At a difficult time, one real positive about the first lockdown was the surge we saw in community spirit. From the weekly Clap for Carers, to supermarkets carrying the flag for NHS workers and the vulnerable, the many local WhatsApp support groups, and Captain Tom’s incredible fundraising feat, there was a real spark in solidarity.
In many respects, supermarkets were the first movers in responding to and building this through the way they stepped up their home delivery services and ran special dedicated shopping hours for those who most needed them.
All of this had a very real impact on keeping the public mood buoyant under the circumstances.
In fact in April last year, our public sentiment tracker showed that 64% of the 2,000 members of the UK public we survey each week agreed with the statement ‘I’m heartened by the way coronavirus has brought communities closer together’.
At the same time, the tracker showed that trust in the UK government was high with 47% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they trusted it entirely to get things right. People could see a clear problem and a simple solution – stay home, and protect each other and the NHS. This helped foster that sense of togetherness.
But over the next months, this trust in the state, and that spark of solidarity and community spirit that had galvanised many during the first phase of the pandemic slowly fell away. As lockdown’s easing saw people able to focus once more on family and friends, begin to socialise again and treat themselves to longed-for treats like haircuts and gym workouts, the focus returned inwards.
Now, one year later, that feeling of positivity about communities coming closer together has fallen by nearly 20 percentage points to just 45%. Similarly, trust in UK government has fallen to 27%.
Because it’s a significant drop, people are feeling it, but due to the slow rate of erosion, they won’t have noticed it happening. It’s what we call The Hope Gap –there in the background, influencing empathy for others and suppressing a sense of hope.
But charities can help.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve strongly encouraged charities to turn up the volume – to show leadership and provide hope: hope that is needed to pull people together, to inspire and motivate action in the form of support.
Unlike the government and communities, charities maintained trust throughout this period. They showed people that support was still there for those who needed it, but also that there was much they themselves could do to make a difference.
Strong visions and emotive stories like Barnardo’s and Shelter’s powerful Christmas 2020 campaigns demonstrated what could be done to lead society to a better future.
And with research showing that it is vital for a donor to believe progress has or can be made towards a goal before they will give, it was just as important for charities at this difficult time too.
Now, as we exit this most recent lockdown, that gap means there’s still a role for charities to continue to be leaders in bringing hope.
It’s something the charity sector, better than any other, can offer. And it’s not complicated, or expensive. In fact it’s within the power of every charity to make this difference, simply by making them feel the difference they have made, feel your thanks – and feel the hope that things will improve.
Fill that hope gap, and your donors will love you for it.