The number of people giving to charity in the UK is declining significantly, according to new research from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). Between January and April 2022, an estimated 4.9m fewer people said they donated to charity or sponsored someone in the previous year, compared to the same months in 2019.
The CAF UK Giving report is the largest study of household donor behaviour in the UK and this latest research tracks giving trends throughout 2021 and into the first four months of 2022 as the pandemic receded.
Although the number of people giving has been steadily decreasing since 2016, this trend stalled during the initial stages of the pandemic. But as life returns to normal, donations and sponsorship are continuing to fall below pre-pandemic levels- a trend which is consistent across age groups and regions. From January to April 2022, only 57% of people said they donated or sponsored someone in the previous 12 months, compared to 65% in 2019. Although face-to-face fundraising events are resuming, only 13% of people have given in this way in 2022, compared to 23% in the same months in 2019.
The only exception has been the spike in donations to charities helping people affected by the crisis in Ukraine, as the UK public responded with record-setting generosity. In March 2022, around a third of people (32%) said they had donated money specifically in response to the crisis, and the average donation increased to £85 – significantly higher than usual levels, representing the largest monthly donation average CAF has ever recorded in its UK Giving research.
CAF estimates that the total amount given in the UK during 2021 was £10.7 billion, a substantial decrease from the £11.3 billion given in 2020. Inflationary pressures also mean that in real terms, it is likely that charities will have fewer financial resources.
Amidst rising living costs, around one in eight (13%) are currently considering cutting back on donations to charity in the next six months whilst one in 12 people (8%) said they had already chosen not to make a one-off donation (March-May 2022).
CAF research shows that animal welfare continues to be the most popular cause area, with 28% of donors giving directly to this area in the past four weeks in 2021. This was followed by children or young people (23%) and medical research (21%).
Neil Heslop OBE, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said:
“This report will be sombre reading for the charity sector. Despite the huge generosity shown by the public to support charities helping people in Ukraine, our research shows a very concerning trend of fewer people giving to charity overall.
“Despite the return of opportunities for fundraising events following a dampened couple of years, we have seen donations levels fall even further. Combined with rising living costs affecting donations to charities currently and in the months to come, this paints a worrying picture for the future of many charities who rely on mass giving.
“We know that during times of crisis, people respond with generosity, as shown by the tremendous charitable efforts during the pandemic, and the significant donations towards humanitarian aid to help those fleeing conflict in Ukraine. We would urge the British public to give what they can to these charities supporting the most vulnerable in our society or consider helping in other ways, such as through volunteering.”
Sam Mercadante, Policy & Insight Manager, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, commented:
“The UK Giving report paints a stark picture. Charities are being squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis: more people are seeking support, donations are falling, and inflation is eroding the value of income. Although charities are vital to help communities through this crisis, fewer people feel able to give to causes important to them.
“There is a risk that a larger proportion of society will be unable to shape the world they live in through donations. We are worried that deprived communities, that could gain the most from the economic and social benefits a strong civil society, will further miss out.
“Charities benefit us all – they connect us and provide support where there is nowhere else to turn. We hope this year to see people donating where they can, and have called on government to support giving.”
Notes to Editors
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.The survey was carried out online and the figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 16+).Findings for the calendar year 2021 are based on the responses of 13,575 individuals, unless otherwise indicated. The sample is constructed in such a way that it is nationally representative of the UK in terms of respondents’ sex, age, region/nation and social grade.