Are we seeing a worrying trend in giving?
Susan Pinkney, Head of Research at Charities Aid Foundation, looks at what the UK Giving report published this week shows about British generosity and whether we're seeing a worrying trend with fewer people giving to charity.
It’s been four years since I joined Charities Aid Foundation as Head of Research and, in that time, I have become used to our annual UK Giving reports being widely received as a celebration of British generosity as we shout about the circa £10 billion that we give annually.
We, of course, remain an incredibly generous country and this year’s report reveals that the amount raised has remained stable in surpassing that £10 billion mark. But this year we felt the need to hit pause on any celebratory tone to note that we’re seeing a worrying trend with fewer people having taken part in charitable and social activities over the previous year, and within this, fewer giving money both directly to charity and via sponsoring a loved one, friend or colleague participating in a charitable event.
The obvious next question to our findings is why? There are without doubt a number of reasons at play in this trend – which we don’t see as being limited to the UK – something which we’ll explore more when we release the CAF World Giving Index in October. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to think about what the reasons could be.
It’s timely that the IoF put out its Fundraising for Impact report on the evening of UK Giving’s launch as there are a number of clues in here. Is it that charities are focusing more inwardly and looking to drive relationships with existing supporters, to the detriment of attracting new donors to the charity market as a whole? Certainly this would support the ‘fewer people giving more’ aspect. Or, is it due to GDPR and us all having to focus on opt-ins and reducing the way we can communicate with the public?
Or, could it be that as a society we’re just seeing greater divides in our views and behaviours – I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial when I say we are living in a time of societal turmoil and change. Is lack of trust a driver in this trend? Not just trust in charities, which has taken a fall on our survey this year, but a variety of reports have also pointed to diminishing trust in various institutions.
In a nutshell, pinpointing one specific reason will prove elusive, as the answer is most likely a combination of some of the factors I have outlined here, along with others that we have yet to identify. But I firmly believe that we owe it to ourselves across the sector – and to the many people we collectively serve - to join forces with colleagues, including the IoF, over the next few months to put our heads together, combine our expertise and work to fill the knowledge gaps so that we can make a concrete start on reversing this trend.
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Susan Pinkney is Head of Research at the Charities Aid Foundation.