A Changing World: The Evolution of Giving

Written by
Fifty Team

Insights by
Jerome Mckay-Jones

19 May, 2022


Company Bios

Fifty is a technology company specialising in audience insights and digital media activation. Fifty uses AI, technology and data to transform how organisations understand their customers and power digital advertising to best engage them.

Funraisin is the world’s full-stack digital fundraising platform used by leading non-profit organisations as their mission control to run online P2P fundraising and events, community fundraising and power their brand sites.

Macro sector challenges we are looking to solve and understand better.

  1. Do people care less or more about charities?
  2. Who are the cause-driven audiences, what influences them and do they have the ability to give?
  3. In these fast-moving times, how can causes and fundraising events continue to build connections and relevance in marketing?

Additionally, we want to address the common challenges charities have with data, namely accessibility and relevance. This white paper aims to showcase an alternative way for charities to access relevant insights in real time, along with digital fundraising tools to help drive their success.


The number of people giving to charitable causes is in decline. Reports such as CAF, showed that in 2021, we saw a significant decrease in people giving to charity through a donation or sponsorship from 65% in 2020 to 62% in 2021, compared to 69% in 2016, which would suggest that less people are giving or are able to give.

However, in many ways people are more charitable than ever before. The data shows that people who do give and fundraise, are giving more, which is likely sparked by specific need states from the pandemic. Even though one in three household disposable income had declined by 36% the amount raised in the UK has risen to £11.3 billion from £10.6 billion the year before. And for charities who have embraced a digital strategy, the returns are even higher with non-profits in the UK and US seeing a 32% increase in online revenues during 2020.

With the UK’s cost of living crisis compounded with global social and economic turbulence, will people continue to be as generous to give or fundraise for a charity? The combination of a global pandemic, rising inflation and the threat of a recession alongside the current cost of living crisis could dampen charities’ financial outlooks. An estimated 2.2 million givers intend to cut back the amount they donate post-pandemic, while around 1.6 million have already had to cancel a direct debit to charity, according to a study by the Covid-19 Support Fund.

While there are multiple reasons for donations and sponsored giving dropping, from competing financial demands to general donor fatigue, charity services are needed more than ever before. In order to keep people engaged, it is critical that charities have a better understanding of their current and potential donors. Funraisin has partnered with audience insights company Fifty to explore whether donor and fundraising fatigue is affecting this decline in giving and help charities discover the audiences which are engaged with them on a deeper level.

This White Paper will give charities a greater understanding of those who give or fundraise, their motivations and connections, and how giving has evolved over the past three years. It also seeks to answer: Who are the top audiences? What else do they care about? Where can they be reached?

If you can truly understand who is engaged with charitable giving and why they give, you can tailor your digital marketing to connect and be more relevant for them thus combatting the dreaded donor fatigue.

Overview & Methodology

Fifty’s platform uses network science and graphing technology to build an understanding of human behaviour, based on people’s shared passions, behaviours and interests. Using machine learning and AI, Fifty can algorithmically identify patterns within social and CRM data to reveal similar passions and cluster people into communities of shared interests that we call ‘Tribes’.

To understand the giving audience, we input social listening data surrounding the events and days that are associated with four charitable causes – Mental Health, Cancer, International Crisis & Poverty and the Environment – into Fifty’s platform. We controlled for certain events such as the war in Ukraine, to ensure results were not skewed by predominant current events.

The key giving days and charitable events we studied were:

Mental Health

Blue Monday, Mental Health Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day

A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Mental Health audience study.
A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Mental Health audience study.


Breast Cancer Awareness Day, World Cancer Day, Macmillan Coffee Morning, Race for Life Cancer Research

A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Cancer audience study.
A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Cancer audience study.

International Crisis & Poverty

World Humanitarian Day, London Challenge Poverty Week

A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the International Crisis & Poverty audience study.
A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the International Crisis & Poverty audience study.


World Environment Day, Earth Day, World Oceans Day

A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Environment audience study.
A Fifty ‘network viz’ of the Environment audience study.

Once these audiences were created in the Fifty platform, we filtered out any spam or bot accounts to build a representative picture of the top audiences engaging with charities overall.

Using this methodology, we uncovered four key themes that were present across our Tribes in each study:

  • Mainstream: Tribes that are engaged with mainstream popular culture and are more generic in their interests

  • Cause-Centric: Tribes that coalesce around their interest and passion for a certain cause

  • Gen Z: Tribes that are made of a younger cohort, as reflected in their interests and categories that are most prominent

  • Creatives: Tribes that showcase an interest in the creative arts or are professional creatives themselves

Tribes reflecting these audiences emerged in some capacity across all four charitable causes. Gen Z Tribes, Cultured and Creative Tribes and cause-specific audiences indexing highly throughout. The size and presence of Mainstream audiences throughout reflects the level of engagement and awareness a cause has amongst the wider population.

Measuring fatigue through engagement

We wanted to understand how the engagement of these top audiences has changed over time, especially considering how the pandemic may have affected their engagement. To do this we analysed the same days and events from 2020 to 2022, with fluctuations in audience size acting as a useful metric for engagement and a signal of potential donor fatigue.

Some key insights we found:

  • Across the studies, Cause-Centric and Creatives were the most consistently engaged audiences.

  • Engagement with Cancer charities remained the most consistent over time.

  • Engagement with International Crisis & Poverty causes has grown with more Mainstream audience engagement since Covid.

  • Professionals were most engaged with Environmental causes in 2021 and devoted sustainability Tribes were less engaged.

  • Engagement with Mental Health is on the rise, with 2022 seeing a large peak.

Studying the top audiences across these four charitable causes offers a more holistic understanding of who engages with charities. Charities can use this type of audience insight to activate their key audiences, by building more bespoke messaging and strategies, reaching audiences that are ready to receive them.

The Key Audiences: Who are they and what is changing?

Now, we’ll delve into the top four Tribes within each study to discover:

  • How they differ within each charitable vertical
  • How they have fluctuated over time
  • The key data points that reflect their interests and motivations.


A reflection of engagement: Mainstream audiences are present across all four charitable causes. So, how do we identify a Mainstream audience? It tends to be an audience that is more generic, that clusters around mainstream cultural points of conversation such as Pop Culture, Entertainment and Sport. The prominence of mainstream Tribes is indicative of how widespread the awareness is for each vertical and how entrenched they are within broader culture. These Mainstream audiences are extracted from Fifty’s vast social data set and processed through the Fifty platform to uncover their shared interests, passions and traits, not by us humans.

Each charity vertical still has nuances within its Mainstream audience. Within the Cancer study, for instance, the Mainstream Sports & Entertainment tribe ranks the highest, while Mainstream Brits are the largest tribe within the International Crisis study. Similarly, Mainstream Parents and Middle Class City Dwellers rank amongst the largest Tribes within the Environment and Mental Health studies respectively.

Mainstream Brits are the largest tribe within the International Crisis audience, making up 17% of the entire study.
Mainstream Brits are the largest tribe within the International Crisis audience, making up 17% of the entire study.

Key data points: Mainstream Tribes have a general affiliation for all things pop culture – music, television and football all important to them. They also have a strong affinity for humour and satire, with mainstream comedians amongst their top influencers. Generally, this demographic skews towards parents with bio keywords such as ‘kids’, ‘family,’ ‘mum’ emerging frequently.

Audience differentiations: The type of Mainstream audience varies across the different charity verticals, which is a reflection of the kinds of people who are most engaged with these topics. For instance, both the Environment and Mental Health appear to be more middle class concerns, with mainstream Tribes within these charity verticals’ generally living in cities and showing a fondness for the finer things in life.

Environment was the only cause where a Mainstream audience was not the top audience. Instead, a more localised tribe of London Professionals topped the list, which suggests that perhaps the environment is a more niche, geo-specific topic when it comes to charitable giving.

Fluctuations over time:

The evolution of Mainstream Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.
The evolution of Mainstream Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.

Looking at how these audiences have changed over time, we can reflect whether the causes have gained more awareness and hypothesise as to why.

Here, you can see that Cancer has the most consistent Mainstream audience, which means no matter what has been happening in the wider world in the last two years, engaging with Cancer causes remains important to this audience. The consistent engagement with this topic is likely due to the fact that most people know someone or themselves have been affected by cancer, and it is a vertical that has less watershed cultural moments.

This engagement differs, for instance, with International Crisis & Poverty which saw a huge spike in 2021, increasing by 50% compared to 2020. The pandemic and wider conversations around social inequality seems to have brought greater awareness to the issue, potentially causing this spike.

Mainstream Brits have grown 6% since 2020 to make up 24% of the entire 2022 International Crisis study.
Mainstream Brits have grown 6% since 2020 to make up 24% of the entire 2022 International Crisis study.

Awareness of Mental Health also saw a spike in 2022, up 73% since 2020, which could reflect the continuing de-stigmatisation of the topic in the media and more open conversations around mental health post-lockdown.


Seeking signs of donor fatigue: If you’re seeking to combat and understand donor fatigue, the first place to look is within Cause-centric audiences. These Tribes reflect the most engaged audiences, who are devoted to charities and specific causes within each vertical. They cluster around their joined passion for a cause, and therefore reflect charities’ core donor base. This means their levels of engagement can be used as a signal of donor fatigue.

Tribes that reflect the Cause-Centric audience include: Charitable Brits (Cancer), Green Party Supporters (Environment), Geo-Political Progressives (International Crisis) and Charitable Professionals (Mental Health).

Key data points: Across the Tribes and studies there was a clear association with liberal and progressive politics. Categories of interests that frequently emerged included Government, Politics and Law.

Law & Government emerged as one of the most popular categories amongst Charitable Professionals within the Mental Health Awareness study.
Law & Government emerged as one of the most popular categories amongst Charitable Professionals within the Mental Health Awareness study.

Additionally, while the Cause-Centric audiences are passionate about their specific cause, whether it be mental health or the environment. In general, these audiences showcase a holistic social consciousness and also engage with a wider array of global issues, indicating a more general concern for the world around them.

Audience differentiations: Both the Cancer and International Crisis charity verticals are more broad in their reach. This means that even within these Cause-Centric Tribes, we are seeing more mainstream influencers such as the BBC, NHS England and news anchor Jon Snow, whereas the other two verticals have much more cause-specific influences. This is especially the case for the Environment vertical, where influencers are much more topic-specific, such as the National Trust, Natural England and The Ecologist..

There is an interesting link between the Environment and Mental Health verticals, with Nature Lovers indexing highly in the Mental Health study. Similarly, Holistic Conservationists emerged as a tribe within the International Crisis vertical, indicating that the Environment vertical could have some crossover reach.

Fluctuations over time

The evolution of Cause-Centric Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each charity vertical.
The evolution of Cause-Centric Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each charity vertical.

The fluctuations in the Cause-Centric audiences demonstrates how reliant a vertical is on that core audience. It both showcases (i) how engaged the core audience is and (ii) how engaged wider audiences are. Fluctuations in engagement, especially downwards, can be an indication of donor fatigue from a generally loyal audience.

It is clear from this graph that there is general donor fatigue, with three out of the four audiences experiencing a dip in the size of their core audiences in 2021. Only Cancer saw an increase in its core audience size, which shows that this vertical has grown their core donor base over the last two years.

The Environment vertical had the biggest drop in 2021, before recovering slightly in 2022. This does not mean that no one was interested in environmental issues, but rather that those issues became more mainstream. Thus, the share of the vertical’s audience that was Cause-Centric decreased as mainstream awareness grew, likely due to the increase in awareness around environmental issues during COP26.

The International Crisis also had a small dip in 2021. This could be due to Covid causing a shrinking effect in people’s ability to engage with global causes, as well as more domestic issues at home, such as the energy crisis, taking centre stage. On the other hand, the 2022 rebound could be due to recent geopolitical events and re-engagement with the global community.


An emerging audience of givers: Generation Z’s engagement with charitable giving was on show across all four causes. It is such a large demographic, with a variety of interests and passions, but what is clear is that they are a socially-engaged bunch. Gen Z are not dedicated to one cause in particular, but seem to care about many different causes. For charities, that serves as both an opportunity and a challenge. 

If Gen Z are engaging across causes, it will be harder to separate yourself from other causes. But, at the same time, there is an opportunity to engage a generation that is socially conscious and wants to be a part of the change. You just have to understand them first.

Key data points: Gen Z Tribes index as the sixth biggest tribe in three out of the four studies, and the fourth largest in tribe in the Mental Health vertical. This indicates that they have a more general social conscience, but that Mental Health is of particular interest to them. 

This clear affinity to mental health is not only shown in the size of the Gen Z tribe in that study, but also the fact that Gen Z Tribes in the other three studies were also engaged with mental health issues. Within the ‘People & Society’ category, ‘Mental Health’ is the most prominent societal issue they engage with on the web.

Engaged Students ranked fourth among the audiences within the Mental Health study.
Engaged Students ranked fourth among the audiences within the Mental Health study.

Overall, their social consciousness is reflected in engagement with progressive causes and their influences include the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter. And when it comes to their broader interests, alternative and underground music are more influential than pop, with hip hop and dance music being key categories. Their bio keywords attest to their younger demographic, with many users identifying themselves as ‘students’, ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, as well as declaring their age.

Bio keywords within the Trendy Gen Zers tribe within the Environmental Awareness study point to a younger demographic and creative interests.
Bio keywords within the Trendy Gen Zers tribe within the Environmental Awareness study point to a younger demographic and creative interests.

Audience differentiations: What’s interesting about this audience is that there is no real differentiation between Gen Z across the different verticals. Within all of them, we have a general Gen Z tribe that coalesce around the various interests of people that age. This underscores the general social conscience of Gen Z.

Fluctuations over time:

The evolution of Gen-Z Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.
The evolution of Gen-Z Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.

There was a spike in engagement across all verticals, except Cancer, which stayed consistent (as it generally does across audiences). This spike in engagement in 2021 could be for a variety of reasons – for the Environment, it could be COP26 and the wide stream coverage and memes associated with the event. Each vertical has dipped back to their usual engagement levels in 2022.


A crucial audience for charities: Across all four charitable causes, there were Tribes that reflected a cultured or creative audience. Within the Cancer vertical for instance, the Keen Readers & Writers Tribe ranks highly, while in Mental Health, London Creatives is the third largest tribe. 

Overall, these Tribes are liberal, fairly affluent and tend to live in cities. The fact there are Tribes reflecting these attributes across all studies indicate that Creatives and culturally-minded individuals are a key audience for charities.

Key data points:Culture can be a slightly nebulous term, but here we are seeing more classical cultural interests reflected with literature, the arts and theatre indexing highly across all verticals. Cultural institutions such as The Barbican, the British Film Institute (BFI), the National Theatre and The British Library all indicate that these audiences are highly literate and erudite. 

They have refined tastes and many work in the creative industries themselves with bio keywords such as ‘author’, ‘writer’, ‘artist’, ‘director’, ‘photographer’ and ‘designer’ all showing up frequently. They are also most often city-dwelling, with London as the top geographic location.

City Dwelling Creatives within the Environment Awareness study interact with cultural institutions such as BFI and The Barbican.
City Dwelling Creatives within the Environment Awareness study interact with cultural institutions such as BFI and The Barbican.

Audience differentiations: There are nuances within the Creative Tribes across the verticals. Those engaged with Cancer, for instance, showcase a heavy skew towards literature while those engaged with the Environment tend to have more contemporary creative tastes with film and music standing out as distinct interests. Key influencers for them include Pitchfork magazine, Glastonbury, BAFTA and the BFI.

The creative Tribes engaged with International Crisis and Mental Health however are more broad, and tend to have an all-encompassing engagement with the artistic world. The Culture Vultures in the International Crisis study for instance, have diverse cultural influencers such as The Institute for Contemporary Arts (ICA), Almeida Theatre and Bloomsbury Books.

Fluctuations over time:

The evolution of Creative Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.
The evolution of Creative Audiences from 2020 to 2022 across each study.

We can see that over the last three years, there has been an increase in engagement with three sectors (with variable change in 2021), indicating a growth in awareness and perhaps a desire to be more generous with giving post-pandemic. However, Environment is the only vertical that has an overall decrease. While this could be blamed on the COP26 bump and following decline, the share of the audience is actually less than in 2020, which means they could be directing their donations elsewhere.

Key Takeaways: From understanding to action

Analysing the top audiences across these four charitable causes, we can begin to see how audience insights can help deliver effective fundraising strategies. Whether you are combating donor fatigue or looking to target new audiences, here are some key takeaways to ensure success:

Understanding is key. 

For charities, the first step in keeping your audiences engaged and thereby preventing donor fatigue, is understanding your audience. Building a genuine understanding can help you develop strategies around positioning, targeting, influencer strategy and more – which will each take you from audience insights and understanding to action and conversion.

Propensity to donate or sponsor

People still care about giving and may care more than ever. What is changing is the audience mix based on interests, demographic and world affairs. People's fundamental values and beliefs aren't the only factor that impacts people's desire to give, it's also about a) relevancy that connects someone to a cause b) trending world and national issues that can pivot generosity and c) and audience type and/or individuals ability to financially give. See following points to help further on this.

Bolster your data strategy

With fundraising increasingly going digital, it is crucial that you have a solid CRM data strategy in place. Having oversight of your fundraiser and donor data will enable you to dive deeper into those who are already engaged with your cause. Funraisin’s platform enables you to take control of your data, grow your supporter base, and build more meaningful connections along the way.

Look for the crossover appeal

We only studied four causes and four audiences, but we already found crossover Tribes that were present within the different studies, indicating there are opportunities to find new audiences in unexpected places. For example, the Nature Lovers tribe within the Mental Health study indicates ways to connect the causes of environmental and mental wellbeing.

Get creative with your creative 

Knowing your audience is not simply about knowing their demographics, it is about truly understanding what it is they are interested in – what do they care about beyond your charity? Once you build a deeper understanding of their wider interests, you can create bespoke communications, slightly tweaking your creative activations, depending on the audience and channel.

Identify your key media channels 

Some of the audiences outlined above may not all be on one specific platform. Knowing your audience and their individual media preferences (single or multi-channel) is key to building relevant content that they will actually want to see and resonate with.

Go beyond insights 

While audience insights are a crucial starting point, charities need to then activate them in the best possible way. The digital marketing landscape is undergoing its own fluctuations as marketers adjust to a post-cookie future. FiftyAurora, Fifty’s unique contextual proposition, can take all the insights that emerge from its platform and activate them across the web using next-generation contextual targeting. This results in ensuring you place your advertising in the most relevant places on the web.

Personalise experiences 

Whilst core brand user experiences can be effective, we also need to ensure that we are personalising content to align with supporters expectations. Whether that be fast and easy transactions, or personalised end-to-end digital journeys, Funraisin can help charities know their audience and create unique and optimised flows for a specific audience, individual or advert where they would convert better than a generalised experience.

How can you use this data?

This audience data can be used for any adverts and media purchasing to acquire users into any of your campaigns. Once the audience is created it can be used within your media and advert campaign management tool. 

You may be asking what's the difference between using something like this versus say Facebook Audience Tool. Applying a methodology that collates behavioural data from multiple channels provides you with a more representative insight into how people engage with key causes, within the confines of different social platforms. 

People use different platforms for different reasons which reflects the insights gained. Think how people use twitter vs facebook. Having this acute understanding of both your existing & target audience will enable you to confidently utilise your purchasing and acquisition spend - maximising your ROI and value of every new sign up. 

Another way to use the data is to also leverage your charities first data of people already engaging with your cause. This can sit within your CRM. This data can then be used to look across multiple social channels to then build a bigger audience and insights on this tribe.


It's more important than ever to understand your audience and what they resonate with. We can no longer look at audiences without taking into account the impact of wider global events on changing interests.

People's generosity has likely increased, so too has demands for charity services. It could be a time of opportunity to harness the “for good” energy of people and communities). To do that, we must understand audiences' motivations and interests at a much more granular level. 

Charities need to prioritise understanding their audience on a human level and embrace data-led solutions that integrate real-time social listening tools and sentiment analysis to build a greater picture of their current and future audience. We can't forget the simple things that make a campaign work, but technology should enable very simple and small actions to make big things happen.

Organisations need to level up on audience insights and introduce more great technologies that are now more accessible to more charities. In doing so, they can expect to optimise their giving campaigns and see better returns on their media spend.

Our goal is to harness Fifty audiences and campaign builders to drive better marketing ROI whilst using the best digital fundraising tools from Funraisin to drive higher conversion and engagement to increase the revenue for charities.

To learn more about how Fifty can help your charity better understand your current and future giving audience, get in touch with Fifty here.

To learn more about how to develop your next fundraising campaign and increase revenues, get in touch with Funraisin here.

Read more

To view this content please enter your email address below

Touchdown! Uncovering the Fans of the Six Nations Championship

A deep dive into the audiences tuning into this year’s legendary Rugby tournament.

Related Articles

Running the Distance: How Runna and Russ Cook are Changing the Game

On April 7th, Russ Cook finished running the entire length of Africa.

Decathlon UK Selects Fifty as Media Agency Partner to Fuel Growth with AI-Driven Strategies

Leading sports retailer Decathlon UK, has announced Fifty as its new technology-led media agency partner.

A powerful team: Fifty & Juice announce new partnership

Fifty and Juice have teamed up to provide startups and challenger brands with a comprehensive growth solution like no other.

Fifty Journeys: Grig

Meet our Senior Software Engineer, Grig!

Touchdown! Uncovering the Fans of the Six Nations Championship

A deep dive into the audiences tuning into this year’s legendary Rugby tournament.

Wrapping Up 2023 with 13 Awards Shortlisted

Fifty is Shortlisted for a Total of 13 Different Awards Throughout 2023

Ending the Year with a Big Win at the Growing Business Awards

Fifty wins B2B Business of the Year: Medium at the 2023 Growing Business Awards