Head of Data Products, UK

After the PM urged the online charity platform to “reflect” on its fees following Colonel Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk, the platform’s reputation, quality, and value scores plummeted

There may well be opportunity in every crisis, but brands must take extra care not to appear opportunistic. It’s a lesson that JustGiving may be learning all too well. 

YouGov Plan & Track data indicates that the company has been a major beneficiary of COVID-19: the proportion of UK consumers who had recently visited the company’s website rose to 16.6% as of May 12, compared to 6.6.% at the start of lockdown.

But it also suggests that the tension between JustGiving’s role as a platform for charitable donations and its commercial priorities as a fee-paying, for-profit business is affecting consumer perception.

Last month stories circulated on social media that the brand was profiting off Colonel Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk – including false claims that it would be pocketing up to £2m of the almost £33m he raised for the NHS. This had a dramatic impact on JustGiving’s buzz scores, which fell from 13.7 to 3.1 between April 16th and April 23rd and are yet to fully recover. 

These unflattering headlines had a knock-on effect on the company’s performance across other key metrics. Reputation scores more than halved – falling from 26.3 to 12.5 over a single week (16/04 – 23/04) – while recommendations fell from 21.0 to 11.4 over the same period.

Consideration also declined from 22.2 to 15.9. Though this score showed some sign of recovery, renewed attacks in the media – and an intervention from the Prime Minister, who urged the platform to “reflect” on its reported £308,000 fee – preceded another drop from 20.6 to 15.8 between May 5th and May 12th. Over the same week, recommendations (which had also partially recovered) decreased from 18.7 to 13.9.

In the past JustGiving has written op-eds in defence of its business model, waived commission for high-profile campaigns, and even altered its fee model to combat the perception that it takes too much money away from good causes. It has made efforts to refute some of these attacks and clarify the way it operates, but many of the current criticisms are particularly stubborn - and the organisation may need to plan for and pre-empt them in future. 

Find out more about Plan & Track here

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