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Back to basic needs

Updated: May 1, 2020

Our weekly tracker is showing us that people are retrenching back to basic human needs.

20% of people are concerned that they will run out of food, we're still seeing high levels of terror reported about 'the world outside' and more than ever, people are worried about and missing family, friends and a sense of belonging.

You've probably heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If not, the principle is that if you're worried about your safety or where your next meal is coming from, then a new haircut, a sixpack and world peace won't be high on your list of concerns.

Maslow proposed that a person should have their basic needs met, before they could move on to expressing psychological needs and so on up the pyramid.

Of course people are more complex than this and so this rather rigid theoretical model has been variously adapted.

The principle behind this is still important and valuable.

If charities communicate with supporters about 'higher needs' (e.g. peace, climate change, social justice) when those supporters are focused on fulfilling their basic needs (e.g. will I lose my job? can I feed my family?) they're simply not going to listen and worse still, could be upset or offended by the charity's lack of insight and empathy.

This will be bad for building long term support and loyalty.

During the first few weeks of lockdown, we saw unprecedented levels of trust in government with this peaking at a net score of 43% at the beginning of April 2020.

What can charities do?

Keep communicating, reach out

It sounds obvious, but at the moment, it's better to over-communicate than under-communicate. People can’t get enough.

Be out there, give reassurance, and where you can, remove uncertainty. People are looking for support, leadership and hope that somebody has things 'under control'.

Building togetherness

If you want to continue building loyalty through this period, it's essential that you think about the drivers of loyalty:

  • Commitment

  • Satisfaction

  • Trust

Commitment relates very much to your cause and we are seeing that some causes are seen as relatively more important now in a world with COVID-19.

If a charity helps elderly, health or homelessness for example, then commitment as a driver of loyalty will be stronger at the moment.

This will be good for short-term support now and for building longer term value.

However, if a charity works on environmental or overseas aid projects, then relatively speaking and on average, commitment will be down. This will have a direct impact on loyalty and support.

The risk is that charities attempt to flex their cause to the current crisis. This is more likely to undermine trust than to build commitment.

Satisfaction and the Supporter Experience are more important than ever.

People are anxious and scared. Many are going through their own personal crises and many (most?) supporters will have limited capacity to take on fully the crises facing charities at this point.

It’s easy to get stuck down the route of trying to be important. But there are other ways. You have to be relevant to what they're going through. Now.

  • Listen to your supporters.

  • Understand what they are going through.

  • Respond to their concerns.

  • Solve their problems (maybe the little ones).

And only then let them solve yours; because supporters feel good by doing this.

4% of people list ‘fundraising for a charity’ as one of the top 4 things they yearn for when all this is over.

Why make them wait!

Download the week five summary here:


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