Charities have a problem with men

New research by the Charities Aid Foundation underlines the fact that charities have a problem with men. A gender gap exists, and it is across the board. Men are less likely to donate to charity, less likely to volunteer, less likely to get involved in charitable social activities, and display less trust in charities than women do. It makes you wonder, do charities have a gender bias that is putting men off? Is this a hidden bias with unintentional consequences? Crucially, what should fundraisers do about it?

Men are lagging behind on several measures, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed. The stats from CAF’s UK Giving Survey took in 1000 interviews a month to paint a picture of what was going on in 2017. You can read the report here. I want to highlight the areas impacting on men in the report:

Men are twice as likely to rarely or never give to charity

“Men are more than twice as likely as women to say that they rarely or never give to charity (25% vs. 12%). This may provide a starting point to policy makers trying to get more people to give, as the challenge is much more amongst men than women.”

Men only give more than women when it comes to sports and recreation

“Women are more likely than men to give to several causes, including animal welfare (29% vs. 19%), hospitals and hospices (25% vs. 20%), children and young people (25% vs. 21%), and homeless people, housing and refuge shelters (21% vs. 16%). The only cause men are more likely to give to is sports and recreation (4% vs. 2% of women).”

Men volunteer less

“Women remain more likely to have volunteered in the last year than men (19% vs. 15% of men).”

Men are less trusting of charities

Almost a quarter of men disagreed that charities are trustworthy (23%). The figure for women is 16%.

The report concludes:

“Given that men were increasingly less likely to take part in any charitable or social activity, along with donating less, and are also less trusting of charities, charities themselves could be doing more to reach this group. As a sector, we should all be doing more to increase trust but from this evidence, particularly amongst men.”

These facts are not new. Others have reported them before. In some cases the gaps are growing. The question is why? And what can we do about it?

I want to ask two big questions of charities and fundraisers and then present three suggestions.

Q1. Does gender matter in fundraising?

What if the answer is yes? It is a fact that more women than men work in fundraising. Is it too far out to suggest it is easier to connect with women because women are doing the asking? As a result are fundraising campaigns and activities more likely to appeal to women than men? This is a challenge that touches on recruitment, activity, and messaging.

Q2. Does branding matter?

By branding I want to include all the non-verbal aspects of the design, feel, and look of what you do. I also want to include key messages. We have worked with a men’s charity that wanted to tweak their image because their original branding didn’t resonate with their male audience enough. Granted, ‘male’ charities should, perhaps, be expected to do this, but it begs the question as to whether some diversity in branding would yield better results.

Flat-pack fundraising for men (three easy to follow instructions)

Instruction No. 1: Ask hard questions of your current practice and results and talk to men.

Do this thoroughly and avoid merely anecdotal evidence and solutions. Your audit (yes that’s what you need) will help you get to the next stage.

Instruction No. 2: Include reaching men at the level of strategy.

Create KPIs around this. Be intentional. Swim against the tide. Masculinity isn’t toxic. Men only events and activities are not inherently bad. Use them for good. This problem won’t be fixed unless it is addressed at the strategic level and implemented.

Instruction No. 3: Produce content and branding to reach men.

That’s part of segmentation in marketing. Find out what works for reaching a male audience. Remember, remember the month of Movember.

This isn’t a ready-made solution, but it is a place to start out from. Men need responsibility. They thrive on it. They need to carry a heavy weight in life. Take it away and they struggle. Men need exposure to good causes.

Martin Downes is a director at Luminous Media – a video production, design, PR, and media training company that helps charities and social businesses to tell their stories well. Martin worked in the third sector for 14 years, as well as in publishing and the commercial world.

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