Reputation Survey: Charities - Public divided on use of shock tactics

Opinion is mixed on whether charities should use graphic images to promote their causes, as 41 per cent of respondents said to do so was 'an abuse of people's emotions'.

Fun run: a happier image of chairty fundraising
Fun run: a happier image of chairty fundraising

The public is unsure about whether charities should use shock tactics or not, according to the latest research by PRWeek/OnePoll.

Nearly half - 48 per cent - said charities could use shock tactics if they were justified, but 41 per cent said using them was an abuse of people's emotions. Only 11 per cent said charities needed to use them to get their message across.

One in five respondents said seeing a shocking image or story made them more likely to donate money or support a cause, but 47 per cent said this was not the case.

A third of those polled were unsure.

Forty-five per cent said they were most likely to donate to causes close to their hearts. Eighteen per cent said they would donate to a charity if it could prove its work made a real difference - a more compelling reason to donate than those working on an emergency appeal (13 per cent).

Reading an article in a newspaper or magazine about a charity's work (26 per cent) was nearly twice as likely to make people donate money than seeing a TV ad (14 per cent).

Cancer Research UK is the charity with the best overall reputation, with 26 per cent of the vote, ahead of the Royal British Legion with 17 per cent and Oxfam with 11 per cent.

Thirty-two per cent of respondents said they read or heard about Cancer Research UK in the media the most often, with Oxfam coming in second place with 17 per cent and the NSPCC with 12 per cent.

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll


The use of shock to draw attention is not a new concept in marketing. Companies caught on to its effect of grabbing the headlines and making the tills ring long ago - think of Benetton and its history of controversial ad campaigns.

So it is no surprise that donation-dependent charities have adopted the same tactic.

However, shocking people into feeling the need to support a cause is not a sure-fire way to success. Initial shock may grab attention, but organisations need to engage with people on a deeper level to make them reach into their pockets.

Some of the most successful charities are linked to cancer - a disease that touches one in three people - so it is no surprise the research showed 45 per cent of people were more likely to donate to a cause that was close to their hearts.

Shock may open people's eyes in the short term, but if you fail to elicit empathy then it certainly won't open their wallets.

69% of respondents said the amount of trust they had in charities had not changed during the past year

52% said the recession had not changed the amount they donated to charities

47% said the use of a shocking image or story would not make them more likely to donate or support a cause

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