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UK Charity Donations Rise But Fewer People Are Giving

27 March 2018 at 8:54 am
Wendy Williams
Fewer people in the UK are giving but they are giving more, according to the largest study of giving conducted in the UK.

Wendy Williams | 27 March 2018 at 8:54 am


UK Charity Donations Rise But Fewer People Are Giving
27 March 2018 at 8:54 am

Fewer people in the UK are giving but they are giving more, according to the largest study of giving conducted in the UK.

Research carried out by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has revealed donations to charity rose from £9.7 billion (A$17.8 billion) to £10.3 billion (A$18.9 billion) during 2017.

However, the annual UK Giving report, which includes interviews with more than 12,000 people by YouGov throughout 2017, found that fewer people gave.

CAF chief executive Sir John Low said it was too early to tell if this represented a trend.

“We have tracked the generosity of British people across the UK for more than a decade, and their enduring willingness to support the work of charities is something of which we should all be proud,” Low said.

“Although total donations are slightly up, the number of people giving has fallen.

“It’s far too soon to tell if that represents a trend, but we need to be careful if giving becomes concentrated in fewer, larger donations.”

A total of 88 per cent people were reported to have participated in at least one charitable or social action over the previous year, compared to 89 per cent during 2016.

When people were asked about their behaviour in the previous four weeks, just under two thirds (65 per cent) claimed to have participated in the last four weeks, compared to 68 per cent during 2016.

The report authors said although this was “a disappointing movement”, it was key to note that both of the levels were still higher than those who had participated in the previous year (79 per cent) and during the previous four weeks (57 per cent) when asked in 2015.

Overall, the report revealed that despite a decline in the number of people giving to charity since 2016, the average (mean) amount given in 2017 was up from £40 (A$73) to £44 (A$80).

Cash remained the main way in which people give, while the most common way people reported being approached to donate was on the street (37 per cent), followed by on television (30 per cent) and via direct mail (26 per cent), which was consistent with 2016.

The top five causes donors gave to also remained the same in 2017 as it was in 2016.

Medical research remained the most popular cause, followed by animal welfare, children or young people, hospitals and hospices and overseas aid and disaster relief.

The report found that women were more likely than men to participate in charitable and social activity and notably, women were also donating more than before, with the average monthly donation for women increasing from £35 (A$64) to £42 (A$77).

Low said it was telling that the gap between participation by men and women had widened, but they would have to see if there were longer term changes taking place.

“It is telling that men are less likely to give money than women, although those who do on average give more, men are also less likely to volunteer,” he said.

“But the good news is that young millennials seem to be giving more than in previous years and that bodes well for the future.”

For the first time since the survey began 16 to 24 year olds gave more than those aged 25 to 34.

Meanwhile trust in charities was reported as stable, with around half the UK population (51 per cent) agreeing that charities are trustworthy, consistent with 2016.

“While we in charities must always strive for the best and never be complacent about the high standards expected of us, the enduring trust people have in our country’s voluntary sector should be a source of pride, and something precious we need to protect,” Low said.

The findings come after the Giving Australia 2016 found similar trends taking place in Australia where fewer people were found to be giving more.

An estimated 14.9 million Australian adults (80.8 per cent) gave $12.5 billion to charities and nonprofit organisations (NPOs) over 12 months in 2015-16

While the percentage of people donating slightly decreased, the average donation increased in real terms by $210.16.

This trend away from giving was also highlighted more recently in the CAF World Giving Index.

The report, released in September 2017, showed there had been a global decrease in giving since the previous report, with every Western country in the top 20, including Australia and the UK, having a decreased score.

Australia was revealed to have fallen out of the top five most generous countries – falling three places to sixth, behind Myanmar, Indonesia, Kenya, New Zealand and the USA.

Giving Australia 2016 lead researcher and director of QUT’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS), Associate Professor Wendy Scaife told Pro Bono News there was a pattern of less giving taking place.

“I think that you could certainly say that there is a pattern in the western world for there to be less participation,” Scaife said.

She said volunteering around the world was also “said to be a little bit in trouble”.

“In Giving Australia we did find a slight bump upwards but that was counter to what the ABS had found and, we know because we probed in our household survey, we spent time with people talking to them about what they did and pointing out that it was in fact volunteering,” she said.

“There’s always an issue in giving studies with people not seeing what they do as volunteering. So if they do something for their church, you know the families in the district through their church they don’t see that as volunteering. And if they serve on a board some of them don’t see that as volunteering. So when you sort of say ‘oh well that in fact is volunteering for your community’. They go oh ‘okay no I had a different picture of what volunteering was’.

“So in Australia we have still got that pattern.”

Scaife said that the expectation that as more people retire they will automatically start to volunteer was not eventuating in Australia.

“And of course that comes back to how you engage people, how each organisation devotes any resources to that, has a volunteer coordinator or makes the effort to engage and look after volunteers because there is a cost attached to that,” she said.

“It takes time and effort and money to look after anybody. It’s like looking after staff even though they’re not paid.”

But she said while there was a “sense of things going back a little bit”, pitted against this was the intergenerational wealth trend.

“That is much heralded around the world because of the ageing population and that’s similar in a lot of Western nations particularly. Whilst it’s not intended to be the bonanza that it was once thought it would be, because of the stock market crashes and the Global Financial Crisis and all that, the potential is still very high because of the healthy property prices in places like Australia in recent decades,” Scaife said.

“So when estates have changed hands to another generation, or will change hands, they are often quite decent estates. And the same in the UK. There has been that situation as well with some areas that were once you know downtrodden inner city like here have all of a sudden become very popular and very expensive in terms of properties.

“So you’ve got that kind of counter trend running there that there’s the possibility of more money available to give but we don’t know that we’re going to see that flow.

“And of course that may flow also through bequests. We would hope it would, but again unless charities are actually letting people know that this is possible and engaging them and wanting them to understand that this is something that could be meaningful in their life, relating it to the person rather than ‘we need money’. I think all of those things come into play.”

She said figures such as the latest report were important.

“Because they make us stop and think and look at that trend and try and figure out for our charities or our non-profit is that the trend, are we bucking the trend. What are we doing well that we should be doing more of, all of those things,” Scaife said.

“You know we talk about the democratization of giving and for those who are interested in giving it is happening, collective giving, the fact that we can jump on and do something for a peer. All those kinds of things are happening. Technology is making it easier for all of us to give. Also things like community foundations, the smaller amounts that it takes to set up a sub fund. There’s definitely a democratization of giving but there’s still obviously people who are not finding disposable income to give.

“So some of it would be motivation, you know they haven’t been turned on to giving, but some of it also would be giving is from the disposable part of the income, and if people haven’t got it, the energy is too high, the bill for that is too high, people haven’t got it to give. So that’s more of a concern too.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.


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