December 6, 2011; Source: Fenton Communications |Fenton and GlobeScan have surveyed 1,084 people in the U.K. and 1,131 people in the U.S. (aged 18 or older), who made donations of at least $20 in the past year, as part of their Social Good Survey to gauge public attitudes on “nonprofit leadership and brands.” Some of the findings are to be expected, but there are some nuggets in the mix:

1.    The British and the Americans both think nonprofits are more effective than other sectors in bringing about social change, but Americans have more faith in charities for that purpose (55 percent) than the British (41 percent). The interesting data are in the national differences on the other sectors: The British see the media as more effective for social change (36 percent) than their U.S. counterparts (29 percent), the British have much more faith in their national government vis-à-vis social change (27 percent to 19 percent), but Americans are much more trusting in private enterprise (32 percent to 20 percent).

2.    In 2010, 36 percent of American respondents said that they planned to increase their charitable giving, but in 2011 the proportion fell by half, to 18 percent.

3.    Both Americans and British give to charities because of the match between the charities and the causes they believe in—44 percent for Americans, 54 percent for the British—but Americans put much more emphasis on local charitable activity as a reason than do the British (15 percent to 4 percent).

4.    Only a fifth of British respondents and a third of U.S. respondents say that they know “a great deal” about how the charities they give to are run and managed, but the different between the two nations is intriguing. Are Americans citing the information available from GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the Wise Giving Alliance, or are they referring to the public availability of 990s, or are they suggesting that the charities’ use of media gives them information that they need about the organizations’ internal operations?

5.    Survey respondents from both nations value nonprofits’ use of social media, though interestingly 40 percent of British respondents said that they didn’t use social media compared to 28 percent of Americans.

6.    While it is no surprise to learn that younger respondents were more likely to use social media such as Facebook or Twitter to engage with or promote their charities, in the U.S., and even more so in the U.K., even these young people think television news and television commercials and appeals are the most effective strategies for charitable campaigns and causes.

The information in this survey about attitudes toward charities might not knock your socks off, but the information about attitudes toward other sectors, as well as toward media, should give pause for thought.—Rick Cohen