COVID-19 and charity: is the pandemic bad news for cash donations?

YouGov
July 17, 2020, 8:18 AM UTC

YouGov Profiles data suggests that those who prefer to give hard currency or write a cheque rather than donate online are less likely to donate at all during the pandemic

Although the World Health Organisation has clarified that it is not warning people against the use of paper money during the COVID-19 pandemic, there remain concerns around using cash and cheques over the course of this crisisespecially when it comes to charitable donations.

Whether rooted in reality or not, the perception that more “analogue” methods of donating can help transmit the virus could be damaging for many third sector organisations. Those that rely on street donations, collection boxes and cheques may be particularly affected if Brits who can’t rely on their preferred method choose to opt out of giving.

YouGov Plan & Track data allows us to look at Brits who last made a donation via cash or cheque, as well as those who last made a donation online or via a credit or debit card.

Our research over the past 28 days shows that cash and cheque donors are significantly less likely to be considering a charitable donation than they would be in normal circumstances. A third (35%) say they are either “not at all” or “not very” likely to donate, versus just 25% of cash and cheque donors.

In ordinary conditions, cash and cheque donors are roughly as likely to say they haven’t donated recently in the past three months as the general public (54% versus 55% nat rep). But when we isolate cash and cheque donors from the last 90 days, the proportion of non-givers rises to 67%.

With donors who use online payment methods or credit and debit cards, it’s a different story. Six in ten (60%) of online/card donors who were asked in the last 28 days if they intend to donate said they were either likely or very likely to do so – a slight bump compared to the wider database (57%) and considerably more than the national average (43% of Brits who were asked in the past 28 days). Four in ten (42%) say they haven’t donated in the past three months, and this doesn’t substantially change when limited to online/card donors who were asked in the past 28 days.

Our data suggests that, in general, online/card donors are more likely to give to health and medicine charities than those who donate via cash/cheque (22% versus 5% of cash/cheque donors). It’s a similar story with poverty relief causes (13% versus 3%).

The charities that cash/cheque donors are more likely to give to are animal organisations (12%) and children’s charities (8%).  If COVID-19 has made these payment methods unpalatable, then there could be a significant funding gap for organisations that rely on less technologically sophisticated forms of donation. 

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