Social research: for charities navigating funding cuts.

Aoife Hamilton




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Social research has become more important than ever for charities hit by funding cuts and trying to do more with less. Charity CEOs and senior managers who are developing strategic plans for income generation – incorporating fundraising, grant applications and earned income – are under increasing pressure as competition for funds increases.

The Power of Market and Social Research in informing strategic planning

Strategic planning is key for successful charity leaders to set a clear course of action and ensure the most efficient allocation of resources to deliver maximum impact.  The best strategic planning is informed by evidence.

This is where market and social research emerge as invaluable assets. Through leveraging the insights gained from social and market research, charities and social enterprises can make better informed, data-driven decisions enabling them to make a positive change for individuals and society. 

Understanding your donors, beneficiaries and stakeholders

Social research helps charities and social enterprises to engage with stakeholders and gain a deep understanding of the needs, preferences, and expectations of donors, beneficiaries, and partners. It will support you:

Navigate the Landscape: Research keeps organisations attuned to the wider economic and political environment. It helps in identifying emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities – and understanding how these are viewed by your stakeholders.

Maximise Impact: With resources limited, how they are allocated is critical. Market research helps to identify how you can target programmes and initiatives to deliver the greatest impact and incorporate learning to make improvements going forward. It is also key in measuring that impact and helping to communicate it to stakeholders.

Secure sustainable funding: As funding becomes more limited, competition increases for grants, contracts, sponsorships, and donations. Market research offers insights into donor behaviour and provides the evidence base for successful funding applications – enabling you to optimise your fundraising and income generation efforts.

Market and social research during times of uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, strategic planning isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Integrating social and market research into your strategic planning equips you with the insights required to support the resilience and sustainability of your organisation. Adopting an evidence-based, data-driven approach is key to enabling charities and social enterprises to thrive despite funding cuts, political turbulence, and economic challenges – also critically, to deliver much-needed support to their beneficiaries.

Many charitable organisations in Northern Ireland are already using research to help them navigate these turbulent times. Joining them and using an evidence-based, data-driven approach is an important step in reinforcing your organisation’s financial sustainability and resilience and ensuring you continue to create a meaningful impact.

If you would like to find out more about how our services can help you, please email Corporate Services Director, Aoife Hamilton.

About the author: Aoife Hamilton

As Director of Corporate Development at CARD Group Research & Insight, Aoife draws from more than a decade of experience in policy and social research gained predominantly in the charity and social enterprise sector. Aoife holds a BA (Oxon) in History and Politics and a CMI Level 7 Certificate in Strategic Leadership and Management.