Latest research on how the cost of living crisis will impact donations this Christmas

by Garth Stirling
August 18, 2023

It’s true that Australians are still feeling the pinch. 88% of respondents from ntegrity's annual Christmas Donor Sentiment Survey say that the cost of living crisis has had a significant impact or impact on them. While 68% of Australians say the cost of living is their top concern, an increase from last year (IPSOS, June 2023), with the ongoing cost increases across essentials, interest rate hikes and media commentary hinting at a recession.

However, the good news from our representative survey of 300 Australians is that people are still giving, and are planning to give this Christmas. 

Australians are planning to give this Christmas, but the generational differences may surprise you.

Overall 73% of respondents are planning to give this Christmas, that’s really positive given the economic climate. But where it gets really interesting is that only 9% of traditional donors (aged 56+) intend to give more, whereas 35% of younger donors (aged 55 and below) intend to give more. This follows the trend from last Christmas where a greater proportion of younger donors gave (61%) vs. traditional donors (41%). 

Causes that are top of mind, getting media attention or naturally relevant to Christmas such as homelessness, children’s charities and mental health, are all seeing increases in intention to donate vs. last year. 

The long & short of it: Christmas for most charities is the time they receive the most donations, by volume, so fundraisers are quite right to be nervous given the economy. This research points out that there are clear pockets of opportunity. 

But to make the most of them you need to have a clear plan heading into Christmas 2023…

Strategies for success this Christmas

1. Set realistic targets

Our research shows that you can expect most donors to give under $100 this Christmas, similar to last year. Make sure you set a target to get more donations to ladder up to your overall revenue target, as there will likely be a drop in the average donation amount.

Also be respectful with your asks this Christmas. Your supporters may want to give more, but may not be in a financial position to do so.

2. Find your relevant connection with donors through a contextually relevant case for support

Where you can, share how your organisation is affected by rising costs. If inflation is creating increased demand for your services (e.g. food banks and homeless shelters), or making it harder for people to get the help they need (e.g. mental health care, domestic violence), then that’s the story you should tell this Christmas.

But that’s not the unique “in” for everyone. For example, a Climate Charity or International NGO may need to work a bit harder to make this connection to create relatability and relevance around global issues that impact everyone, or unique but common Christmas traits such as a feeling of gratefulness and generosity. 

Effective creative this year will tap into the charitable feeling of Christmas, the realities of the economic situation (where relevant) and show clear impact. 

3. Convert intention to action by being more available across multiple channels

Intention to give,unfortunately, doesn’t easily translate to actual giving. Donors live busy lives, especially as it gets closer to Christmas.

Direct Mail and Email are the usual channels most charities use at Christmas, but ensure you combine this with digital. Latest insights from the Benchmarking Project indicate that Digital, as a set of solicitation channels which includes email, SMS and online, continues to be the fastest growing channel for fundraising, growing 17% in 2022 and 66% over the past five years, and our research showed it was the top channels for donors.

In our experience, adding digital doesn’t carve up the other channels but insteads improves them, because you’re ensuring that your cause is top of mind and not forgotten this Christmas.

However make optimisations to ensure your donation experience is integrated across channels:

  • Mirror your offline engagement tactics with your online channels. Add a bounce back or QR codes to Direct Mail to encourage supporters to visit your website and watch inspiring videos.

  • Make sure your online checkout experience is short and seamless: mobile-friendly, remove unnecessary fields, introduce mobile payment services like Apple Pay and Google Pay, include regular giving option, feature payment option icons and secure payment badges. 

  • For email, remove unengaged subscribers, build a testing matrix ahead of Christmas.

All these optimisations will ensure we’re converting intention into action this Christmas. 

4. Start now!

While you’ll see the majority of donations come in very close to Christmas, your digital campaign should start much earlier than December 1st. 

Our research shows that 68% of donors have already decided who they’re going to give to. While 30% are yet to make up their mind.

Our recommendation is for existing donors, connect with them before you go out with an ask through sharing impact, thanks, content. For new donors, make sure the awareness and priming phase of your Christmas campaign starts several weeks, potentially even months, before your donation asks!