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  • Writer's pictureElliot Fern

Why small charities need market research - it needn't be expensive!

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Market research is often associated with large corporations and businesses. However, small charities can greatly benefit from conducting market research as well. In a competitive landscape with limited resources, market research enables small charities to make informed decisions, better understand their target audience, and maximise their impact. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why small charities need market research.

1. Identifying Target Audience: Market research helps small charities identify and understand their target audience. By conducting research, charities can gather demographic, psychographic, and behavioural data about their potential supporters and beneficiaries. This knowledge allows them to tailor their programs, campaigns, and communication strategies to effectively engage with their target audience and create a meaningful connection.

2. Assessing Needs and Preferences: Understanding the needs and preferences of their target audience is crucial for small charities. I run the health & wellbeing survey at Ben Automotive - our most recent research took place with over 1,000 respondents which helps inform our service provision. Market research enables us to gather feedback and insights that help understand areas of priority. By identifying the specific needs of their beneficiaries or the preferences of potential donors, charities can design initiatives that resonate with their audience, leading to higher engagement and greater impact.

3. Optimising Fundraising Efforts: Fundraising is vital for the sustainability and growth of small charities. Market research provides valuable insights into donor motivations, giving habits, and preferred communication channels (not forgetting preferred ways of fundraising or indeed whether they prefer to give their time instead of which younger people prefer). By conducting research, charities can segment their donor base, customise fundraising appeals, and identify potential major donors or corporate partnerships. You can include questions like: 'How likely are you to donate £1 to this charity?' and identify any barriers. This targeted approach enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of fundraising efforts.

4. Evaluating Awareness and Perception: Market research allows small charities to gauge their brand awareness and perception among their target audience. By measuring public opinion and assessing their brand reputation, charities can identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to enhance their visibility and credibility. Understanding how the public perceives their mission and impact helps shape communication strategies and build stronger relationships with stakeholders. This can be achieved further by using unprompted and prompted awareness. So for example we would ask: can you name a local charity that supports people with arthritis? Then any mentions of your charity would count towards unprompted awareness. Prompted awareness would include something like do you know of the charity below? And this would include the charity name and a charity logo. Ideally unprompted awareness is your 'gold' metric!

5. Assessing Training and Service Effectiveness: To maximise their impact, small charities need to evaluate the effectiveness of their training and services. Market research methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups can help collect feedback from beneficiaries, volunteers, and other stakeholders. This feedback enables charities to assess outcomes, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to enhance their services and make a greater difference.

6. Navigating Competitive Landscape: Even in the charitable sector, competition exists. Market research allows small charities to gain insights into the competitive landscape, including other organisations working in similar areas or targeting the same audience. By understanding what other charities are doing, identifying gaps in service provision, and learning from best practices, small charities can differentiate themselves and develop unique value propositions.

7. Adapting to Changing Trends: Market research helps small charities stay informed about evolving trends and societal changes. By monitoring shifts in public opinion, emerging issues, or changing donor preferences, charities can proactively adapt their strategies and initiatives. This adaptability ensures that small charities remain relevant, responsive, and better equipped to address emerging challenges or seize new opportunities


Conclusion: Market research plays a vital role in the success and sustainability of small charities. It needn't be expensive as long as you have access to your audience in some way (see what I can offer or even some self-serve research solutions). By conducting research, these organisations can better understand their target audience, assess needs and preferences, optimise fundraising efforts, evaluate service effectiveness, navigate competition, and adapt to changing trends. By embracing market research as a strategic tool, small charities can make data-driven decisions, increase their impact, and build stronger connections with their stakeholders, ultimately making a positive difference in the communities they serve.

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