COVID-19 has changed UK consumer behaviour in countless ways, and given the financial impact the pandemic has had, no one would fault donors who have been forced to prioritize their own financial needs over their usual charitable giving. 

However, Quantcast looked at the changing consumer behaviour in the charity sector during the last 12 months and discovered the data tells a more complex story: one of compassion and inspiration, and of people doing their best to look out for one another in difficult times. 

You can download the full piece here, and for a quick feel good moment to get you through the mid-week blues, here are some key highlights:

1. People paused for applause

During Lockdown 1.0, as a gesture of appreciation for the wonderful work done by the National Health Service (NHS) in combating the virus, every Thursday at 8pm the UK stopped what it was doing to #ClapForOurCarers. Quantcast’s real-time first party data was able to capture this unique heartwarming moment, seeing an average 96% decrease in UK online activity on March 26 and April 2.

People paused for applause

2. People are more generous in lockdown

In an average year, December is the biggest month for online donations to charity, and December 2020 was no exception. We saw a 5.3x increase in donations in December compared to January 2020. However, lockdowns in 2020-2021 have created a clear additional giving moment. Comparing against a January 2020 baseline, during the first lockdown in April 2020, we saw online donations increase by 7x. This trend continued in January 2021 lockdown, with a 2.4x increase in online donations. Despite the hardship of having to adjust to restrictions, Britons are thinking of those less fortunate than themselves.

3. New donors are thoughtful about their charities, actively researching options

During lockdown, UK residents actively searched for ways to donate and for which charities to support. Keyword searches related to charitable donations peaked in April, with a 3.3x increase compared to the start of the year. An analysis of the search terms shows that interest in medical charities and those supporting the UK National Health Service were particularly high, followed by fundraising ideas such as “walk/run 5” and initiatives aimed at supporting those who are financially impacted by the pandemic. Foodbanks, for example, saw a 12x increase in searches in April compared to the January 2020 baseline.

4. Donors look to new payment methods and fundraising ideas

December behaviors reflect a more traditional holiday donor. There was not a significant increase in users doing online research about different charities to give to, likely because holiday donations were part of standard donor annual giving. The largest Christmas donor behavior change came from the form of payment and fundraising, with many donors researching new online payment methods and looking into digital fundraising options.

5. Each charitable cause has a unique audience profile

Charitable causes have a clear donor profile, reflecting mindfulness in giving. Those searching for terms related to religious charitable causes skew significantly older than average, at 55+, whereas foreign aid causes skew towards a slightly younger 18-35 age bracket. During the holidays, charities are notably supported by audiences across all income brackets; however, those donating during lockdown tend to be more affluent, skewing towards an income of £50k+.

The thoughtful way that Britons research, participate, and give back to charity should act as a point of hope in this dark time.

Want to feel inspired by more insights?

To gain a more in-depth picture, download our full 2021 UK Charity Insights Report or check out the UK Charity Infographic. For a global view, also see our 2020 US Holiday Charity Insights.

If you are interested in partnering with Quantcast to harness deep insights about your audiences, get in touch here.