What charities are doing to help during the cost of living crisis
Many charities are stepping up to support people in need during the UK’s cost of living crisis. But how are they making an impact, and are different sectors taking different approaches? We researched 100 of the UK’s most recognised charities to find out.
Here’s what charities are doing to help during the cost of living crisis – and what you can learn from them.
Demand for cost of living content is increasing
The cost of living in the UK has been outpacing people’s means for the last couple of years. With inflation rising and real household incomes falling, 92% of adults reported an increase in their cost of living in December 2022.
Google searches for ‘help with the cost of living crisis’ and similar phrases picked up in May 2022, around the same time the government announced support measures to help people with rising costs. Demand for information and support for the cost of living crisis continued to rise throughout the year.
At Torchbox, we work with charities and other nonprofits that exist to make a difference, from humanitarian and health charities to cultural institutions and universities. We wanted to know how top UK charities are responding to the cost of living crisis. Are organisations taking a blanket approach, or are different sectors (e.g., health and culture) offering different types of content? And, crucially, are their efforts optimised for SEO so that people can find information in the first place?
What charities are doing to help during the cost of living crisis
Using a survey-informed list of the UK’s 100 most-popular charities, we analysed:
- how many charities mention ‘cost of living’ on their homepages
- whether charities that mention it then link to additional, more-detailed content
- how many charities include a cost of living link in their main navigation menu
We categorised the charities by sector*, including:
- armed forces
- mental health
- young people
Here’s what we discovered.
24% of charities reference ‘cost of living’ on their homepage
Over a third of the organisations we reviewed that reference ‘cost of living’ on their homepage are health charities. This includes the UK’s most-popular charity, Macmillan Cancer Support.
Macmillan features cost of living information prominently on its homepage. A hero banner at the top of the page spotlights an emergency grant appeal, which cites that “one in four people living with cancer in the UK feel that they just ‘can’t afford life’” – a really powerful statistic. The banner’s call to action encourages people to donate to the appeal, which goes “directly towards funding Macmillan Grants”.
Macmillan has successfully identified that the cost of living crisis directly impacts the people they exist to help – people living with cancer – and responded with a campaign to raise funds to provide additional financial support.
A gallery tile lower down the page specifically highlights the cost of living crisis:
‘Whether you need help paying bills, advice on benefits entitlement, or just an ear to listen, we’re here to help. Read more on the different forms of support available.’
This section directs people to Macmillan’s dedicated cost of living hub, which is also accessible via the main navigation menu. Called ‘Help with the cost of living and cancer’, this keyword-friendly hub includes sub-pages on household bills, emotional support, and stories about how Macmillan has helped people affected by the cost of living and cancer.
Macmillan also uses this hub as an opportunity to link to their evergreen resources, too, including a support line, general financial guidance for people living with cancer, and more.
Overall, Macmillan provides a great example of how charities, especially health charities, can approach this topic helpfully and tactfully.
Different sectors are taking different approaches
Unlike Macmillan, the majority of charities that reference ‘cost of living’ on their homepage don’t include it in their main navigation menus. Shelter is an example of a charity that chooses to signpost to this information directly from the homepage, as a gallery tile in its homepage’s ‘Take action’ section.
The tile states: ‘You can help us protect renters from the cost of living crisis. Find out more.’. The link takes people to a Shelter’s cost of living campaign page, encouraging people to email their MPs or read further information if they themselves are in need, including pages on grant support, getting help with rent, and more.
Like Macmillan, Shelter has identified that their audience is directly affected by the crisis, citing that ‘almost 2.5 million renters are either behind or constantly struggling to pay their rent – an increase of 45% since April 2022.’ This effectively encourages able readers to donate to the cause, and it signposts readers in need to additional support content.
Unlike Macmillan, however, Shelter has not created a dedicated content hub for the topic. Even before the crisis, Shelter’s audience included many people who may have been struggling with rent, bills, or other financial challenges. Shelter’s entire website covers how people can get support with the cost of living, so it’s okay that they’ve not created a dedicated hub or linked to relevant content in their main navigation menu. It makes more sense for Macmillan to have a specific content hub, since the rest of the site covers mostly non-financial, medical information. Different sectors are taking different approaches based on what’s most appropriate for them and their audiences.
Here are some best practices for charities that are considering creating content related to the cost of living crisis:
- Determine if your target audience(s) is directly and significantly affected by the cost of living crisis. If so, highlight how your organisation can help on your homepage.
- Are you able to create a significant amount of new, relevant content on this topic? If so, then create a dedicated cost of living content hub with useful resources, including links to evergreen information such as your support line, general financial guidance, and information on unique benefits or grants available to your audience. But if you already have lots of financial resources on your site, or if cost of living is a continual challenge for your target audience, then it’s okay to signpost readers to existing content instead of creating a new content hub.
- Include a link to your content hub in the main navigation menu. If it’s so important to your audience that you need to create a dedicated content hub, then you should signal to search engines that it’s important by featuring it in your navigation menu.
Charities can learn from others in their sector
About a fifth of the top 100 charities are humanitarian aid charities, the most well-known on the list being the British Red Cross.
‘Supporting people in the UK and around the world’, the British Red Cross features both domestic and international messaging on its homepage. The charity balances these two priorities by featuring separate sections on UK causes (such as the cost of living crisis) and international causes (such as their Ukraine appeal).
Instead of linking to a dedicated cost of living content hub, this section of the British Red Cross’s homepage directs people to existing, evergreen pages covering related topics: help with money problems, wellbeing support, and tips on keeping warm during winter.
The ‘Get help with money problems’ page, in particular, acknowledges that many people viewing the page will be there seeking cost of living information (the first section is called ‘Help with the cost of living crisis’). The page covers other topics, too, including emergency support, how to find local food banks, and emotional and wellbeing support. This information will still be important after the crisis ends, however, so it makes sense that the British Red Cross placed this content on a permanent URL that will always remain relevant, even after the crisis is over: /get-help/get-help-with-money-problems. Plus, any backlinks (links from other websites) this page receives during the crisis will continue to bolster the page’s search authority well into the future.
In addition to providing information and support content for people visiting the website in the UK, this balance between domestic and international causes speaks to potential donors, as well.
Torchbox’s Head of User Research, Annie Lewis, was recently working with a charity client of ours (not the British Red Cross). She spoke to people about their donation journey, including choosing how much to donate. One of the findings? That money is tight in the UK, so charities should be mindful of how they approach fundraising during the cost of living crisis.
Here’s what some of the research participants said:
- “Obviously, my/our situations are a lot better than these countries, but the living crisis is awful… I do have money in my bank, but…I wouldn’t constantly be able to donate.”
- “I think you should be starting from a tenner or something, I dunno. Not [the higher, suggested donation amount]. It’s a bit steep because of the cost of living now.
- “[Perhaps there should be some text that acknowledges that the] cost of living has gone up. We understand it can be difficult to donate… Any amount would help… I think some sort of content here will be great with the current issues going on in the country.”
Even humanitarian charities that focus exclusively on international support can benefit from acknowledging the cost of living impact on UK-based donors – for example, by accepting one-time donations or allowing people to type in their preferred donation amount. This approach makes people feel seen and heard, acknowledging that people living in the UK may be struggling with the cost of living crisis. And it encourages people to give what they can instead of giving beyond their means.
Here are some best practices for charities that focus heavily on fundraising within the UK:
- Use on-page copy to acknowledge the cost of living crisis, helping your potential donors feel empowered to give whatever they feel comfortable with.
- Consider accepting one-time donations, not just monthly donations, if you would like to expand your pool of donors.
- Consider allowing people to type in their preferred donation amount. This enables people to give what they can instead of giving beyond their means (or not giving at all).
- Keep getting to know your audience. Bonny Colville-Hyde – Product Director at Torchbox – has written about ways to understand the impact of the cost of living crisis on your audience, and adapting products and services to their changing needs and behaviours.
Many charities aren’t addressing the cost of living crisis
Or if they are, they’re not highlighting it on their homepages. Out of the 100 charities we researched, 76% don’t directly reference ‘cost of living’ on their homepages, although a small number of these do include a cost of living link in their main navigation menu (such as the British Heart Foundation).
So, here’s the big question: should every charity spotlight the cost of living crisis on their websites? Before dedicating a portion of your charity’s homepage to this topic, you should ask yourself:
- does the cost of living crisis directly and significantly impact your audience or beneficiaries?
- is your organisation in a position to help, either directly or through informational content?
As a starting point, speak to subject matter experts within your organisation or network to answer these questions. You can also conduct user research (to hear directly from your audience) and keyword research (to find out what, if anything, people are searching for that connects ‘cost of living’ with your particular sector or service).
And remember, even if the cost of living crisis isn’t affecting the communities your organisation works with, it will almost certainly be affecting potential donors based in the UK.
Guide Dogs is an example of a popular charity that doesn’t reference ‘cost of living’ on their homepage. So, should it?
A hero banner at the top of the page encourages people to volunteer by fostering a future guide dog – identifying potential fosterers as their primary audience. In this case, Guide Dogs is not the best-placed charity to support with a dedicated content hub with cost of living information and advice.
Guide Dogs has taken the right approach; the charity doesn’t need to spotlight cost of living information on their website.
However, they do have information about the costs of fostering a guide dog, which is likely an important consideration for potential fosterers due to the economic climate:
‘Volunteering for Guide Dogs should never leave you out of pocket. We’ll make sure we pay any expenses related to volunteering with us, including veterinary costs, food costs for the puppy and other materials needed for the puppy’s training.’
It would be a nice touch to emphasise more prominently that fostering a guide dog doesn’t cost a fosterer anything – particularly on their homepage.
Many other charities do feature cost of living information on their websites – just not on their homepages.
The Trussell Trust is another organisation with multiple audiences, including people looking for local food banks as well as potential donors. Although specific articles refer to the cost of living crisis (such as a blog from November 2022, which cites startling statistics about how many people have been forced to turn to food banks for the first time during the crisis), the homepage doesn’t directly reference the crisis. Adding contextual information like this to the site’s homepage could help persuade more people to donate.
Still, The Trussell Trust’s donation page is a good example of relevance and tact. The page’s copy tells people that their ‘donation helps us be there for everyone who needs us during the cost of living crisis’. People also have the option to make a single donation or sign up for a monthly donation, including the option to type in a custom donation amount. This page strikes the perfect tone, and similar to Shelter, people can browse the site’s wider content for general information related to the cost of living and getting support.
Charities can make a positive difference during the cost of living crisis
By researching 100 of the UK’s most-popular charities, we were able to quantify how many charities are spotlighting the cost of living crisis on their websites, analyse some standout examples of best practices from the most-prominent sectors, and determine when some charities simply don’t need to create dedicated cost of living resources.
If you want to learn more about what sorts of information your audience is searching for related to the cost of living crisis, get in touch. Torchbox’s combination of SEO, user research, and other digital services can help you understand your audience and create the content they need.
38% of the charities we researched were in the health sector. 19% of the charities we researched were in the humanitarian sector. All other sectors were <10% of our sample size. We tended to focus this review on the most prominent sectors, but as we said above, you can apply best practices across sectors, as relevant to your organisation and audience(s).
*These sectors aren’t scientific, since some charities could fit within multiple sectors, such as young people and mental health. We wanted to determine if different sectors are taking different approaches, so we assigned each charity to one sector (whichever is most relevant to their mission).
This content is the collaborative work of Jenny Hearn, Joey Gartin, Jessica Mackereth and the wider SEO team at Torchbox.