Di Flatt's Blog

COMMUNICATIONS: are you ‘talking’ to people so they actually ‘hear’ you?

Are you ‘talking’ to people so they actually ‘hear’ you?

At a recent meeting with HSBC and PriceWaterhouseCoopers they told me that we need to be planning for a four year economic recovery period. Unrestricted income has been shrinking and large numbers of charities have reduced income. So now is the time to really think about your communications with all stakeholders. Below I have listed a few things I believe we should all be thinking about at this time!

Unrestricted charitable income is shrinking:

Throughout 2011 it was widely discussed across the charitable sector that:

  • traditional unrestricted charity income (including legacies) is shrinking
  • charitable giving across all disciplines is down
  • many charities are turning to income generation using social enterprise models to ‘sell’ services, expertise, and training
  • donors are giving to a reduced number of charities. Recent research has shown the following.  The average number of charities donors support:

1980s   5-7

1990s   3-5       giving level not gone down but giving to fewer

2000s   2-3       BUT for some (higher value donors) their giving level has gone up

  • only 8% of donors give £100 or more!


Recession trends:

  • Over 90% of charities are currently experience real term reductions in income.
  • Eight out of ten expect further reductions
  • 11% remain unsure about the future
  • Numbers experiencing reductions of 10 – 30% have doubled since the last PWC report (December 2010)
  • Charities in receipt of statutory income are feeling the effects as £1.2 billion cuts come in by October 2011.

(source: PWC and CFDG, Managing in a Downturn 2011)


So, for all of us it is ever more crucial that our communications are reaching the people we need to reach, whether they are current or future beneficiaries, or current or future donors!  Are your stakeholders ‘hearing’ your messages?


Age cohorts (each generation ‘talks’ and ‘listens’ differently):


With the rise of social media rapidly changing our communications environment it is crucial that throughout the whole of your communications that you consider and respond to the fact that different age cohorts behave very differently.


Are you looking carefully enough at how you are connecting with each cohort in the future for maximum results?


Are you working with the various teams across your organisation to ensure that you are gathering relevant knowledge?




  • The heroes of WWII
  • See glossy fundraising materials as a waste of money
  • Give out of duty.



  • This particular generation often goes un-noticed
  • Quiet and industrious they were not the heroes of WWII like the seniors or extraverts like the post-war baby boomers. Beats rather than hippies they were rarely leaders but became solid dependable charity supporters, giving out of duty
  • Now largely retired, their legacies are keeping many organisations artificially afloat; as the boomers are more likely to spend or give their money away before they pass on.

Baby Boomers


  • Hold the wealth
  • However, may be paying to care for parents
  • Or may have their older children still at or coming back home
  • Or may be spending money on helping children through university
  • Or may be spending money on helping children purchase a property ?


Generation X


  • No experience of poverty
  • Have material possessions
  • Comfortable with technology
  • Expect good design
  • Will not read heavy text
  • Need convincing of the problem
  • When using social media we would need to be very clear there is a need and that beneficiaries are deserving.

Generation Y


  • Also known as Generation C = community
  • 100 mobile texts per day
  • Hive mind
  • FaceBook
  • You Tube
  • Gap year – third world experiences
  • Comfortable with debt
  • Give online/face to face/QR Codes (the new bar code recognition)
  • Celebrity – created not earned (eg for Baby Boomers generation celebrity HAD to be earned)
  • Very educated
  • Understands poverty overseas.


The way the age cohorts respond:

Age Cohort:


















Baby Boomers






Generation X






Generation Y






Note: Generation X and Generation Y NEVER respond to mail! Currently, however, our content through other channels is not yet strong enough, eg: email newsletters.


This week, consider your various communications and take some time to look at how they fit (or indeed do not fit) into the different cohorts.  You may find you have some changes to make!


Every £1 donated to charity goes towards changing someone’s life or positively changing our environment. My charity www.epilepsy.org.uk, and every charity – we need you.



1 Comment so far
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Couldn’t agree with this more….and underpins my point this week when I found discovered our welcome pack was going to new website donors in the post!! If they engage with us (i.e donate) online, shouldn’t the next communication be online – (obviously offering a choice of online or snail mail comms)?. Gens X and Y are the next generation of donors – but many are engaging with charities earlier than dorothy did and we need to make sure we’re not losing them by insisting on shoe-horning them into the traditional charity donor communications mould. Thanks Di, some great stats to back up this point with my team 🙂

Comment by Rachel Hunnybun

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