Charities Failing To Meet Demand For Services Via Social Media

New research suggested this is now preferred support channel for many Britons

Social media is rapidly becoming the method of choice for Britons when seeking advice or looking to access support services, according to new research launched today by social enterprise business Connect Assist.

The findings show a massive eight out of ten 18-24 year olds use social media in this way, while 73% of 25-34 year olds and 69% of 35-44 year olds use Facebook, Twitter and Internet forums specifically to source financial, social or emotional advice.

The survey suggests that the way in which we now want to receive charitable support has changed irrevocably.  The majority of Britons (56%) would first turn to an Internet search engine such as Google or Yahoo, when trying to find help or advice.

And it’s not just search engines that have become the favoured source of support.  Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube is considered a first ‘port of call,’ particularly amongst the younger generation.  In fact, the under 35 year olds surveyed are more likely to turn to social media for advice than go to public services (i.e. social workers or Citizens Advice Bureaux), telephone helplines or paper-based information or directories.

The primary benefit of using social media is seen by 44% respondents to be its 24/7 availability, with this figure rising to 58% of 25-34 year olds.  This was also the group most likely to say that feeling part of a community was a key reason why they chose social media over other support channels (33%).  The youngest group sampled 18-24 year olds felt that the main benefit was the speed at which they could get a response or access information (50%).  However, the findings also threw up a key generational split, with a third of the over 65 year olds surveyed saying that using Social Media offered them no benefits.

When asked what concerns them when using social media to get support or advice for a problem, one in ten of those surveyed had no reservations.  However, the most notable concerns related to privacy and whether personal details could end up in the public domain (43%).  A further one in five was worried about the quality of information or advice that would be given.

In these recessionary times many charities are looking at ways by which to streamline their services.  However, the public is again divided along age lines as to what should be prioritised.  18-34 year olds all feel that if a charity could offer just one communications channel it should be via social media; considering this more effective than face-to-face meetings, dedicated websites, telephone, printed materials or texts.  In contrast, the over 65 year old group felt that in these circumstances a charity should maintain face-to-face contact at the expense of the other channels.

Commenting on the research, Connect Assist Chief Executive Patrick Nash said: “These findings highlight just how engrained social media has become in our daily lives and how it is now seen as a critical source of information and support.  Yet the charity sector is worryingly ‘behind the curve’.  To date the only way that charities have embraced social media is as a fundraising tool.  Yet our research shows, what the public and in particular the younger generation wants is support through this medium.  In fact, our results show that a fifth (20%) of 25-34 year olds have used social media to gather information or to seek advice during the past week, yet less than half that number (8%) have used it to make a charitable donation.

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Case Study

Case Study: Grocery Aid

1.1.          Grocery Aid

1.1.1.      About our customer

Grocery Aid, the trading name of the National Grocers' Benevolent Fund, is the charity for the grocery industry. Grocery Aid helps people all over the UK who have worked, or are working, in the grocery industry and have now found that they need some extra support to get by. The help that Grocery Aid provides can make a very real difference and it provides not only monetary support, but also appliances and everyday items that many take for granted.

1.1.2.      The service we provide

The helpline was a new service for Grocery Aid. We set about improving the reach of their valuable service and sought to reach out to the people needing the help and support that they provide. In early 2010, Connect Assist successfully helped Grocery Aid launch their first helpline via our 24/7 Contact Centre. Today we offer multi-channel solutions via phone, e-mail, knowledgebase, ask a question and live chat.   The multi-channel helpline provides information and support to people and business owners working in the trade – from large supermarkets to corner shops. This includes an innovative ‘incident support’ service following attacks, arson and other incidents that are prevalent within the industry.


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