of the key messages that the Committee believes will be relevant to charitable fundraising over the months ahead:

  • The charity or non-profit sector often referred to as the third sector, represents 8.8% of the workforce and latest figures value it at €2.5 billion.
  • The current economic climate WILL impact on the charity sector and it’s portfolio of fundraising techniques.
  • However it is difficult to predict the impact that economic conditions are likely to have on the charity sector given the lack of data in an Irish context, macro trends in previous recessions and the different factors at play.
  • The different factors at play include the size of the charity and its mission, the fundraising techniques in operation, the donor and volunteer base and the way the charity operates.
  • In addition the extent of the impact will not be felt evenly across all types of charities.
  • It will largely depend on an individual charity’s donor and volunteer profile and the maturity of that profile.
  • It will also depend on the charity’s fundraising activity and appetite to face up to the impact of the global crisis and local economic difficulties.

How charities should respond

  • Charities who plan for economic difficulties, take special measures as required by the change in circumstances and those that take a long term view of fundraising will do better and will come out the other end in a strong state ready to continue the necessary growth of support and profile for their charity and cause.
  • This means a clear focus on donor and volunteer retention, expansion of planned giving and reduced dependency on government funds.
  • Charities that do have sufficient donors and volunteers, that do not continue a drive for new volunteers or donors or who fail to promptly in filling a key fundraising or other leadership role will tend to have lower contributions during difficult economic times.
  • In general charities also need to be seen to be working towards more results driven goals, showing a high level of ambition and organisation.
  • Charities then need to show that they are making progress towards the goal, offering regular reports to donors.
  • This will have the biggest impact on the overall level of support and will establish a connection between the charity and its donors and volunteers.

How donors tend to respond

  • Donors and volunteers will be choosier and more demanding of the service their chosen charity gives them during an economic downturn.
  • Donors will shop around looking for a charity that offers them a genuine experience and meets their life choices and values.
  • The donor offer therefore has to be compelling and charities have to work harder and smarter to recruit and maintain donors.
  • Donors and volunteers will also tend to support fewer charities more substantially.

How we can encourage the public to best support their favourite charities in the current economic climate (some key messages)

  • Please continue to give whatever you can to your favourite charities. Every cent makes a difference.
  • Essentially charities want to keep supporters engaged at whatever level they can afford.
  • If you cannot give much money right now, why not raise it with friends, family & co-workers? A small effort from a group goes a long way and it’s a ‘feel-good’ activity for everyone.  
  • If you can’t give money right now, why not donate your time as a volunteer – helping charities raise money and/or providing in-kind services.
  • Please let your favourite charities know how you would like to be communicated with and/or what areas interest you so we can better meet your needs while minimising costs.
  • For those PAYE donors who can afford it, a donation of €250 or more to any charity is worth up to 72% more in reclaimed tax at no extra cost to the donor!

Communications Committee:

  • Jane Curtin, Irish Cancer Society
  • Mary O’Kennedy, O’Kennedy Consulting
  • Mark Mellett, Focus Ireland
  • Molly Morrison, ISPCC


  1. Recession – watching in not an option. Think Consulting Solutions. A thought piece by Tony Elischer. October 2008
  2. What happens to charities in a downturn? nfpSynergy (helping non-profits thrive) June 2008
  3. Time for tough love. Based on an interview with Denis O’Connor, 2into3 Consulting Founding Director. Business & Finance. 20 November 2008
  4. Fundraising in a cold climate. An analysis by 2into3. Prepared by Dennis O’Connor and Deirdre Hatch. 6th October 2008