Voluntary Sector: Public perception - The Charity Brand Index 2009

PRWeek has teamed up with sister title Third Sector and research agency Harris Interactive to produce the first ranking of charities by public perception. Cathy Wallace reports.

Voluntary Sector: Public perception - The Charity Brand Index 2009

What makes a person donate money to charity? In a crowded marketplace, having 'a good cause' is no longer enough.

Awareness, impression and perception have become the critical factors and this turns the spotlight firmly on a charity's communications department. But research from the Media Trust has found marketing budgets are often dominated by funding for specific fundraising projects and charity PR professionals are constantly looking for ways to raise the bar in terms of marketing and comms.

'Many of those working in larger third- sector organisations said they needed help enhancing and maintaining their marketing capability,' reports Gavin Sheppard, development director at the Media Trust.

With this in mind, PRWeek has teamed up with sister publication Third Sector and market research agency Harris Interactive to produce a groundbreaking research report.

The Charity Brand Index 2009 report ranks the UK's top 100 charities by public perception - the first time this has ever been done. The idea was to show which charities have the most effective communications.

'It is clear it is no longer enough to be recognised for the good work the organisation does: it must be reflected by the charity's brand, image and key messages,' says Ian Barrow, head of research for public sector and charities at Harris Interactive.

While it is no surprise to see health charities in the top ten, the fact that Macmillan Cancer Support took the top spot is extremely significant considering the charity's voluntary income is less than a third of that of Cancer Research UK.

Barrow says: 'The major influences pushing Macmillan Cancer Support to number one were a high familiarity score and an extremely positive impression of the brand.'

No less noteworthy is the inclusion of the two BBC charities, Children in Need and Comic Relief, in the top ten, because these charities' voluntary income ranking is far lower than their brand index ranking. Their high profile in the eyes of the public shows the power of association with the UK's largest broadcaster and the massive amounts of exposure these charities receive.

'This index has demonstrated that charities can successfully punch well above their weight,' says Barrow.

It also reveals that the public is less aware of culture, arts and heritage charities. Even the UK's top museum by voluntary income, the Natural History Museum, failed to finish in the top 50 of the brand index, owing to low scores around consideration.


The research was based on interviews with more than 3,000 people. A sample of the UK's top 150 charities by voluntary income was used as a starting point. Respondents were asked about their awareness of charities - and then asked detailed questions on relevance, distinctiveness, familiarity, consideration, trust and impression.

Rank Charity Voluntary Voluntary
income (pounds m) income rank
1 Macmillan Cancer Support 107 7
2 Cancer Research UK 341 1
3 NSPCC* 113 6
4 RSPCA** 114 5
5 BBC Children in Need 37 40
6 British Heart Foundation 89 10
6 Comic Relief 30 46
8 Marie Curie Cancer Care 72 17
9 British Red Cross 101 8
9 RNLI*** 137 4
*National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
**Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
***Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Rank Charity Voluntary Voluntary
income (pounds m) income rank
91 Tate 80 14
92 Brooke Hospital for Animals 11 110
92 Tearfund 60 21
94 Quakers* 8 147
95 British Film Institute 21 65
95 Museum of Science
and Industry 42 33
97 Church of Scotland 89 11
98 English National Opera 18 75
99 Mormons** 37 42
100 Jehovah's Witnesses*** 11 100
*Religious Society of Friends
**Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Great Britain
***Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain


The Charity Brand Index 2009 is published by Haymarket and available to purchase from Friday, 6 November. Individual breakdowns for each charity in the top 100 are also available for purchase. For more information or to order a copy of the report, contact

Heather Shutt on 020 8267 4755


Taking the number one slot in the inaugural Charity Brand Index has crowned a very successful year for Macmillan Cancer Support and its comms department. The charity secured the top ranking, beating fellow charity Cancer Research UK, thanks to a high familiarity score and a very positive impression among respondents.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan, says: 'This wonderful recognition is testament to the important work Macmillan does and acknowledges the passion everyone involved with Macmillan feels.'

This year the charity also won a PRWeek Gold Award for NGO Department of the Year at the glittering PRWeek Awards ceremony held in London's Grosvenor House last month.

The comms team at Macmillan has completely revolutionised itself in the past year. Following a merger with cancer information charity Cancerbackup, the comms team reorganised to number 11 in total, working across campaigns, services, fundraising and corporate partnerships. Working with five comms managers in regional and national offices, the media team increased Macmillan's coverage by 400 per cent in the past year.

It is likely this increased activity helped boost the charity's score in the brand index and secure it the number one slot. Macmillan has also become something of a digital pioneer in the charity sector, presenting at NCVO and Media Trust events and running busy Facebook and Twitter accounts. Its head of corporate and events has a monthly slot on the Society Guardian website, further increasing its reach.

Macmillan also entered brave new territory with a campaign about sex and cancer, with a video featuring a new-age sex guru who promised to reveal the secrets of great sex after cancer. Agony aunts Deirdre Saunders of The Sun and Denise Robertson of This Morning have lent support to the drive. The death of reality TV star Jade Goody from cervical cancer also allowed Macmillan to target audiences with messages about cervical screening and the importance of raising funds for cancer patients and their families.

'We help people have more good days than bad when they are affected by cancer,' says Devane. 'We are proud this has been recognised.'

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