Research carried out by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action has found that more than nine out of ten people in Northern Ireland make donations averaging £12.76 per month and as much as an additional £44 million could be raised if people used Gift Aid.
Amongst women there is a slightly greater propensity to give than compared to men (95% of women give compared to 93% of men). The average donation made by men was £13.70 compared with £12.08 for women.
Those aged 25 to 34 are most likely of all the age groups to make donations. However individuals aged over 65 give the highest average donations (£14.72 compared to the lowest average donation of £8.28 made by 16 to 24 year olds).
Individuals who earn between £26,000 and £30,000 are more inclined to give to charity than any of the other income groups. This group also makes the highest average donation (£17.84).
Individuals in the lowest income bracket donate 2.3% of their annual income to charity compared to 0.3% of annual income donated to charity by those individuals in the highest income bracket.
Spontaneous giving is the most popular form of giving. This form of giving is characterised by methods where the individual is approached and asked for a donation, such as door to door or street collections. 62.1% of all individuals gave charitable donations via these methods. However the yield is relatively low, with an average donation of £8.91 (excluding cash donations made at places of worship).
Planned giving is used by a small minority of the population, with only 7.8% of the population using payroll giving which yields an average donation of £10.68 per month. Share giving is only used by 0.6% of individuals and the average donation made was £15.40.
The two most popular causes that draw the widest support are medical research (22.1% of the population) and religious organisations (15.9% of the population).
Almost one in every ten individuals who made donations to a charitable cause did not notice the cause.
Less than a quarter (23.7%) of all charitable donations were gift aided. This equates to approximately £44 million that the sector could receive if all donations were gift aided.
Despite changes by the government in 2000 to encourage planned giving through a number of tax incentives, the full potential of tax effective giving is not being realised. A key challenge for the sector in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is to make better use of planned, tax-efficient giving.
The survey of charitable giving in Northern Ireland has revealed the majority of donations made are relatively small. This is a reflection of the popularity of spontaneous forms of giving that usually yield small amounts in the form of spare change. Elite givers are defined as individuals who give £50 or more to charity per month. These larger average donations are usually associated with planned forms of giving. Within Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK planned giving takes second place to more traditional, spontaneous methods. Given the characteristics of spontaneous giving the number of elite givers is always going to be low if this form of giving perpetuates.
Nearly two-thirds of all donations made are £10 or under (63.2%). Despite this large number of donations made at this level the actual amount in terms of total donations this represents is relatively small (only 23.6%). At the other end of the scale only 2.3% of those individuals surveyed gave an average donation of £50 or more. However their donation represents 15.5% of the total amount donated.