Major Deterrents To Contacting Charities Revealed

Governance | Niki May Young | 27 Oct 2011

People are put off contacting a charity for support or advice if a charity is hard to contact, takes a long time to respond or asks for too much personal information, according to research by Connect Assist.

People are put off contacting a charity for support or advice if a charity is hard to contact, takes a long time to respond or asks for too much personal information, according to research by Connect Assist.

Connect Assist, which runs professional helplines for the not-for-profit sector, conducted a survey of 1,000 people throughout the UK to determine what factors encourage and discourage people from contacting charities. The results showed that 58 per cent would be discouraged from seeking advice if the charity was hard to contact, increasing to 65 per cent for over 55-year-olds.

Being ‘put on hold’ was almost as big a deterrent, with 57 per cent saying a long waiting time would prevent them contacting a charity. Half of respondents also agreed that giving out a lot of personal information would be a deterrent, while 31 per cent agreed that staying anonymous was important.

Jane van Zyl, head of operations at Samaritans, which offers an extensively-used helpline for people in distress, said: “It’s incredibly important that research like this is done to ensure charities are available to support as many people as possible in the right way. We receive 2.8 million calls a year, so it’s essential that people can get through and don’t get an engaged tone. Most calls to our helpline are between 10pm and 2am, so we work to ensure that more volunteers are manning the phone during this period.


“By being confidential we know that callers feel more able to talk through their problems. It’s also vital that people can access support in a variety of ways, which is why Samaritans can be contacted through phone calls, emails, texts, letters and face-to-face.”

Reasons for contacting a charity

Ten per cent of people surveyed had contacted a charity in the past 12 months for help, support or advice, with the highest demographic being 45 to 54-year-olds at 16 per cent, compared to just 7 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds. The results also varied geographically with just 6 per cent of Scots admitting contact with a charity, compared to 11 per cent in the South East and Midlands, 8 per cent in the North, and 12 per cent in Wales and the South West. 

The greatest reason for contacting a charity was for a health and/or medical issue, with 36 per cent contacting for this reason. The next highest, 19 per cent, used a charity for help support or advice on an emotional and/or stressful issue. Just 4 per cent contacted for a marriage and/or personal relationship issue. 

Some 41 per cent of respondents said that being available 24/7 was important for people needing to contact a charity. But the most important thing was talking to a sympathetic person who listens and provides advice, with 53 per cent agreeing to this.

Other important factors included quick and easy access to information (39 per cent), speed of response (34 per cent), a variety of ways to access information or support (32 per cent) and staying anonymous (31 per cent).

Just 17 per cent agreed that meeting face-to-face with a charity was important, while 26 per cent said it would deter them from seeking help, support or advice from a charity.

Using social media to provide support

A total of 26 per cent of respondents said that they were likely to consider accessing information from a charity via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This varied evenly going up the age scale from 58 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds advising they were fairly or very likely to contact a charity this way, compared to just six per cent of over-65-year-olds. (See graph at foot of page)

The survey also dipped into the effects of the funding cuts. Some 82 per cent of respondents feeling that it is important that charities provide the same level of service in light of funding cuts, with 37 per cent saying it is very important, and 45 per cent saying it is fairly important. Nine per cent said it was not important at all while a further 9 per cent did not know. 

Press Release can be found on the Civil Society website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Case Study

Txtm8: Text only sexual health and advice service for 16-25 year olds in London Boroughs


Connect with us